Mother Teresa’s Wisdom for Families

Rachel Forton

Mother Teresa’s Wisdom for Families

This week we celebrate St. Teresa of Calcutta, one of the most beloved saints of our lifetime. In her words to interviewers and reporters over the years, I find a compelling emphasis on the importance of family. Mother Teresa believed the problems of the world started (and could be solved) at home. She encouraged people to focus their attention on the needs of those closest to them. In this compilation of her quotes, may you find inspiration for loving those nearest to you in the purest way possible.

The Importance of Beginning at Home

“Sometimes people are hungry for more than bread. It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, do not lack a house. But are we equally sure that they do not feel alone, abandoned, neglected, or in need of some affection?”1 

Mother Teresa was intimately aware of poverty – living it and serving the poor. Yet she identified poverty of spirit as one of the greatest ills in society. Her advice to families was to pay attention to one another and notice needs beyond the physical. It is at home that we learn what God is like and what we are worth. When we notice the needs of our family members, we show them that they are beautifully made, worthy of love, and desired by us and by God.

Ministering in war-torn countries, the Missionaries of Charity are acutely aware of the need for peace in the world. Yet Mother Teresa noted that

“Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families. If we want to spread joy, we need for every family to have joy.”2 

For reflection: How can I bring joy to my family today? What do my family members need?

Pray as a Family

“Prayer is needed for children and in families. Love begins at home and that is why it is important to pray together. If you pray together, you will stay together and love each other as God loves each one of you.”3

Prayer is foundational to a loving home environment. Developing a prayer routine as a family, including before meals and at bedtime, helps children learn the importance of daily time with God. How beautiful to share time with God! It is hard to be angry with someone you’ve prayed for and prayed with, because prayer is unifying. The way Mother Teresa thought of prayer illuminates this: 

“If we only ‘say’ prayers then naturally you may not be praying. To pray means to be completely united to Jesus in such a way as to allow Him to pray in us, with us, for us, through us! This cleaving to each other, Jesus and I, is prayer. We are all called to pray like this.”4 

Praying in this way goes beyond reciting prayers as a family. It may draw us to pray before the tabernacle or the monstrance in Eucharistic adoration together, to include silent time in our nightly prayer as a family, or to ponder together a beloved image of Jesus. Spending time with Jesus as a friend is a concept even very young children can understand and practice. Doing it together strengthens the family bond as you all grow closer to Christ.

For reflection: When is the last time I prayed with my family? How can we add more genuine prayer into our daily life?

When Difficulties Arise

“It is easy to smile at people outside your own home. It is so easy to take care of the people that you don’t know well. It is difficult to be thoughtful and kind and to smile and be loving to those you live with day after day. This is especially true when we are tired and in a bad temper or bad mood. We all have these moments and that is the time that Christ comes to us in a distressing disguise.”5 

Mother Teresa often spoke of Christ appearing to her “in the distressing disguise of the poor.” In family life, she notes here, Christ appears to us in our children, parents, and siblings. When it is most difficult to love our families, that is when we most profoundly witness the love of Christ for them. In the midst of a toddler’s tantrum, a spousal argument, a sullen teenager’s defiance, or a baby’s cry at midnight – in these moments our love is stretched and our hearts are molded to love like Christ.

Forgiveness is at the heart of these difficult moments. Mother Teresa offered wise advice for the type of daily forgiveness needed within family life:

“Find at least one good point in the other person and build from there. In the family, you should thank each other, mentioning the good you have seen others do. In short, an understanding love – a love that sees the good in others – will be our goal.”6 

I believe this forgiveness and understanding love must extend to oneself. Practice finding the good within yourself so that you may readily find the good within your family members. Then, don’t forget to remind them of it!

For reflection: Whom do I need to forgive today? What good thing have I seen them do that I can share with them? What good can I acknowledge myself for?

The Small Things Matter

In closing, it is fidelity in small daily tasks that counts. Every tear wiped, story read aloud, meal cooked, and shirt washed adds up to a loving family environment – when done with love.

“It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important.”7 

St. Mother Teresa, pray for us as we strive to put love into all our doing! Amen.



  1.  Do Something Beautiful for God (Blue Sparrow, 2020), page 87.
  2. Ibid., page 14.
  3. Vardey, Lucinda, Mother Teresa: A Simple Path (Ballantine Books, 1995), page 19.
  4.  Langford, Joseph, MC, I Thirst: 40 Days with Mother Teresa (Augustine Institute, 2018), page 39. 
  5. Do Something Beautiful for God (Blue Sparrow, 2020), page 77.
  6. Scolozzi, Angelo D., editor, Thirsting for God: Daily Meditations (Servant Publications, 2000), page 15.
  7. Vardey, Lucinda, Mother Teresa: A Simple Path (Ballantine Books, 1995), page 93.