mother teresa quotes

Jeannie Ewing

4 of The Best Mother Teresa Quotes That Inspire and Encourage

Growing up, many of us knew St. Teresa of Calcutta simply as Mother Teresa. She was frequently featured in magazine articles, both secular and Catholic, and she appeared on television in interviews most of us didn’t miss. Perhaps what attracted the world to St. Teresa was the radical, but natural, way in which she lived – serving those most destitute, forgotten, dying. They were the ones living in the most deplorable squalor, yet she and her sisters met them all with equal dignity and cared for them with love.

Her impact cannot be overlooked. In a little gem I received shortly after I graduated college, entitled, Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, I discovered some treasured quotes that directly reflect the heart of her ministry that lives on today. My hope is that these will inspire and encourage you on your own journey, that you and I may live as she did: simply, humbly, and always surrendering to God’s lead.


1. “We must know exactly when we say yes to God what is in that yes. Yes means ‘I surrender,’ totally, fully, without any counting the cost, without any examination: ‘Is it all right? Is it convenient?’ Our yes to God is without any reservations.”

How can we continue the work of St. Teresa and her companions? It’s not easy if you live in modern western culture. But what if we did as she always suggested: do small things with great love? Where does this begin? In our yes, in our surrendering to God’s will and His work in our lives.

Surrender is not often a word we like to hear, much less practice. But true freedom can only happen when we relinquish our worries and concerns into God’s providential care. It’s not easy, but St. Teresa reminds us that the most beautiful things happen with our simple yes – a yes without conditions or attachments or boundaries.

God works with our yes. We can begin by uniting our own desire to do His will every day with the Blessed Mother’s fiat. Pray to her every day to have the courage to trust that God will move through and in your life. Ask her to walk with you as you assuredly face what is difficult, and pray for the same receptivity to God’s plan that she carried when she first said yes.



2. “Don’t search for Jesus in far lands – he is not there. He is close to you; he is with you. Just keep the lamp burning and you will always see him. Keep on filling the lamp with all these little drops of love, and you will see how sweet is the Lord you love.”

One of my favorite parables in the New Testament is the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Five of them were considered wise, because they kept oil in their lamps as they waited for the Bridegroom. But five were foolish, because they fell asleep waiting. I think of this when I read what St. Teresa wrote here.

We have to fill our lamp with the oil of God’s love, and we can only do this if we turn to Him daily in prayer. It’s easy to allow the busyness of life to distract us from what really matters, but we will soon find that we are in a similar predicament to the five foolish virgins: we have become spiritually sleepy, and our lamps have run dry.

When this happens, we don’t have anything to give. But if we continue to recognize Jesus as near to us every day and engage in conversation with Him frequently, He will supply us with the love we need to keep our lamps filled. Then He lights them so that we can shine in other people’s lives in the smallest of ways: through a smile, a kind “hello,” or a compliment.


3. “We have to love until it hurts. It is not enough to say, ‘I love.’ We must put that love into a living action. And how do we do that? By giving until it hurts.”

We make grandiose plans, because we want to maintain control over what happens to us. Sometimes we do this out of fear: we fear what we don’t know and we aren’t sure what God will ask of us. Will it hurt? Will I have to give something up? Likely, yes.

But that giving of self is precisely what leads us to love more deeply and with great fidelity. When love becomes a decision, rather than based on a fleeting emotion, it is permanent and real.

As a mom of a daughter with a rare disease, I learned quite harshly how to love until it hurts. With Sarah, not only was I getting up in the middle of the night with her to feed, soothe, and change her like a typical baby needs, but I was also – on a daily basis – driving her to various specialists, medical facilities to get diagnostic tests, and referrals for therapists. Today, she has fifteen specialists that we see on a regular basis.

Giving until it hurts doesn’t “feel” good. Imagine Jesus on the Cross, though. Meditate on the mystery of His Passion and Death, and find consolation in the reality that He poured out every drop of blood for love of you. Only one drop would have sufficed to save us, but He chose to give until it hurts. When we do the same, we are loving as Jesus loved us.


4. “If you are joyful, it will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your countenance. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows.”

Christian joy isn’t based on worldly happiness. The secular definition of happiness revolves around selfishness: what makes you feel good, what gives you satisfaction. As soon as life becomes hard and challenges you, it’s okay to move on to something else, so says society.

But joy supersedes emotion. It is a reliance on the Holy Spirit to elevate your soul above the tragedies of life, so that you might participate in His fruits of a life lived for God. What does this mean? It means being faithful to Him, visiting Him often in the confessional and receiving Him in the Eucharist. If you are conscientious of remaining in a state of grace, you will know His joy.

And it will be reflected in everything you think, say, and do. People will notice a particular gleam in your eyes, a peace and strength in what you say with conviction. Everyone is attracted to joy, because it is so lacking in our world.

If you pray daily for this fruit of the Holy Spirit, He will grant it to you – perhaps even in the midst of great suffering. In this world, we are called to be like St. Teresa of Calcutta: agents of joy, ambassadors of love, and servants of God.


Header Image: Mother Teresa photo by Suma Iyer 
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