If you like comfort, this story will make you uncomfortable.
In the video, the Roman Catholic Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Pulitzer Peace Prize honoree Mother Teresa, were given the second floor of a rectory residence next to a large parish church in San Francisco.
It would be a nice place to live and pray as they worked with the poor of the community. Except Mother Teresa and the sisters were not into nice.
In the video you see them on their hands and knees ripping up the carpet in the area where they would live and worship.
They roll up the carpeting, carry it to a second-floor window, and throw the rolls into the alley way below. Then they unscrew the pews in the chapel and carry them down the stairs and out of their new home.
The parish priest comes to Mother Teresa and asks why they are doing this. Would they not be more comfortable praying from a seated position or from a padded prayer rail than kneeling on a thin mat on a hard floor?
Mother Teresa simply says, “We have chosen another way.”
It’s the answer to many of our conflicts in a nation at war within itself. When we have a difference of opinion, she gave us the best words, “I have chosen another way.” It does not demean. It stands on principle while shunning judgment as Jesus taught us to do.
Throughout their lives, Mother Teresa and her sisters modeled the way of Jesus.
“Spread love everywhere you go,” she said. “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
The strongest memories are of her holding a hungry child and denying herself to give more of her life to her Lord by loving the poorest of the poor. Character matters. Moral decency matters. So do honesty and proper behavior, especially by men.
American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
In a nation that values independence, Christians take a declaration of interdependence. Paul says it in Ephesians 4. “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
A friend in ministry understands. He recently said that although the church has always engaged in ideological battles, that’s not what the gospels are about. They are about relationships.
The next time you are tempted to respond to another with words of anger remember instead the sister honored by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Why don’t you do it this way, Mother Teresa? Why don’t you take it easy?
“We have chosen another way.”
The Rev. Richard Ploch is a retired Methodist minister. He lives in Bethel. He can be reached at email@example.com.