Soon-to-be-saint’s impact hits close to home

Like many people, Kristin Molitor has always had an awareness of who Blessed Mother Teresa was and respected the work she did with the poor in the slums of India. But it wasn’t until she started working on a paper for one of her theology classes that she developed what she said is a deeper relationship with the soon-to-be-sainted woman.

Molitor, who lives in St. Cloud and is currently pursuing a master’s certificate in spiritual theology through the Avila Institute, was stirred after reading the book, “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” edited with added commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk.

“I was so struck by the enormity of her faith and what she was willing to do for the Lord,” Molitor said.

Kristin Molitor with her well-read copy of “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” the book that inspired her devotion to the soon-to-be saint. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)
Kristin Molitor with her well-read copy of “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” the book that inspired her devotion to the soon-to-be saint. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

One of the most powerful examples, she said, was the private vow Mother Teresa made to never refuse God anything.

“It hit me how serious she took her faith, how she never denied him anything, especially since she had no idea what would be in store for her — the dark night he permitted for her,” she said, referring to the distance Mother Teresa often wrote about and sometimes felt between her and God throughout her life.

Molitor said she was captivated with the way Mother Teresa worked through her own times of darkness and “became such a bright light to the slums, a light that pierced their darkness.”

“God cannot fill what is full,” reads one of Molitor’s favorite quotes from Mother Teresa in the book. “He can fill only emptiness and deep poverty. Our ‘yes’ is the beginning of becoming empty. It’s not how much we really have to give but how empty we are so that we can receive fully in our life and let him live his life in us.”

For Molitor, that meant “the emptier we are, the more we let the light of Christ shine within us. The brighter that light becomes, the more we can pierce the darkness in those we encounter, whether that is in our own family or community,” she said.

Though Mother Teresa has taught Molitor a lot in the last two years since she first wrote that paper, even more was happening in her heart.

“What she also did was to help me recognize that same desire in myself — to refuse God nothing,” she said.

Molitor is co-founder of Fiat House (“fiat” means “yes”) in St. Cloud, a discernment house for women. Through her own personal discernment, she believes she is called to the vocation of single life at this time.

“Jesus takes us seriously. So when we give our ‘yes’ to him, he takes us at our word.  The more we continue to give ourselves to him, the more effective he becomes in our lives. It’s been hard for me to give my life to the Lord, but I, too, am called to trust, to deny him nothing, no matter how hard things get.”

Molitor, who has worked as the marriage course and “Fully Engaged” program coordinator for the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family for six years, will embark on a pilgrimage to Rome Sept. 1 and attend the canonization of Mother Teresa Sept. 4.

She will then travel to Siena, Italy, to visit the birthplace of St. Catherine of Siena, and stop in Spain to visit the Spanish mystics St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. Her trip concludes in Fatima, Portugal, where she will visit the holy site of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Mother Teresa rocked my prayer life when I started studying her interior life,” Molitor said. “She became a saint-friend to me. I feel so blessed to be able to make this journey for her canonization.”

Rescued from the streets

For Patrick Norton, a member of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph, his relationship with Mother Teresa dates back to 1962 when he was born on the streets of  Bombay (now called Mumbai), India.

Abandoned by the side of the road, he was rescued by religious sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Nursery where he remained until the age of 7, when he was sent to the Catholic orphanage also founded by Mother Teresa, called Our Lady’s Home.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI visited the orphanage and the news of it spread across the world. People began inquiring about the children there, including John and Marjorie Norton, a couple from Connecticut.

The Nortons requested to adopt two children from the orphanage — one was Patrick, 15; the second, a younger boy named Martin. The two boys joined the already large Norton family which included nine biological children and three other adopted children.

In the United States, Patrick grew up in a wealthy family. His father was a well-known judge but died only eight years after Patrick’s adoption.

In that short time, the two became very close. Patrick’s mother noticed that he was struggling with the loss of his father and suggested he take a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a holy site where Mary has reportedly appeared for almost 40 years.

There he met a Minnesota native, Sandy Schindler, who lived in Holdingford at the time. The two kept in contact when they returned to their homes and eventually began dating. This year, they celebrated 25 years of marriage and have three children, Maria, Anna and Joey.

When Norton, a self-employed painter, learned of the canonization of Mother Teresa, whom he believes may even have picked him up from the street herself, he knew he couldn’t afford the costs of traveling to Rome.

While attending daily Mass at St. Joseph Church in Waite Park one day, Norton heard Father David Grundman ask members of the congregation to pray their intentions aloud.

“I thought of the passage in the Bible that says, ‘Ask and you shall receive,’” Norton said. “So, I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to go to Mother Teresa’s canonization, please make a way.’”

Weeks later, Norton received a phone call from an anonymous benefactor who offered to pay for him and his whole family to fly to Rome. With the help of the Missionaries of Charity in Minneapolis and St. Louis, Missouri, he received tickets to the canonization Mass and also plans to attend the papal audience Sept. 7.

“What I am going to say to the Holy Father, if I get the chance, is that I am one of Mother Teresa’s throwaway kids,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Mother Teresa, I would not live. It was her that contributed to my life and gave me an opportunity to come to America, to live in the beautiful Diocese of St. Cloud and to meet so many wonderful people. I always pray that others will have the opportunity that God gave me.”

The main thing Norton wants everyone to know about Mother Teresa is how she lived her faith.

“I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was abandoned and you picked me up off the street of India and held me. I was homeless and you took me in,” he said of Mother Teresa.

“This is what I want in my heart,” he said, “that others live for Jesus like Mother Teresa did. She wanted her work to spread. I want her work to be known throughout the world, especially now when people are so desperate, when there is so much suffering. I believe God gave me this right time to share my story and how Mother Teresa changed my life and the lives of so many — all for Jesus.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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