Fr. Daniel Jones addresses conference at United Nations on spirituality of Mother Teresa.
The phone call came as a great surprise. Fr. Roger Landry of the Diplomatic Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations had an extraordinary request: would Fr. Daniel Jones be interested in presenting one of three keynote addresses at a September 9 conference at the United Nations honoring the newly-canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta?
The conference, sponsored by the Holy See and the Alliance for Defending Freedom, was titled “Mother Teresa as Peacebuilder and Peacemaker.” The answer from Father Jones: he would be honored to give the address.
Father Jones, Sacred Heart associate professor of theology and director of graduate seminarians, received the request because of his longstanding relationship with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious community that St. Teresa founded. During his student-priest days in Rome in the early 2000s, Father Jones was part of a rotation of priests that celebrated Mass for the Missionary of Charity sisters stationed in Rome. Soon he was hearing the sisters’ confessions weekly, which led to an invitation to give spiritual talks to the Missionary of Charity sisters in Sicily. More invitations came, such as to be the weekly confessor to the community’s seminarians in Rome.
Many of his days-off as a busy student studying for advanced degrees in theology and patristic sciences were taken up with this unexpected but fulfilling ministry, Father Jones says. “I said weekly Mass at various times for some of their other communities in Rome, and was able to use vacation times to offer retreats in places where it was hard for them to find English-speaking priests.
“In general,” he explains, “ministering to the ‘MC’s’ became the occasion for my apostolic outreach, amid my work as a full-time student.” Because of Father’s close affiliation with the Missionaries of Charity, he also was able to use vacation time assisting Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, the postulator for Mother Teresa’s canonization, in working on the cause for her canonization.
Father’s twenty-minute address (watch video here) at the U.N (he appears at the 1:13:40 mark) centered on “unpacking” the deeper meaning within each stanza of a favorite meditation that St. Teresa referred to as her “business card.” She passed out the meditation to those many who sought her out:
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
Father Jones shared with the five hundred conference attendees a great insight he has derived from studying the example of St. Teresa. “If we don’t seriously try to love those closest to us, then we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking we’re really committed to peace on a broader scale. If I can’t get along with my spouse, my friends, or my work associates, I have no moral authority to try to make others in the world at large to get along with each other.”
Father called this grand lesson of St. Teresa a type of “subsidiarity in peacemaking.” He explained that “she called attention to where love must start for there to be any hope for peace in the world.” It is “self-sacrificing love,” Father noted, “that is the one essential and indispensable path to peace.”
In his U.N. presentation, Father linked this intuition of St. Teresa with what he called “the extreme moral gravity” of procured abortion. “This is why she used every opportunity she could—to plead with the world—that the taking of an innocent life by abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace there is.” It is a pleading, he believes, that should be heard especially by global organizations such as the United Nations that promote abortion as a so-called human right.
Father Jones continues to have an association with the Missionaries of Charity sisters. He regularly travels around the world to conduct week-long retreats for them. “The sisters have been as important in teaching me the meaning of the priesthood,” Father says, “as any bishop or seminary professor.”
As an example, Father recounts an interaction he had once with Sr. Gertrude, MC, the second sister to join Mother Teresa and a founder of many MC communities around the world (and his good friend). With fixed gaze and finger pointing at his face, Sister approached him just after he celebrated Mass and said emphatically, “Do you know what you do? Do you know what you do? You do more in one Mass than I have done in my entire life!”
Father Jones says he will always keep this reminder close to heart.