"It is the Holy Spirit Who has suggested to me what I must tell you..." With these surprising words, so unlike her usual reticence in revealing God's workings in her soul, words which tell all the more of the urgency of the message she is about to impart, a message she openly admits springs from the heart of the Almighty, Mother Teresa of Calcutta opens her address to the 202 bishops assembled in Rome for the 1980 Synod on the Family. For forty minutes on this Monday morning, those present in the Synod Hall listen as this humble nun, this Nobel laureate who calls herself but a small "pencil in God's hand," traces for the Church and the world the lines she feels so uncommonly pressed to speak:
I do not feel worthy to speak in the presence of the Holy Father and the Bishops, but I have accepted the invitation to come here so as to bring the request of all those who are rejected by society: the lepers, the poor, the dying, the sick, the forgotten and the abandoned...
They have asked me to tell you that they need holy priests...
All the world's poor, even the "wealthy poor," are above all hungry for God, and therefore hungry for us to be men of God, to be "holy priests." Nothing else will satisfy them, nothing else can satisfy us.
If our fundamental human poverty is a hunger for God, we too then must say that we are poor. We too feel that hunger, we too feel the emptiness only He can fill. We too feel the desire to live up to Mother Teresa's appeal, to the Holy Spirit's appeal in her and in us. As she herself remarked with profound conviction: "I think many, many priests are being called, even without their realizing it, to give themselves totally to the Lord..." Our Movement, despite its human poverty, finds great hope and joy in this conviction, that the Lord is indeed calling many to live His life more deeply, to feel the stirrings of a new-found desire to live the gospel to the full. And we are gratefully seeing that conviction borne out in the response of so many priests from all parts of the world.
Yes, the world is in need of priests, of holy priests, for the world is in need of Christ. To doubt the value of one's priesthood in today's world is to doubt the very value of Christ and His mission; for they are one... Christ's mission is ours, His person is our identity. In the words of Mother Teresa, "He has called each by name...
There are such riches in the priest, if we can only help them to realize..," to realize the gift we have received so as to realize the gift we are to "freely give," and the joy of both the receiving and the giving that constitutes our priesthood...
It is precisely the joyful living of this gift - the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the Jesus Christ of the gospels - which the world, our people, and the Holy Spirit ask of us. It is the desire to respond to this need to experience God, His love, and the beauty of His gospel in the person of the priest, this need which is felt not only by the world but by ourselves, that gave birth to our Movement: The Priest Coworkers of Mother Teresa.
In presenting this first edition of our charter, a document meant in no way to be didactic but a simple if enthusiastic "credo" of our Movement, we hope to provide ample indication of the spirit of the Priest Coworkers to the many friends far and near who have asked to know more of the Movement, and who we trust will continue to bless our fledgling project with their prayer and their friendship.
Part One presents the major gospel themes that form the foundation and inspiration for our Movement and our renewal (the divine-human thirst satiated through Jesus' priesthood and in His gift of the living waters in the kingdom). Part Two looks at our own priestly consecration as a living extension of His, constituting us "Christ's coworkers" (2 Cor 6:1) through whom He himself continues to satiate our people.
Part Three deals with implementing and living the spirit of the Movement within one's ministry, offers a suggested program of life for personal priestly renewal, and outlines the organization and functioning of the Movement as a world-wide fraternity.
To those who are making our acquaintance for the first time, we pray that these pages, which make no pretentions but rather in their very poverty hope in the Lord's power to use such humble means, may, as a Mother Teresa, be an echo of the Holy Spirit who is calling us to "give ourselves totally to the Lord". "If today you hear His voice..."
Feast of the Transfiguration
August 6, 1982