Based on M. (Mother) Teresa’s lifework and teachings, A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve (Image, 2016) is beautifully and thoughtfully written. With different stories from different sources all smoothly compiled, the book promises to not be a bore (though it is a long read, 332 pages in total). Edited by one (Father) Brian Kolodiejckuk, it celebrates the incredible lifework and thought process of M. Teresa.
Provocative and simple, this will come handy to anyone looking for a primer on this historical figure. Stressed in the book was the fact that she took the words of Christ literally-that if you feed the poor you feed Christ; if you clothe the poor you are really clothing Christ. It’s simply Christ in his “distressing disguise,” (a term used throughout the book).
Some time ago one woman came with her child to me and said, “Mother, I went to two, three places to beg some food, for we have not eaten for three days but they told me that I am young and I must work and eat. No one gave me anything.” I went to get some food and by the time I returned the baby in her hand had died of hunger. I hope it was not our convents that refused her (p.4).
During especially the beginning sections I was left with the growing sense that American Christians need a reeducation regarding how we view the poor and homeless. An event is recorded in which she (M. Teresa) is criticized for feeding the poor instead of teaching them how to fish. Her response is that too many poor people don’t have the strength to even hold a fishing pole. They first must be fed and rehabilitated; then they can fish (or be left on their own).
She loved Jesus with all she had, and therefore would love the poor and mistreated with all she had. (As noted already, she took the notion that the poor and hungry really are Christ very seriously; her caring for the poor was (to her) a caring for her savior.) Emphasizing our call as Christians to sacrifice, she notes that if love doesn’t hurt then it’s not really love.
What I can admire most of this “saint” upon reading A Call to Mercy is not her seemingly-immeasurable compassion but rather the fact that she was prone to action. This book very well could be called A Call to Action! I was reminded immensely of the radical Christ I read about in the gospels and for that reason alone I recommend this book.
A Call to Mercy has stirred me to not neglect “the hungry Christ, the naked Christ, and the homeless Christ” (p. 37). In its pages I was reminded of my privileged status (and therefore my responsibility to help Christ in his distressing disguise). That I don’t suffer like the least of these but (as M. Teresa said), my “sufferings are nothing compared to the suffering of the poor” (p. 45).
*I received this book from Blogging For Books for an honest assessment.