The Time I Told Mother Teresa No


Warning: The following story is thoroughly and strangely Catholic. Skeptics forewarned.


By Manfredo Ferrari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

My husband and I hoped for children as soon as we were married. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I have endometriosis and despite a surgery a few years into our marriage, it soon seemed that we might never have children.

I was praying one summer morning in our mint green wing chair, the one Jared found on the side of the road before our wedding. As usual, I was spaced out, thinking on I don’t know what. That’s when I heard her voice:

“Take care of my children.”

To which I immediately replied:

“My own, first.”

It was Mother Teresa. I knew the moment I heard her.

I could not respond to her heavenly request with fiat. Her request frightened me. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I was afraid of having an adopted child who didn’t measure up to my standards of beauty. To be blunt, I was afraid of having an ugly child.

Is that horribly shallow or what?

Mother Teresa didn’t say anything else (and I don’t blame her). Yet, the following December we found we were expecting our oldest son, thanks to the prayers of four different people who didn’t know each other, all of whom felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to pray for us on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Mother Teresa honored my request, despite my no.

What she didn’t honor was my fear and my shallowness. I needed to learn that God would teach me to love whoever he placed in my life. I needed to know that being a mother would teach me to be more accepting of others. Our son is autistic. He’s one of “Mother Teresa’s children,” often misunderstood or dismissed by others. He’s also beautiful, smart, and affectionate. He’s a gift, and he continues to teach me how to love.

This experience has also taught me how discerning and accepting God’s will is a back-and-forth process. For many years I thought that “doing God’s will” was a top-down thing: God would tell me what to do, and I’d, “Yes, sir!” and do it. But when, because of my weakness, I said no and asked for something else, God not only granted my request for biological children but did it via a miracle through the intercession of Mary and other people. This, for me, showed me something about the freedom I could have in my relationship with God, if I let go of my dictatorial “policeman God” mentality. Maybe saying “no” was part of admitting that I still have work to do—and in admitting my weakness, God can then work with me where I’m at.


Three kids later, if Mother Teresa were to ask me today, I think I would accept. At some level I might still be afraid, but being a mother has taught me that beauty is so much more than I thought back then.

Copyright 2016 Rhonda Ortiz.


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