Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother Teresa: A Life of Love

Perhaps the best-loved saint of our times, Mother Teresa's amazing story is sure to encourage and inspire people from all walks of life. Elaine Murray Stone's readable, interesting biography, Mother Teresa: A Life of Love follows the story of the child Agnes, who became Sister Teresa, high school teacher and principal, and later, Mother Teresa, helper of the poor, until her death in 1997.

As with Stone's other biographies, Mother Teresa is organized chronologically, and includes many anecdotes about Teresa (then called Agnes) as a young child, and teen. While most of us can remember images of Mother Teresa as an old woman, caring for babies or lepers, I was surprised she began her religious life as a teacher with the Sisters of Loreto. Although she enjoyed teaching wealthy girls in the convent boarding school in India, she felt compassion for the desperately poor and homeless who lined the streets. She and some of her students brought medicine and food to these people, but it wasn't enough. After 20 years, Sister Teresa was given permission to begin a new order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa's goal in developing the Missionaries of Charity was to show Jesus' love to the poor, and to join with the poor in their simple lives. She did not allow beds or chairs in her convents, and each nun had only three habits. . . "one to wear, one to wash, and one to dry." Her missions were blessed all around the world, and by the time she died, there were 169 missions in India, and more than 500 in the rest of the world.

Stone continually reminds us of Mother Teresa's words, to "live one day at a time" and "to do small things with great love."

There are black and white pictures included throughout the text.

What I Like: I was fascinated by the interesting details about Mother Teresa's life. I remember reading Time magazine articles about her, but Stone's book gives a comprehensive view of how she began her life, and how she ended up as Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa impacted people around the world, and Stone shares many of her traveling adventures, and encounters with people of various faiths.

I especially like the way Stone shows us how principles from Mother Teresa's life can apply to our own. At the end of each chapter, she subtly weaves in an application point. For example, in the chapter where Mother Teresa sets up her first hospice, Stone challenges readers, "Although Christians in America aren't expected to take care of lepers, anyone of any age can donate money. But there are many other unfortunates to help right here. Young people can express the love of Christ in their neighborhoods. They can visit lonely older people, or take cookies and flowers to a nursing home. Mother Teresa often said, "It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into it that counts." Stone addresses these points to young people, and they always relate to the chapter.

What I Dislike: Nothing. However, there are a couple of frank discussions about abortion (which Mother Teresa adamantly opposed), so if your children haven't learned about this practice yet, you will have to explain it to them.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-16

Publisher Info: Paulist Press, 1999; ISBN: 978-0-8091-6651-0; Paperback, $7.95

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $7.49

Special Note: The Catholic process for canonizing a Saint is discussed in the last chapter.

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