Mother Teresa for Mother Kay

Written January 3, 2014

mother teresa blog size wm

Dear Mom,

I created this piece for your 91st birthday. I call it Mother Teresa Retablo since it is meant to capture the sacredness of Mother Teresa’s life’s work in much the same way as retablos of saints and icons do.

I started with a papercutting of Mother Teresa’s face using Tyvek paper. Tyvek is very fibrous and does not rip easily making it the perfect medium for cuttings with intricate details. This image was then glued onto a wood base which is actually part of an old kitchen cabinet. When gluing it down, I used some blue strips of paper to add the familiar blue stripes to Mother Teresa’s habit. I also secured it over a page from the book In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayers from Mother Teresa. These are the words you see inside her face. Some of them are covered up, so you cannot read them fully. She is writing her thoughts about St. Frances’ prayer, Make Me and Instrument of Your Peace. Both the prayer (written first) and Mother Teresa’s words (written below the prayer) are written out below. The words highlighted in purple are those that actually show up in her face, i.e. the last bit of the prayer and most of her reflections.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.                      

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;                                    

                where there is injury, pardon;                                     

                where there is doubt, faith;

                where there is despair, hope;

                where there is darkness, light;

                where there is sadness, joy.                                         

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

                to be consoled, as to console;

                to be understood, as to understand;

                to be loved, as to love. 

For it is giving that we receive; 

                it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 

                it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.         

Our works of love are nothing but works for peace. Let us do them with greater efficiency. It is always the same Christ who says:

I was hungry – not only for food but for peace that comes from a pure heart.

I was thirsty – not only for water but for peace that satiates the passionate thirst of a passion for war. 

I was naked – not only for clothes but for the beautiful dignity of men and women for their bodies. 

I was homeless – not only for a shelter made of bricks but for a heart that understands, that cares, that loves. 

Each of us is merely a small instrument; all of us, after accomplishing our mission, will disappear. 

The yellowish map that you see at the bottom of the piece is a map of India. If you look closely, you can see Calcutta where she did most of her life’s work. It is near the bottom right, just to the left of the cross. This map is from the Atlas we had when I was a kid!

The map at the top of the piece is of Macedonia with Skopje, her birthplace showing just above the beaded word Peace. I added a small strip of Croatia’s map to the top as well since Mother Teresa often reminds you of your own mother. You can see Zagreb just underneath the stripe of blue paint.

The decorative fabric circles were made by Alexandra for a necklace that she passed along to me all tangled up, so I cut them away from the chain and used them here. One of those fabric pieces on the bottom left has a quote attributed to Mother Teresa sewn into it:

Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

That quote has a gold brooch pinned around it that I bought for $1.00 at the St. Paul Villa gift shop!

The rosary that winds around her face consists of blue and brown glass beads strung onto a thin copper wire and secured onto the board with copper nails. This is a perk of using a wood base. I get to hammer away to secure things!

The back side of the mounting board has a portion of a map of Wisconsin with Kaukauna in the center and a page of another of Mother Teresa’s books, Meditations from a Simple Path (image below.) This seems to be the mantra by which she lived and is one I think we all strive for in one way or another. It reads:

The Simple Path

The fruit of silence is


The fruit of prayer is


The fruit of faith if


The fruit of love is


The fruit of service is


I hope that this piece of art made especially for you carries with it a similar blessing:

May the next year be an answer to your prayers, deepened by your faith, supported by the love of your family, brightened by the service you both provide and receive, and filled with peace.

mother teresa back side blog size

Original is a mixed-media creation, 6×12″, mounted on an upcycled cabinet door piece with Tyvek papercutting, paper, book pages, found objects and beads.


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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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