Mother Teresa Biography, Quotes & Facts
Published August 23, 2019. Updated November 10, 2020.
Among the most widely recognized figures of the twentieth century, Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun and missionary known as a leading humanitarian of her time. If you’re doing research on her life and legacy, you’re in the right place! On this page you’ll find a brief biography and several Mother Teresa quotes, as well as some of her famous quotes, important facts about her, and more.
Mother Teresa Biography
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910. Although she was born in Skopje, which is now the capital of North Macedonia, her parents were ethnically Albanian. Agnes was just eight years old when her father passed away suddenly.
Young Agnes was deeply involved with her local church, and at age twelve—during a religious pilgrimage—she felt her first calling toward a religious life. By age eighteen she had decided to become a nun, and she left for Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto. This is where she first took the name Teresa that would one day become famous around the world.
After just a few months in Ireland, Teresa was sent to India, first to Darjeeling and later to Calcutta. Starting in 1931, she taught geography and history at St. Mary’s High School where some of Calcutta’s poorest girls were her pupils. On May 24, 1937, she took her final vows and officially became “Mother” Teresa. By 1944, she was no longer just a teacher but also headmistress of her school.
On September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa experienced what she would refer to as her “call within a call.” She believed that Christ had spoken to her, urging her to abandon her relatively comfortable position and begin working in the slums, catering to some of the poorest and most desperate people in the world.
By 1950, she had received permission to start her own religious order, the Missionaries of Charity. Despite struggling mightily at first, this organization eventually grew to encompass a leper colony, a nursing home, an orphanage, and more; it eventually developed an international footprint as well.
Mother Teresa experienced her first heart attack in 1983 and continued to deal with heart issues into the 1990s. She resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997, and she passed away on September 5 of the same year.
Mother Teresa Quotes
In this section, you’ll find some of the most famous quotes from Mother Teresa. We’ve broken them down into a few sections, so if you’re looking for a quote Mother Teresa shared on a specific topic, feel free to scan for the subject that you’re most interested in!
If you’d like to quote Mother Teresa or any information that’s been written about her, it’s very important to do so properly! When it comes to APA citation style, you can start with this APA citation website and this guide on APA parenthetical citation.
Mother Teresa quotes on love
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives—the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family—find them. Love them.”
“Let us love each person…with the same love that God has for each one of us—a tender and personal love.”
“Our joy must come from the fact that people have experienced God’s love for them, through our loving service.”
“God still loves the world through you and through me today.”
“If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.”
“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can reach this love through meditation, spirit of prayer, and sacrifice, by an intense inner life.”
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
“Spread love everywhere you go—first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next-door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness—kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Quotes by Mother Teresa on God and religion
“My secret is simple—I pray!”
“You don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe, you are precious to Him.”
“I pray that each one of you be holy, and so spread His love everywhere you go.”
“Cling to the Rosary as the creeper clings to the tree, for without Our Lady we cannot stand.”
“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”
“Confidence in God can do all things.”
“Like Jesus, we belong to the world not living for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
“Here is the sanctity hidden for us—in knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, serving Jesus.”
“I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord Himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”
“I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
“Holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile.”
“Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet, especially your family.”
Mother Teresa quotes on individual effort
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if the drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of the missing drop.”
“I do not agree with a big way of doing things. What matters is the individual. If we wait until we get numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person.”
“Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love… The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”
“Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.”
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
“God doesn’t require us to succeed; He only requires that you try.”
Other Mother Teresa quotes
“We will never know how much good just a simple smile can do.”
“Many people are talking about the poor, but very few people talk to the poor.”
“Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile.”
“Never let anyone come to you without coming away better and happier.”
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other and in the home begins the disruption of peace in the world.”
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Mother Teresa: “Do It Anyway”
Often referred to as the Mother Teresa poem or the Mother Teresa prayer, the following words are not in fact fully original to her:
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; it was never between you and them anyway.”
In reality, the famous Mother Teresa prayer is a slightly edited version of “The Paradoxical Commandments,” a poem by American writer Kent M. Keith. She displayed this poem on a wall in her children’s home in Calcutta, and therefore in popular culture it has been widely associated with her and her work. So if you want to quote Mother Teresa, don’t use the above poem.
Mother Teresa Facts
Who is Mother Teresa? She was a Catholic nun and missionary, most famous for her role as the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity.
Where was Mother Teresa born? She was born in Skopje, now the capital of North Macedonia, on August 26, 1910.
Where is Mother Teresa from? She was born in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now the capital of North Macedonia. Despite this, she was of Albanian descent and spent most of her life in India; she obtained her citizenship there in 1950.
When did Mother Teresa die? She passed away on September 5, 1997, after dealing with heart problems for well over a decade.
Is Mother Teresa a saint? Yes! She was canonized by the Catholic Church on September 4, 2016.
What is the origin of the Mother Teresa “Do It Anyway” poem? Also sometimes called the Mother Teresa “Anyway” poem, this is not a quote Mother Teresa actually authored herself. The poem famously associated with her is in reality a slightly edited version of one drafted by American writer and educator Kent M. Keith, originally entitled “The Paradoxical Commandments.”
Is she known by any other names? Yes! She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She is often known as “Saint Mother Teresa,” as well as the abbreviated “St. Mother Teresa.” She is also referred to as “Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”
Are there any Mother Teresa books out there? Many books have been written, including edited compilations of her own writings and books written about her. Click here to find some of the top selections.
If you need to cite any of these facts in MLA style, EasyBib has resources to help you with that! Start with everything you need to know about MLA in-text and parenthetical citations, and then learn how to cite websites in MLA style too. Also, don’t neglect to create an MLA works cited page.
Other Important Information
Now that we’ve covered some of the top Mother Teresa quotes and facts, it’s time to discuss a few more aspects of her life and legacy.
Mother Teresa awards
After learning about her impact both in India and around the world, it comes as little surprise that Mother Teresa received a wide variety of awards and recognitions both during her lifetime and posthumously. Perhaps her most notable award was the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, which recognized her work “bringing help to suffering humanity.”
Other significant awards granted to her include the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, the Balzan Prize, the Nehru Prize, the Templeton Prize, the Jewel of India, and the Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee. These are by no means all the awards that she received, but they do represent some of the most notable!
She officially became Saint Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016. She was canonized by Pope Francis after two miracles were attributed to her. The first was the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of a woman in India; the second was the healing of a Brazilian man who had been suffering with multiple brain tumors.
Mother Teresa’s death occurred when she suffered her first heart attack while visiting Rome in 1983. She recovered successfully and continued with a relatively unchanged lifestyle until 1989, when she suffered her second heart attack and received an artificial pacemaker as a result. Her heart problems were further exacerbated by a case of pneumonia in 1991, and from this point on her health status began to affect her work.
In 1996, She broke her collarbone, contracted malaria, and began to experience heart failure. She stepped down as the head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997, and passed away on September 5 of the same year. After her death, she received a state funeral in her adopted home country of India.
Although this page has covered much of what you need to know about this saint, there’s still a lot more to learn! As you do your research, it’s vitally important to cite your sources in the correct way. Read on for more information on how to do just that.
Whether you need a basic APA citation, an APA in-text citation, an APA book citation, or an APA journal citation, EasyBib guides has a resource for you. You’ll also find plenty of help putting together an APA reference page or an APA bibliography.
Lastly, whatever you’re citing, it’s imperative to always avoid plagiarism. Plagiarizing is no different than stealing someone else’s work, and those caught plagiarizing can face serious consequences. You can avoid the issue of plagiarism entirely by always using this plagiarism checker before submitting any assignment!
More Topic Guides
If you’ve found this guide useful, you might like to know that we’ve prepared similar EasyBib topic guides on other important figures as well. You can check them out at the following links:
- Muhammad Ali
- Winston Churchill
- Albert Einstein
- Martin Luther King
- Abraham Lincoln
- Marilyn Monroe
- Dr. Seuss
- Mark Twain
- Malcolm X
Britannica. “Mother Teresa.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/biography/Mother-Teresa.
Frängsmyr, Tore, and Irwin Abrams. Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980. World Scientific, 1997.
“Mother Teresa.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 17 July 2019, www.biography.com/religious-figure/mother-teresa.
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