On multiple occasions St. Teresa of Calcutta urged people not to completely imitate her example.
It’s become a cliche of Western culture to say, “I’m no Mother Teresa!” It is usually said in response to some extraordinary act of charity, expressing a person’s belief that they could never do such a thing.
Oddly enough, St. Teresa of Calcutta would completely agree with that statement, not wanting people to be exactly like her, but to accomplish God’s unique will in their lives.
Her beliefs are best expressed in this quotation, “What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.”
It expresses the idea that each person has a unique place in this world and that very few people should sell all their things and move to Calcutta to serve the poor. In fact, Mother Teresa would advise against such a mass exodus from the world.
Instead Mother Teresa encouraged people to “find your own Calcutta.”
Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely, right where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in homes and in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.
This concept does not absolve us from helping the poor, but instead it challenges us to examine ourselves and our place in this world. Each of us have unique gifts and talents that are to be used for the benefit of the community. We may not be called to tend the wounds of the sick and homeless on a daily basis, but we are called to exercise Christian charity in each individual situation.
So if you feel like you could never be a “Mother Teresa,” that is a good thing! Very few people are called to such a unique vocation. However, we are called to “find your own Calcutta” and to discern how we can help the poor and suffering in our own lives. We can do things that no-one else can do. Even Mother Teresa could not do some of the things that we can do.
Everyone is unique and when we work together to build a better world, “we can do something beautiful for God.”