MELROSE — An experience she had while traveling by train to a weeklong retreat, prompted Mother Teresa to begin her well-known mission of serving the poor in Calcutta. As she would disclose many years later, that intimate experience of Christ’s desire for her love and the love of others impelled her to show her love for Jesus by serving others.
Father Patrick Torres, a Missionary of Charity Father who is originally from Los Angeles, felt this same call and joined the Missionaries of Charity in Tijuana, Mexico. During a visit to the Archdiocese of Boston for a retreat and missionary work, he spoke of the thirst Jesus Christ has for our souls at the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Parish in Melrose Feb. 22.
"On the train, Mother Teresa experienced what she calls, 'A call within a call,' to leave everything and to serve Jesus in the poorest of the poor in Calcutta," said Father Torres. "Something profound took place on that train in order for her to leave everything that she loved. She had an encounter with the thirst of Jesus, His thirst for you, His thirst for souls."
Father Torres said that Mother Teresa was overwhelmed by what she felt because the Church had never publicly proclaimed that Christ thirsted for our love. As a result, she did not often speak of her experience. “For her, Christ’s thirst is something intimate and she wanted to do as Our Lady who kept all these things in her heart,” he stated. However, many years later, she was encouraged to write down her experience.
Father Torres explained that Christ’s thirst for us is more than Jesus simply saying “I love you.”
"The thirst of Jesus goes way beyond Jesus saying I love you," he said. "When you experience that God thirsts for you, you can't help but respond. It's a missionary call immediately."
But, this call does not have to mean leaving your home and your family to serve the poor, it means doing what you can in your own life, he said. It could be talking with an elderly neighbor, making dinner for a sick relative or giving of your time in some way, he explained.
However, without love in our hearts, we cannot serve others as God wants us to, Father Torres said. In order to love, we have to be able to forgive.
"In our lives as Catholics, we receive hurts, pains, humiliations and it is very possible to put a shield around our hearts," he said. "That resentment affects our entire lives and so it is essential that we forgive. Everyday, we need to forgive."
"The way I love anyone is in my direct relation to God," he continued. "If there is one person I exclude from my love then God is excluded from me. For us to love as God calls us, we have to forgive. It's essential, and it's possible."
"Jesus' forgiveness from the cross is ours if we want it," said Father Torres. There is no limit to our capacity to forgive if we have a relationship with Jesus, but if we do not forgive, he said, then talking about God is only words, "resentment and not forgiving make it impossible to be clean vessels of Christ's love," he said.
"We will be judged in love and when you love, you serve," Father Torres continued. "We desire to place ourselves at the feet of our brothers because it is God that we serve."
Following his talk, Father Torres invited those in attendance to receive a blessing. He called each person forward individually and placed his hands on his or her head. In one hand, he held a relic of Mother Teresa.
Kellie Howland of Melrose was touched by Father Torres’ words, especially his emphasis on forgiveness. “Father Torres said sometimes you have to dig deep, to resentment that you have buried and he inspired me to do that,” Howland said. “I have some things I have put aside, and I think they’ve come to the surface and I’m going to think seriously about them.”
Cynthia Mead, a lay Missionary of Charity, helped to organize the event. She believes Mother Teresa’s order can bring love and peace to the world.
"Mother Teresa was the very visible sign of God's tender love for us. In these modern times with all that can prevent us from seeing God's love, Mother Teresa was a beacon of light whose life demonstrated how much Jesus thirsts for us," Mead said. "Jesus sent her into the poverty of the slums and the poverty of our hearts to let us know that He, right now, this very day loves us."