Such joy. It was the spring of 1985, and President Reagan had just given Mother Teresa the Medal of Freedom in a Rose Garden ceremony. As she left, she walked down the corridor between the Oval Office and the West Wing drive, and there she was, turning my way. What a sight: a saint in a sari coming down the White House hall. As she came nearer, I could not help it: I bowed. "Mother", I said, "I just want to touch your hand." She looked up at me -- it may have been one of Gods subtle jokes that his exalted child spent her life looking up to everyone else -- and said only two words.
Later I would realize that they were the message of her mission. "Luff Gott," she said. Love God. She pressed into my hand a poem she had written, as she glided away in a swoosh of habit. I took the poem from its frame the day she died. It is free verse, 79 lines, and is called "Mothers Meditation (in the Hospital)." In it she reflects on Christs question to his apostles: "Who do you say I am?" She notes that he was the boy born in Bethlehem," put in the manager full of straw... kept warm by the breath of the donkey," who grew up to be "an ordinary man without much learning." Donkeys are not noble; straw is common; and it was among the ordinary and ignoble, the poor and sick, that she chose to labor. Her mission was for them and among them, and you have to be a pretty tough character to organize a little universe that exists to help people other people arent interested in helping. Thats how she struck me when I met her as I watched her life. She was tough. There was the worn and weathered face, the abrupt and definite speech. We think saints are great organizers, great operators, great combatants in the world. Once I saw her in a breathtaking act of courage. She was speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in 1995.
All the Washington Establishment was there, plus a few thousand born-again Christians, orthodox Catholics an