“Little children, come unto me.” These words of Christ were also, in a very real way, the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She embraced the sick, the poor, and the needy–but little children, God’s precious new lives, in a special way brought a smile to her face.
Children growing up today may have heard of the missionary who will be canonized on September 4; but they’re too young to remember the tiny woman who ministered in the slums of Calcutta. Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk is mindful of that, and said:
“Among Catholics over 40, everyone knows of her great generosity and spirit; but younger people don’t remember her story. She was always, during her lifetime, in the news and included on lists of “Most-Admired Women.” But 20 years later, many don’t really remember her missionary service to the poor.”
I talked with Fr. Kolodiejchuk, postulator for the cause of canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recently for the National Catholic Register. (You can read that interview in full here, and my review of The Call of Mercy, the new book he edited featuring never-before-published writings by Mother Teresa, here. )
But how can you help young children learn more about the saint whose example of mercy is an inspiration to us all?
Well, Ignatius Press and Magnificat have just released two beautifully illustrated children’s books which tell her story at a level appropriate for younger readers.
Appropriate for children aged 5 and up, Mother Teresa: The Smile of Calcutta describes the saint’s life–from her journey at the age of eighteen to become a missionary in the Sisters of Loretto, to her founding of the Missionaries of Charity and their charitable works, and finally, to her death in 1997. The pictures are engaging, and will help younger children to understand her deep love for the poorest of the poor.
A word of caution: At least the first few times, small children will need to hear this story while seated on a parent’s lap. The narrative has not been greatly simplified for young readers, and I would guess that many words will be unfamiliar to five-year-olds.
Intended for children aged 9 and older, Mother Teresa of Calcutta is also beautifully illustrated. The story begins even earlier: There’s a painting of the tiny Anjezë (in English, Agnes) in her cradle. Throughout the story, the missionary nun is smiling, arms reaching out to the sick, hugging the small children. From her earliest days in her native Algeria, to the day she died in her adopted city of Calcutta, Mother Teresa saw Jesus in the eyes of those who were abandoned, unwanted, and dying.
Both of these excellent books are available through Ignatius Press, on-line at Amazon, or through your local Catholic bookseller.