St. Teresa of Calcutta saw loneliness, despair, and hopelessness as harmful diseases that reveal a desperate hunger for God.
Throughout her life Mother Teresa saw first-hand a number of deadly diseases, treating the poorest of the poor who were dying in the streets. She did so willingly and with great love, desiring to give these people hope, even if it only last a few moments before they died.
However, in all her experience treating people who were suffering from physical maladies, she believed spiritual diseases were in some ways more harmful.
In the book A Simple Path, there is a profound passage in which she reveals what is more deadly from a spiritual perspective.
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
This is one of the reasons why she cared for the poor dying in the streets. In many cases she wasn’t able to help them fully recover. These poor people were on their deathbed, but instead of abandoning them, Mother Teresa wanted to give them love.
While it’s certainly important to care for those who are suffering from physical ailments, it’s also vital to treat any spiritual diseases of the heart.
To conclude, Mother Teresa encourages us to “find our own Calcutta” and be lights of love in our local communities.
“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.”