Called to Answer Christ's 'Thirst' for Souls
The following, by the late Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, originally appeared in our Friends of Mercy newsletter.
On Sept. 10, 1946, while riding on a train to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa felt Christ's words from the Cross — "I thirst" — impressed upon her heart.
She referred to this calling as her "vocation within a vocation," a calling to serve Christ "among the poorest of the poor."
In a letter to her community, dated March 25, 1993, Mother Teresa explained:
"I thirst" is something much deeper than Jesus just saying "I love you." Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you — you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him. The heart and soul of [Missionaries of Charity] is only this — the thirst of Jesus' Heart, hidden in the poor. ... "I thirst" and "You did it to me" — remember always to connect the two.
As a constant reminder, the words "I thirst" are on the wall of every Missionaries of Charity chapel.
Just nine years before Mother's experience, in March of 1937 (Holy Week), St. Faustina had a vision of the crucified Lord and heard the same words of Jesus, "I thirst."
Saint Faustina wrote in her Diary:
During Holy Mass, I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His Heart. After some time, He said: I thirst. i thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners (Diary, 1032).
How to grow from suffering
The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska records an extensive lesson on the meaning of suffering and its value. Her Diary, in a sense, is a book on how to suffer, giving us her own experience of suffering and the Lord's teaching on the role of suffering.
In gathering the numerous texts dealing with suffering and then collating them into related aspects, I [Fr. George Kosicki, CSB] searched for a simple way to summarize this vast subject. I wanted to get a handle on this mystery of suffering. In the midst of collating the texts, I was inspired to use a formula by Fr. Gerry Farrell, MM:
Suffering + Love = Joy.
This equation really does summarize in a simple way the teaching of St. Faustina on suffering. We all experience some form of suffering — sickness, anxiety, pain, fears, darkness, sin, in one word — misery. And we all want joy! The missing element is the love which transforms suffering into joy. This kind of love is God's love which is poured into our hearts. This kind of love is a gift available for the asking.
Mother Teresa knew well the power of suffering offered with love. United with the Passion and thirst of Jesus for souls, she made use of suffering as a source of spiritual power.
Each of the elements of the Divine Mercy message and devotion is for souls, souls, souls, especially sinners and the dying. It is God's thirst and desire, and it became St. Faustina's. She entered into the Lord's thirst and longing for souls. She entered into the pain that the loss of souls and distrust brings our Lord. The very purpose of the elements of the Divine Mercy message and devotion — the Image, the Feast, the Chaplet, the Novena, the 3 o'clock Hour of Mercy — are all for souls, souls, souls.
Drawing mercy for the dying
Death is our entrance into eternal life. Saint Faustina teaches us through her Diary about the promises of Jesus at the time of death to those who promulgate the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Her teaching is a needed correction to our secularized present age and an encouragement to the faithful to look forward to and long for Heaven.
So, too, Mother Teresa's ministry to the dying on the streets of Calcutta stands as a monument to the transforming power of love, changing pain into joy and death into eternal life.
Among her first public works of mercy, Mother Teresa established Kalighat, the House for the Dying. Here, Mother Teresa gathered the dying from the streets of Calcutta. Here, the dying experienced love and care. Here, they could die in dignity as human beings who were loved. In these dying men and women, Mother Teresa saw Jesus in a "distressing disguise" and loved them.
The lesson of St. Faustina's and Mother Teresa's ministries to the dying is a clear teaching on the hope in store for us in eternal life. It is a response of hope to the fear of death by those who do not believe in the eternal life promised to the faithful. Death is not the end of it all — it is the beginning of it all!
And so let us ask the intercession of these two extraordinary saints of mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska and St. Teresa of Calcutta, as we approach the end of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Let us entrust ourselves and all those most in need of God's mercy to their prayers, and practice the works of mercy with the same faith and devotion that St. Faustina and St. Teresa exhibited throughout their lives.
To learn more about St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and their response to Christ's thirst for souls, see our booklet I Thirst; the books Consoling the Heart of Jesus and 'You Did It to Me' by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC; and our newest book, Praying with Mother Teresa by Susan Conroy.