Joseph Michael Langford was born June 25, 1951, in Toledo, Ohio, the eldest of four children of Martha and Gerald Langford. After a year-long battle with cancer, he died of a heart attack October 14, 2010, in the Tijuana, Mexico Motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. His funeral Mass was celebrated there October 20, 2010.
Father Joseph Langford became a priest in 1978 for the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. He finished his philosophical and theological studies summa cum laude at the Angelicum in Rome — where he came to know Mother Teresa in the years before beginning the priests’ community.In 1984 he and Mother Teresa co-founded her community of priests, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers.
Father Joe’s first encounter with Mother Teresa took place in the English section of a bookstore in Rome — while Mother Teresa herself was thousands of miles away. That first meeting, one that would change the course of his life, took place through a book, Malcolm Muggeridge’s Something Beautiful for God. Without going to Calcutta, or having the chance to shake her hand, he had met Mother Teresa through the printed word, a meeting that left its mark on his soul. Since the author’s own first encounter with Mother Teresa was through a book, he came to believe that meeting the power and beauty of her message could take place through the printed word, even life-changing meetings such as his own.
As Father Joe began to know Mother Teresa better in those first years in Rome, he became convinced that her message was something that all the world needed to hear — that everyone would benefit from knowing what God had given her to say. He soon realized that Calcutta was but a metaphor for the inner poverty within us all — that the roads of Calcutta led to everyman’s door. He resolved that Mother Teresa’s message must not die with her; that he would do all in his power to help it reach the world-wide audience it deserved; to make sure that those who had felt touched by her might learn the full depth and beauty of what they had but sensed in her soul from afar.
In his role as cofounder, Mother Teresa confided to him much of what was deepest in her heart in their conversations over the years. Foremost in her soul was her desire that what she learned that famous day on the train to Darjeeling — of the magnitude and quality of God’s love for us, even at our worst — be made known far and wide, first to her own sisters, and then to the world at large.
Mother Teresa encouraged him, up until the time of her death, to travel to her various centers around the world to speak on this topic — and to make this his number one life task. Her mandate, and the great good this message did to his own soul, and all those who come to know it, were the impetus behind his book, Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter That Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own. Secret Fire is unique in that it is the fruit not only of archival research, but of intimate conversations with Mother Teresa, precisely on this subject.
One day, when Mother Teresa came to New York, she spent the day with the newly founded community of priests. When she was in the garden with Father Joe, he said to her, “Mother, I know we are not supposed to ask you about the train; but I need to know if what I am about to include in our constitutions is true....” He launched into his hypothesis about the grace of the train — as her intimate experience of the thirst and longing of Jesus for her, and for the poorest among us. She lowered her head for a moment, then looked up and said to him, “Yes ... and one day you must tell the others.”
Father Joseph Langford conducted retreats and seminars around the world, sharing Mother Teresa’s message of God’s love. He authored two books with Our Sunday Visitor Publishing – Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter That Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own and Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady, in addition to a pamphlet entitled I Thirst for You.
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