As is well known, St. Teresa of Calcutta’s encounter with Jesus' cry "I thirst" from the Cross inspired her with a supernatural grace that carried her for the next 50 years through the darkness of spiritual desolation, countless trials and sufferings, the enormous labor of establishing 5 branches of a worldwide religious order, and a massive correspondence with people around the world who wrote her for encouragement, prayers and counsel.
Less well known, however, is the secret of exactly what this cry of Jesus meant for her, and how those two simple words, heard in 1947, encapsulated the whole itinerary of her life that followed. The words revealed to her a mystery which she kept hidden away in her heart for decades, until Pope St. John Paul II spoke of them in a homily in 1993. Inspired by this as if by a prompting of the Holy Spirit, she began to speak of her encounter more freely. She wrote to her sisters in that same year with a special urgency: the Pope’s homily was “a sign for Mother, that time has come for me to speak openly of gift God gave Sept. 10th – to explain fully as I can what means for me the thirst of Jesus.” She continued, “Why does Jesus say ‘I thirst’? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words – if you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this – ‘I thirst’ is something much deeper than just Jesus saying ‘I love you.’”
In the midst of the challenge of “explaining in words,” Fr. Joseph Langford, the spiritual son with whom she founded the M.C. Fathers, played a unique part in helping the saint articulate the meaning of her experience for her sisters. He thus also became a privileged recipient and articulator of her spiritual experience for the M.C. family.
It was this unique role which helped him author his “’I Thirst’ Retreat” which he used to explain to Mother’s worldwide congregation the meaning of the charism she received – “to satiate the infinite thirst of Jesus on the Cross for love and for souls.” Fr. Langford well synthesizes – as much as such a thing is possible – how Mother Teresa understood and explained the mystery of Jesus’ thirst on the Cross. This book of meditations, adapted from Fr. Langford’s retreat, is thus a unique and faithful window into the soul of this great saint, and into the secret which made her the saint she became.
Fr. Daniel Jones
Associate Professor of Theology
Sacred Heart Major Seminary