She was tiny. Only five feet tall and swallowed up in the sari striped with three blue lines, the Catholic nun and founder of the Missionaries of Charity was barely tall enough to reach the flower-bedecked podium. She was tiny. But she had something to say. And so, dignitaries, intellectuals and heads of state from around the world, dressed in their very finest, packed Oslo’s City Hall to hear the message from the 1979 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
And so, after leading the assembled mass in the prayer of St. Francis asking God to make us a channel of his peace, she would begin.
Jesus Christ loved you and loved me and he gave his life for us, and as if that was not enough for him, he kept on saying: Love as I have loved you, as I love you now, and how do we have to love, to love in the giving. For he gave his life for us. And he keeps on giving, and he keeps on giving right here everywhere in our own lives and in the lives of others. It was not enough for him to die for us, he wanted that we loved one another, that we see him in each other, that’s why he said: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
And to make sure that we understand what he means, he said that at the hour of death we are going to be judged on what we have been to the poor, to the hungry, naked, the homeless, and he makes himself that hungry one, that naked one, that homeless one, not only hungry for bread, but hungry for love, not only naked for a piece of cloth, but naked of that human dignity, not only homeless for a room to live, but homeless for that being forgotten, been unloved, uncared, being nobody to nobody, having forgotten what is human love, what is human touch, what is to be loved by somebody, and he says: Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
More to read: A look back at Mother Teresa’s “dark night”
It is so beautiful for us to become holy to this love, for holiness is not a luxury of the few, it is a simple duty for each one of us, and through this love we can become holy.
To this love for one another and today when I have received this reward, I personally am most unworthy, and I having avowed poverty to be able to understand the poor, I choose the poverty of our people. But I am grateful and I am very happy to receive it in the name of the hungry, of the naked, of the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the leprous, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared, thrown away of the society, people who have become a burden to the society, and are ashamed by everybody…
Our poor people are great people, are very lovable people, they don’t need our pity and sympathy, they need our understanding love. They need our respect; they need that we treat them with dignity. And I think this is the greatest poverty that we experience, that we have in front of them who may be dying for a piece of bread, but they die to such dignity. I never forget when I brought a man from the street. He was covered with maggots; his face was the only place that was clean. And yet that man, when we brought him to our home for the dying, he said just one sentence: I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, love and care, and he died beautifully. He went home to God, for dead is nothing but going home to God. And he having enjoyed that love, that being wanted, that being loved, that being somebody to somebody at the last moment, brought that joy in his life.
And I feel one thing I want to share with you all, the greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other? Even in the scripture it is written: Even if mother could forget her child – I will not forget you – I have carved you in the palm of my hand…
And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in your homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor, in the country we live, in the whole world. And let us all join in that one prayer, God give us courage to protect the unborn child, for the child is the greatest gift of God to a family, to a nation and to the whole world.
God bless you!
In offering her words, this Catholic nun – this “Saint from the Gutter” – reminded a sophisticated and “polite society” of a simple Truth it had casually forgotten: All human life is worthy. All human life is God’s special creation. And we are called to love unconditionally. Indeed, Mother Teresa proved that though she may be tiny, her message was not.
To read Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech in full, please click here.