St. Mother Teresa: War, Killing, Abortion

We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.

Attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

This might be a good time to remind readers that this blog is not about taking down sayings I don’t like or disagree with; I am only asking whether or not the person to whom a quotation is attributed actually said or wrote it.

The usual web search turned up the usual list of suspects without citations. Not a usual suspect, but without a citation, was this 2004 article in the National Catholic Register. That means the saying has been around for at least that long, and widely enough attributed to her that the Register didn’t think it needed a source.

I wasn’t able to find it on Google Books in any books older than the Register article.

It’s not listed on my go-to site for checking sayings attributed to St. Mother T. (By the way, I’ve grown leery of the second half of that site; I’d prefer to judge for myself how significantly something has been paraphrased.)

To keep a potentially long story short, the saying sounds like something from her 1979 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

And I feel one thing I want to share with you all, the greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other? Even in the scripture it is written: Even if mother could forget her child – I will not forget you – I have carved you in the palm of my hand. Even if mother could forget, but today millions of unborn children are being killed. And we say nothing. In the newspapers you read numbers of this one and that one being killed, this being destroyed, but nobody speaks of the millions of little ones who have been conceived to the same life as you and I, to the life of God, and we say nothing, we allow it. To me the nations who have legalized abortion, they are the poorest nations. They are afraid of the little one, they are afraid of the unborn child, and the child must die because they don’t want to feed one more child, to educate one more child, the child must die.

(emphasis mine, to highlight the most relevant portion)

Is it possible that she said the original quotation somewhere else? Certainly, but I can’t find it. I think it’s more likely that someone took the highlighted sentence and attached something to it.

If you can find out that she said or wrote the whole thing, and you can give a primary source, I’d love to know about it.

Mother Teresa: Blessings and lessons

Some people come into your life as blessings. Some come into your life as lessons.

Attr. Mother St. Teresa; I’ve seen a version with “in” in place of “into,” but it’s the same idea either way.

The saying doesn’t pass the sounds-right test to me, but I went looking because I’ve been fooled on Mother Teresa quotations before.

Here’s what I found:

  • It’s not in Wikiquote at all, either on the verified quotations page or on the discussion page for dubious “quotations.” This is significant because it suggests that the association of the saying with her is fairly recent.
  • It’s not on the rather cumbersomely-entitled “Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words” web page. This suggests that it’s either authentic or that it got associated with her after 2010, when that page was last updated.
  • Googling the quotation with her name turns up only the usual suspect and reference-free sites, along with a smattering of blogs etc., also providing no references.
  • Googling without her name … would you believe it’s on Zig Ziglar’s Facebook page? It’s in lots of other places, too, never with an attribution. The earliest I can find it on a website that gives a date is around 2012. (Mr. Ziglar’s post is from 2014.)
  • Trying Google Books: The only places it shows up connected with St. Mother T are books that are just the contents of Internet “quotation” sites shoveled into a book. It doesn’t show up at all, attributed or not, before 2012.

Put it all together, and there are two possible conclusions:

(a) Mother Teresa actually said it, but it got detached from her name for 15 years and then somehow reattached; or
(b) She didn’t say it.

I’m going with (b).

St. Teresa/Theresa/Thérèse: Use the gifts

Use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

This is the form, attributed to St. Thérèse, that showed up on my FB wall. A Google search revealed two important things:

  1. It’s also attributed to St. Theresa of Ávila and to St. Mother Teresa.
  2. It’s not by any of them because it’s an excerpt from this: “May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” I am confident that none of them would speak of “the infinite possibilities that are born of faith,” and it’s also very unlikely that any of them would speak of “the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.”

I don’t know who wrote it, but it was written some time between 1970 and today.

Blessed Mother Teresa and judging

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

–Attr. to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

This quotation is all over Facebook today since this is the anniversary of her death and thus her feast day in places where it can be observed. (Since she’s a blessed and not a saint, her feast day is not extended to the whole Church–only to places associated with her in a special way, houses of the Missionaries of Charity, etc.)

The Google search was actually helpful this time because it took me straight to the “Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words” page on, where this quotation is found in the “Quotes that are significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements Mother Teresa made; they are not her authentic words:” section of the page. You can see it for yourself.

I could wish that they gave the statement underlying this that she did make, but I’m not quite OCD enough to go hunting for it.

It was also removed from her page on Wikiquote in 2009 as unsourced and no one has since provided a source.

Verdict: Fauxtation

Mother Teresa, the lamp, and oil

To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

Attributed to Mother Theresa.

  1. Google search: The usual quotation sites with the usual lack of citations.
  2. Wikiquote: This does not appear on her page.
  3. Google Books:
    Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 12.51.42 PM
    From Love, a Fruit Always in Season, edited by Dorothy Hunt. I believe that the attributed quotation is related to this one, but I don’t think Mother ever put it into the words of the meme.