Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

220px-MotherTeresa_094Mother Teresa (born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu Albanian: [aˈɲɛzə ˈɡɔndʒɛ bɔjaˈdʒiu]; 26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997) also known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, MC,was an Albanian Roman Catholic nun and missionary.[6] She was born in Skopje (modern Republic of Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet in the Ottoman Empire. After having lived in Macedonia for eighteen years, she moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and was active in 133 countries. They run hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; dispensaries and mobile clinics; children’s and family counselling programmes; orphanages; and schools. Members must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as a fourth vow, to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.

Mother Teresa was the recipient of numerous honours, including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. On 19 October 2003, she was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”. A second miracle was credited to her intercession by Pope Francis, in December 2015, paving the way for her to be recognised as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.[5][8] Her canonisation is scheduled for 4 September 2016, a day before the 19th anniversary of her death.

A controversial figure both during her life and after her death, Mother Teresa was widely admired by many for her charitable works. She was both praised and criticised for her anti-abortion views.[9][10][11][12] She also received criticism for conditions in the hospices she ran. Her authorised biography was written by Indian civil servant Navin Chawla and published in 1992.

Spiritual life
Analysing her deeds and achievements, John Paul II asked: “Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart.”[124] Privately, Mother Teresa experienced doubts and struggles over her religious beliefs which lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life, during which “she felt no presence of God whatsoever”, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist” as put by her postulator, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk.[125] Mother Teresa expressed grave doubts about God’s existence and pain over her lack of faith:

Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.[126]

Plaque dedicated to Mother Teresa, Wenceslas Square, Olomouc, Czech Republic
With reference to the above words, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, her postulator (the official responsible for gathering the evidence for her sanctification) said he thought that some might misinterpret her meaning, but her faith that God was working through her remained undiminished, and that while she pined for the lost sentiment of closeness with God, she did not question his existence,[127] and that she may have experienced something similar to what is believed of Jesus Christ when crucified who was heard to say “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is translated to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Brian Kolodiejchuk, drew comparisons to the 16th century mystic St. John of the Cross, who coined the term the “Dark Night of the Soul”.[92] Many other saints had similar experiences of spiritual dryness, or what Catholics believe to be spiritual tests (“passive purifications”), such as Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux, who called it a “night of nothingness.”[127] The Rev. James Langford said these doubts were typical and would not be an impediment to canonisation.[127]

Mother Teresa described, after ten years of doubt, a short period of renewed faith. At the time of the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, praying for him at a Requiem Mass, she said she had been relieved of “the long darkness: that strange suffering.” However, five weeks later, she described returning to her difficulties in believing.[128]

Mother Teresa wrote many letters to her confessors and superiors over a 66-year period, most notably to Calcutta Archbishop Ferdinand Perier and a Jesuit priest, Celeste van Exem, who had been her spiritual advisor since the formation of the Missionaries of Charity.[129] She had asked that her letters be destroyed, concerned that “people will think more of me—less of Jesus.”[92][130] Despite this request, the correspondences have been compiled in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday).[92][131] In one publicly released letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

In his first encyclical Deus caritas est, Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa of Calcutta three times and he also used her life to clarify one of his main points of the encyclical. “In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service.”[132] Mother Teresa specified that “It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer.”[133]

Although there was no direct connection between Mother Teresa’s order and the Franciscan orders, she was known as a great admirer of St. Francis of Assisi.[134] Accordingly, her influence and life show influences of Franciscan spirituality. The Sisters of Charity recite the peace prayer of St. Francis every morning during thanksgiving after Communion and many of the vows and emphasis of her ministry are similar.[134] St. Francis emphasised poverty, chastity, obedience and submission to Christ. He also devoted much of his own life to service of the poor, especially lepers in the area where he lived.

Miracle and beatification
After Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, the Holy See began the process of beatification, the third step toward possible canonisation. This process requires the documentation of a miracle performed from the intercession of Mother Teresa.[135]

In 2002, the Vatican recognised as a miracle the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, after the application of a locket containing Mother Teresa’s picture. Besra said that a beam of light emanated from the picture, curing the cancerous tumour. Some of Besra’s medical staff and Besra’s husband said that conventional medical treatment had eradicated the tumour.[136] Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, who told The New York Times he had treated Besra, said that the cyst was not cancer at all but a cyst caused by tuberculosis. He said, “It was not a miracle…. She took medicines for nine months to one year.”[137] According to Besra’s husband, “My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle.”[138] Besra’s medical records contain sonograms, prescriptions, and physicians’ notes: Besra has claimed that Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity is withholding them. The officials at the Balurghat Hospital where Besra was seeking medical treatment have claimed that they are being pressured by the Catholic order to declare the cure a miracle.[138]

Christopher Hitchens was the only witness as far as he knew, called by the Vatican to give evidence against Mother Teresa’s beatification and canonisation process,[139] because the Vatican had abolished the traditional “devil’s advocate” role, which fulfilled a similar purpose.[140] Hitchens has argued that “her intention was not to help people,” and he alleged that she lied to donors about the use of their contributions. “It was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn’t working to alleviate poverty,” says Hitchens. “She was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, ‘I’m not a social worker. I don’t do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the church.'”[141]

In the process of examining Teresa’s suitability for beatification and canonisation, the Roman Curia (the Vatican) studied a great deal of published and unpublished criticism of her life and work. Concerning allegations raised by journalist Christopher Hitchens, Vatican officials have responded by saying that these have been investigated by the agency charged with such matters, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and that they found no obstacle to Mother Teresa’s beatification. Because of the attacks she has received, some Catholic writers have called her a sign of contradiction.[142] Mother Teresa was beatified 19 October 2003, thereby bestowing on her the title “Blessed.”[143]

On 17 December 2015, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis recognised a second miracle attributed to her involving the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumours.[8] The Vatican has scheduled 4 September 2016 as the canonisation date for Teresa.

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