On a tour of Japan in April 1982, the late Mother Teresa made a memorable address to doctors and nurses at the Nagasaki National University School of Medicine.
The speech that follows was transcribed by Father Anthony Zimmerman who was at the time executive director of the Japan Family Life Association, which sponsored Mother Teresa's tour in Japan.
I am very happy to be with you, because yours is a very delicate, a very beautiful profession.
But remember, it is not only a profession, it is a work of consecrated love; because you are dealing with life; you are dealing with life that is created in the image of God.
And that is why, when you touch life, how clean your hands must be; how clean your eyes, your heart must be, to be able to see God, to see Jesus in that person; because Jesus said, "Whatever you do to the least of these-- to that unborn child, that little child, that disabled child, that cancer case, that mental case - you did it to me."
And why is your life, your work, your profession, a work of consecrated love? Because people come to you with great trust, with great hope. How terrible it is if you are not there.
If your hand-- instead of touching with love and compassion - destroys, kills, like that abortion; if your hand, which has been created, which has been given the joy of loving, of compassion, if that hand uses means to destroy the image of God, that little unborn child-- how terrible it is. It is a sin that remains there; that remains there.
And that is why you people who are dealing with medical work - you are dealing with suffering, you are dealing with people who come to you bearing great pain, great suffering, and with great hope that you will do something, that you will give them something, the joy of being relieved of the pain-- how terrible it is if they come to you with fear-- with fear that you will destroy something in them.
There is a group of doctors and nurses who came to me and said, "Please help us to make our life, our work, to be consecrated, something holy, something beautiful for God." So that group have in themselves the determination that through their work, doing this beautiful medical work, they will heal the wounds, they will heal the suffering, to give joy.
And so it is very important for you, before you touch the patient, to pray; to pray because you are unworthy; and yet you have been given that beautiful gift of touching Him. Jesus said, "You did it to me. I was suffering, I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick. I came to you and you did not take care of me; you did not want me; you did not relieve my pain. Go, I do not know you." This is going to be for us, for you, especially for medical people. Open your eyes and see the terrible danger you are causing, terrible suffering you are causing, mentally and physically, to people if you do that terrible abortion.
There is no need-- no need-- for abortion, because there is a beautiful way. As our people told me one day, "By learning natural family planning, we have grown to love each other much better than before."
We teach natural family planning to the family, husband and wife together. They tell me, "Our health is much better now than before. We are healthy now and also we still have the power of having a child whenever we want."
So there are the beautiful sentences of real life given by poor people, the people of the street, the beggars, the lepers, the slum dwellers. "We are more united, we are healthy, and we can have a baby whenever we want."
In your country, in Japan, like in India, the government is very anxious about overpopulation. And we have helped our government. In India, in Calcutta specially, in ten years, we have had over a million babies not born - more than a million fewer babies in ten years. So we have helped the government.
And that is why our government has fully recognized natural family planning; and our sisters are doing that all over India. And I hope someday, some of you will come to India, learn there, and come back to your country and teach it, teach them that very beautiful way. You can plan your family without destroying anything, without committing sin. And that is not very difficult. If our poor people, our beggars, can learn it, how much more people who are better in life, who are better educated.
Abortion destroys conscience. Lately a Hindu lady came to our house and told her great sorrow. She was rich, she had everything, but was in great sorrow. She said, "I just saw a child of eight years old. Eight years ago I did an abortion; and as I saw that child, immediately my heart was so painful, my conscience hurt me so much. My child would be eight years old today if I had not killed it."
And if you do not want the child, give me the child. I want it. I will find a family and give the child to them. Do not kill. Do not destroy.
So I will pray for you that your heart remains clean; that you may learn to pray before you touch; that you remember you are touching the Body of Christ; that you do not destroy; that you do not kill. Keep your hands clean; keep you heart clean; and that clean heart and the clean hands will help you to grow in holiness.
I ask you one thing. When I spoke to the Diet in Tokyo, I asked them to change the law of abortion. And I ask you also to get together and never allow, in this beautiful country, that regular killing which destroys not only the life of the child but destroys your very heart. You will never again be the same person. God forgives; but deep down in your heart the pain of having destroyed some life remains always. So get together and ask the government to change the law to respect and to love life that is created by God.