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Mother Teresa, a Model for the Home Educating Family

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

This must seem like a strange title, “Mother Teresa, A Model for the Home Educating Family.” What is strange is that Mother Teresa never had a natural family of her own. In her early years she had vowed herself to a lifetime of consecrated chastity by sacrificing marriage and having children.

Nevertheless, she has a great deal to teach home educating families. I can say this with complete assurance from my twenty five years of association with Mother Teresa. Our first meeting lasted five hours. It was in the Bronx, of New York City, when we discussed the prospects of her organizing the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity.

Since then I have worked very closely with Mother Teresa, under the directives of the Holy See. This was because the Holy Father told her to continue her work of caring for the homeless, feeding the hungry, and providing for the needs of the poor in over one hundred countries throughout the world. But Pope John Paul II directed her to begin teaching the Catholic faith. My duty was to help train the Missionaries of Charity in their global apostolate of evangelization and catechesis.

Given the ocean of experience which this relationship with Mother Teresa has produced, I thought I would just select certain statements which she had made to share with you in this conference. My plan is first to quote from Mother Teresa and then apply her words to your own wonderful apostolate of home education.

The Apostolate of Home Education

“He has chosen us; we have not first chosen Him. But we must respond by making our society something beautiful for God—something very beautiful. For this we must give all—our utmost. We must cling to Jesus, grasp Him, have a grip on Him, and never let go for anything. We must fall in love with Jesus.” [1]

I would change only one word from this quotation of Mother Teresa. Change the word “society” to “family.” That is what home education is all about. Your purpose as homeschooling parents is to make your families something beautiful for God. But the price you must pay is high. Like Mother Teresa, you must see the infinite God in Jesus Christ. You must cling to Him, grasp Him, have a grip on Him and never let go for anything. You will be only as effective home educators as you and your children fall deeply in love with Jesus, our God who became man and died on the cross out of love for us.

If I were to summarize in one short sentence the main purpose of home education, it is to train your children here on earth to love Jesus Christ because they believe that He is our God.

Homeschooling in the Eucharist

“Like Mary, let us be full of zeal to go in haste to give Jesus to others…[He] is the same Jesus whom she received and whom we receive at Mass. As soon as she received Him she went with haste to give Him to John…. We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks…. Our lives must be woven around the Eucharist…. Ask Jesus to be with you, to work with you that you may be able to pray the work.” [2]

No words of mine can express the deep faith that Mother Teresa had in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. As she told me more than once, it was only because of Christ’s continued presence in the Blessed Sacrament that she and her Missionaries of Charity were able to perform nothing less than miracles throughout the world.

Home education among Catholics has become so widespread in our country because it is necessary to preserve the authentic faith that Christ proclaimed in Palestine and that so many have died over the centuries to preserve. Notice I say that home education is necessary. Somewhere near the center of the revolution which has struck the Catholic Church in countries like our own is the loss of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

It is here especially that Mother Teresa should be such an inspiration for you homeschooling parents. Like Mother, be sure that your children firmly and clearly believe that the Jesus whom they receive in Holy Communion and whom they adore in the Eucharist is the same, identically same Jesus whom Mary conceived at the Annunciation, carried for nine months in her womb and gave birth to on Christmas morning at Bethlehem.

Let us be more clear. Home education has become so important in our day because the organized education in our schools is desperately inadequate. However, the basic reason for home education is not merely to protect children from the mis-education which is so prevalent in our day. The basic reason for Catholic children to be taught by their parents at home is that the parents might be parents of their children twice over: once as the father and mother who gave their children the natural life of their bodies, and once again as the father and mother who give their children the supernatural life for their souls. The heart of this supernatural life is the divine grace which Jesus Christ sustains and nourishes through the Holy Eucharist.

Over the years of teaching the Missionaries of Charity throughout the world I have told them that they could just as well be called Missionaries of the Eucharist. Why? Because Mother Teresa had no illusions. Without a deep faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist all the home education will be not only jeopardized but, dare I say it, dissipated and thrown to the winds.

Saints Through Home Education

“There is so much unhappiness, so much misery everywhere. Our human nature stays with us from beginning to end. We must work hard every day to conquer ourselves. We must learn to be meek and humble of heart. Let us try to give everything to Jesus: every word, every moment. Jesus, use my eyes, my ears, my feet! My resolution must be firm: to become a saint.” [3]

The numerous hours I spent in conversation with Mother Teresa taught me one thing. She was convinced that what the world today most needs is saints; and she meant saints. She knew very well the demonic forces that are seducing whole nations away from God. Ordinary Catholics will not thrive; in fact they will not even survive in today’s godless society. Either you parents train your children in sanctity or you risk losing them as further casualties in the global war between followers of Satan and the followers of Jesus Christ.

How to Train Saints

“The first step ‘to becoming’ is to will it. St. Thomas says that ‘sanctity consists in nothing else than a firm resolution, the heroic act of a soul abandoning herself to God.’ By an upright will we love God, we run towards God, we reach Him, we possess Him.”

“‘O good, good will which transforms me into the image of God and makes me like him,’ so St. Augustine says. My progress in holiness depends on God and myself: on God’s grace and my will.”

“We must have a real, living resolution to reach holiness. St. Teresa says that Satan is terribly afraid of resolute souls. Everything depends on these two or three words: ‘I will’ or ‘I will not.’ I must put all my energy into this ‘will.’ St. John Berchmans, St. Stanislaus, St. Margaret Mary said ‘I will,’ and they did become saints. What is a saint but simply a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action?… ‘To resolve to be a saint’ means I will despoil myself of all that is not God: I will strip my heart and empty it of all created things…. I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies and offer myself as a willing slave to the will of God. Yes, my children, this is what I pray for daily, for each one, that you may become a slave to the will of God.” [4]

These words of Mother Teresa are a synthesis of her spirituality. They are also the guidelines for the home education of children.

Education means many things. But there is one thing that is of the essence of true education. Namely? Education is teaching the truth and training the will to do the will of God.

As parents of children whom you have brought into this world, you know only too well how strong-willed children can be. Growing in years is no guarantee of growing in holiness. Christ could not have been more plain. We must become like little children if we hope to reach the heaven for which we were made.

You have asked me to speak to you about Mother Teresa as a model for home education. Very well. You will be only as good home educators as you train your children to submit their stubborn wills to the will of God in everything, and I mean everything, and I mean everything!

We are living in a world in which each person’s own will is the norm of human conduct. Pro-choice means choosing to kill innocent children because I will it. We are living in a country in which the laws of the state have become the standard of American behavior. So many of these laws are in open contradiction to the will of God.

Need I tell you parents that you have a massive responsibility in home-teaching your children. You must make sure that your sons and daughters know the will of God in their lives. They must know the meaning of charity and chastity, of patience and humility, of prayer and generosity. So much for the minds of your children.

In the words of Mother Teresa, you must train the wills of your children. They must be resolute, determined, stubborn in their insistence on choosing to do what God wants. What a statement! You must train your children to become “willing slaves to the will of God.”

Only a Mother Teresa could use this kind of language. What a difference between the philosophy of this world, whose prince is the devil, and the philosophy of Jesus Christ. The devil became the devil because he insisted, “I will not serve.” The followers of Christ are just the opposite. They see in the Savior the one whose will alone they are to serve.

I do not have to tell you that this is not only difficult. Without the grace of God, it is impossible. That is why I would like to close this conference with one more quotation from Mother Teresa.

She told her sisters and, in fact, is telling us that we are to be “conduits of grace” to everyone whose life we touch. Speaking to you homeschooling parents, I pass on to you the single most important heritage of Mother Teresa to all of you. You are to be conduits of grace to your children.

What is she saying? She is telling you that you have brought children into this world in order to bring them with you into the heaven for which you and they were made. But there is no reaching heaven without the grace of God. And we are only as effective conduits of grace to others as we possess the grace of God ourselves.

Only humble people are channels of the grace of humility to others. Only loving people are channels of charity to others. Only prayerful people are channels of prayerfulness to others. Only chaste people are channels of chastity to others. Only patiently suffering people are channels of patience to others. Only prudent people are channels of prudence to others. Only holy people are channels of holiness to others.

In the spirit of Mother Teresa, you fathers and mothers are homeschooling your children for that final graduation on which the whole meaning of our life here on earth depends. Your children will be only as holy in this life and as certain of reaching heaven as you are holy yourselves. There is no substitute for sanctity. You are to become saints if you wish your children to join you in that heavenly Kingdom for which you and they are made.


Lord Jesus, You gave homeschooling parents Mother Teresa as a model to imitate. Enlighten these mothers and fathers to teach their children that they have no other purpose on earth than to return to the God for whom they came. Strengthen these mothers and fathers to be conduits of grace to their offspring. Give them the confident hope of being reunited with their sons and daughters in the company of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, never again to be separated as families for all eternity. Amen.

[1] Devananda, Brother Angelo, ed., Mother Teresa: Total Surrender (Ann Arbor, MI., Servant Publications, 1985). Pg. 15.

[2] Ibid., Pg. 21.

[3] Ibid. Pg. 29.

[4] Ibid. Pg. 32-33.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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