Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a Living Saint in out Midst
On September 4th our beloved Blesses Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized as a saint by our Holy Father Pope Francis in Vatican , Rome. To celebrate this great event many devotees of Blessed Mother Teresa, from around the world, will gather in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Being declared a saint was not important to Mother Teresa, however we know she certainly has made her home with God among His saints in heaven.
Mother Teresa was a model of humility and love. She served the poorest of the poor with great love and compassion, just as Jesus did. People of every religion and faith were her brothers and sisters irrespective of their race, color or cast. She lived the gospel as Jesus said, “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sister, you have done unto me.” (Matthew 25:40-41). On this special occasion it is appropriate for us to reflect on the life of this great and holy person who lived among us just a few years ago. I hope this reflection on her life will enlighten us as we come to know her life and mission that was entrusted to her by God.
Three decades ago, a five foot tall Roman Catholic sister, in her early thirties, walking among the crowded street people of Calcutta, came upon a dying, unconscious woman lying in filth her body half wasted by feasting rats and maggots. She took this helpless woman to her own flat, bathed and cared for her, the woman managing only a smile of gratitude before she died. This particular event began her extraordinary ministry to the worlds “poorest of the poor” which later brought the Noble Prize for peace to Mother Teresa.
Born on August 26, 1910, at Skopje, Yugoslavia, to an Albanian grocer and his wife she was baptized Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhier. At age 18 she joined the Irish Sisters of Loretto to become a missionary to India. For the next twenty years, Sister Teresa taught affluent Indian girls at St Mary’s school in Calcutta.
Responding to the second call from God in 1948 she won the Vatican’s reluctant permission to leave her comfortable life at St Mary’s to start a new order of sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, devoted to the diseased and dying street dwellers of Calcutta. She promptly shed her shoes and adopted, as her habit, the rough cotton sari worn by India’s poorest women. Today, her community numbers 1,800 sisters and 1,200 co-workers who maintain an international network of hospitals, orphanages, schools and leprosariums. There are ninety-three branches of this community in India and sixty others around the world.
Our Archdiocese is truly blessed with the presence and service of Mother Teresa’s sisters. They are presently serving at Sacred Heart parish in Robbinsdale. Archbishop Flynn will be celebrating Mass and preaching on the life of Mother Teresa on October 23 at Sacred Heart church. All are invited to celebrate with him this great event of Mother Teresa’s beatification.
In spite of their hard way of life or perhaps due to the providence of God the Missionaries of Charity are said to have more vocations than any other woman’s religious order. They are also prospering through gifts and donations even though they have a strict vow of poverty. “God is my banker and He provides whatever I need at any time”, said Mother Teresa.
She had a great sense of humor! On one occasion speaking with a group of seminarians, that I was a part of, she told a joke. She said, “the other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven, and St Peter said, “go back to earth, there are no slums up here!” ….and then she laughed.
As a seminarian, I personally had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa in Calcutta. I was very impressed with her prayer life and faith in God. One could see that her life, words, and deeds went hand in hand with God’s will. She taught what she believed in: “to trust in God totally.” She encouraged us to strengthen our prayer life and remain focused in our goals towards priesthood. Her joy in serving the poorest of the poor inspired me and my fellow seminarians very much. Mother Teresa once said: “what you can do I cannot do, what I can do you cannot do, but together we can do something beautiful for God.” In serving the very poor and abandoned children she said, “I see God in the life of these people whom I serve.”
Let us take her words seriously and do something extraordinary for God. By loving and serving the poor and less fortunate people in our midst we will also see God’s face in the life of those we serve.
by Fr J Anthony Andrade
Pastor of St Thomas Aquinas church.