Death was near. She said, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong to the heart of Jesus.”
MOTHER TERESA may well be one of the greatest 20th century humanitarians. Her missionaries provided aid to the impoverished around the world and her passion and commitment to this cause were praiseworthy. Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II. Now known as Blessed Mother Teresa, there is a population of those that believe she will indeed become a Saint of the Catholic Church.
Mother Teresa received her, ‘call” at the age of 12. After teaching in India for 17 years, she chose to devote her life to caring for the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. Her missionaries and hospices devoted all to the disabled, elderly, blind and leper ridden. With the outbreak of the HIV virus, these charitable fixtures took on a new fervor.
Baptized as Agnes in 1910 in the Republic of Macedonia, Mother Teresa was close to her mother after her father’s death. Her mother instilled in her the passion for charity.
Taking the name of Teresa after Saint Therese of Lisieux, Mother made her First Profession of Vows in 1931. Assigned by the Church; she was sent to Calcutta to teach girls who were living the destitute life of Bengali. Alleviating poverty through education was her first calling.
Final vows to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience were recited in 1937 and as is the tradition of Loreto nuns, she took on the title of, “Mother.”
Mother Teresa had a second calling in 1946 while on retreat in the Himalayan hills. She states that Christ spoke to her. “I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children,” she heard Christ say to her on the train that day. “You are, I know, the most incapable person- weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use you for my glory. Wilt thou refuse?”
Wearing the white sari with blue stripes, Mother Teresa wandered about Calcutta and visiting the slums, she chose to care for the “unwanted, the unloved and the uncared for.” A new congregation, the Missions of Charity, was Mother’s answer to aiding the poor. Schools, medical clinics, a leper colony, an orphanage, and a nursing home, soon sprang up in this area. The missions’ populace swelled into the thousands within a short time.
Known to aid people of any faith, Mother Teresa visited New York City in 1971. Establishing the first American House of Charity, she then snuck through Lebanon to aid the children of both Muslim and Christian faith. At the time of her passing, 4,000 Missions of Charity were operating.
Mother Teresa spoke to the United Nations’ general assembly, and accrued mountains of honors and praise. She became a household name and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize for her, “work in bringing help to suffering humanity.”
Mother was not without criticism and controversy. She opposed abortion, contraception and divorce as decreed by the Catholic Church. She voted, “No,” to the Irish referendum that looked to ban the controversial legislation on divorce and remarriage. The author, Cristopher Hitchens accused Mother of glorifying poverty for her own good.
After several years of ill health, Mother Teresa died in 1997.
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” – Mother Teresa
[Dedicated to my daughter-in-law, Gillian, a Hospice Social worker)