I was raised as an Episcopalian from birth, baptized, and confirmed, very active as a young churchgoer. In the 1960s and 1970s, I was radicalized and drifted from the church, tear gas at first, then to Unity, Unitarian, and so on. In 1987, while on a scientific trip to India, and while waiting for a plane for Calcutta, Mother Teresa sat down besides me. On the other end of the trip, while waiting luggage, I asked her if I could see what she and her order do. After my meetings, she arranged for a visit to her at evening prayers at her Convent (Mother House).
At first, the visit was painful, as I joined Mother Teresa and her Order for prayer on a very hard marble floor, no pads for my knees. After prayers, Mother Teresa brought me down to her office, stacked with huge piles of files, publications, and other delights of her brilliance. She told me of a train ride in the hills of Northern India when she was a young nun. The Church had disillusioned her, when she heard a voice within her that she knew immediately was God, within, telling her to find the poorest of the poor, in streets, and feed them. So she went to Calcutta, purchased food from vendors and fed the poor. Soon women came to help her, and her Order was born.
I asked her more about her God. It was simple. God was within her, and he taught her to love the God within, and then she could love the next person, and the next person, the many poor around her, and her Sisters of Charity. She was Catholic, Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, and Islamic, because her God was the God of all.
She then took my hand and placed it over my heart, and told me that I could love everyone in the world with this view, one step at a time. It was like the 4th of July, there were lights everywhere. Every time I think of this story, I feel the place on my chest where she blessed me. This was my transformation. She was the most powerful person I have ever met.
I returned to the Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO, in Carmel, CA, and now happily singing in the St. Margaret’s Choir.