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Teresa of Calcutta

When Pope Francis officially pronounces Blessed Teresa of Calcutta a saint this month, he will be confirming what many have believed for decades — that those who lived in the 20th century were privileged to watch and learn what a living saint had to teach.  So sure were most people of her sanctity that her name has entered the lexicon as a synonym for holiness.  All of this Mother Teresa would have eschewed, of course.  She once said of herself that she was merely “a pencil in the hand of God,” but she was a pencil that wrote in large letters what an often indifferent world needed to hear.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in what is now Macedonia in 1910.  Even as a young child she showed an interest in foreign missions and, at age 18, she left her home and her mother (her father had died when she was nine) to join the Loretto Sisters of Dublin.  From there she was sent to India to teach history and geography in a wealthy girl’s school in Calcutta; but even within its sheltered walls Teresa could not avoid the suffering and destitution that surrounded her.

 In 1946, while on her way to her annual retreat in Darjeeling, she heard what she would later term “the call within the call.”  The message was clear, she said.  “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them…to follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”

After receiving permission to leave Loretto and found a new congregation, Mother Teresa began to prepare herself for her new vocation.  She took a nursing course and then moved into the slums, where she opened a school for poor children.  She adopted as her “habit” a simple white sari and sandals, because this was the clothing worn by ordinary Indian women.  Visiting her neighbors, she began to learn of their needs and worked to help provide for them.

She was soon joined by other young women, some of them girls she had taught, and the core of the Missionaries of Charity began to take shape.  As more and more people began to learn of what she was doing, they helped as they could with donations of food, clothing and whatever else the sisters needed.  By 1952, the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) gave Mother Teresa a hostel to use as a home for the dying and destitute.

Mother Teresa spent the rest of her life caring for those she called “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”  She became known around the globe and traveled extensively, seeking support for the work of the Missionaries of Charity and encouraging others to see the poor as God saw them.  “Find your own Calcutta,” she said.  “Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize.  She died of natural causes on Sept. 5, 1997, and the process for her canonization began soon after. At her beatification in 2003, Pope St. John Paul II called her “one of the most relevant personalities of our age…an icon of the Good Samaritan.”

Mother Teresa’s feast day is Sept. 5.


Sources for these articles include:

www.americancatholic.org

Dohan, Edward. “St. Thomas of Villanova.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York:
        Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Lecture, 11 December, 1979

“Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” CatholicSaints.Info. 12 July 2016. 

“Saint Thomas of Villanova.” CatholicSaints.Info.
        19 May 2016.

Schreck, Alan.  “Catholic Church History from A to Z.”  Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Servant Press, 2002.

Pope Francis recognizes miracle needed to canonize Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, thus paving the way for her canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for Blessed Teresa's cause and advanced three other sainthood causes on Dec. 17, the Vatican announced.

Although the date for the canonization ceremony will be officially announced during the next consistory of cardinals in February, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Vatican office organizing the Holy Year of Mercy events, had said it would be Sept. 4. That date celebrates the Jubilee of workers and volunteers of mercy and comes the day before the 19th anniversary of her death, Sept. 5, 1997.

The postulator for her sainthood cause, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk of the Missionaries of Charity, said the second miracle that was approved involved the healing of a now 42-yearold mechanical engineer in Santos, Brazil.

Doctors diagnosed the man with a viral brain infection that resulted in multiple brain abscesses, the priest said in a statement published Dec. 18 by AsiaNews, the Rome-based missionary news agency. Treatments given were ineffective and the man went into a coma, the postulator wrote.

The then-newly married man's wife had spent months praying to Blessed Teresa and her prayers were joined by those of her relatives and friends when her dying husband was taken to the operating room Dec. 9, 2008.

When the surgeon entered the operating room, he reported that he found the patient awake, free of pain and asking, "What am I doing here?" Doctors reported the man showed no more symptoms and a Vatican medical commission voted unanimously in September 2015 that the healing was inexplicable.

St. John Paul II had made an exception to the usual canonization process in Mother Teresa's case by allowing her sainthood cause to be opened without waiting the usual five years after a candidate's death. He beatified her in 2003.

The order she started – the Missionaries of Charity – continues its outreach to the "poorest of the poor."

Among the other decrees approved Dec. 17, the pope recognized the heroic virtues of Comboni Father Giuseppe Ambrosoli, an Italian surgeon, priest and missionary who dedicated his life to caring for people in Uganda, where he also founded a hospital and midwifery school before his death in 1987. His father ran the highly successful Ambrosoli honey company.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of De La Salle Brother Leonardo Lanzuela Martinez of Spain (1894-1976) and Heinrich Hahn, a German surgeon.

Born in 1800, the lay Catholic doctor was the father of 10 children and dedicated much of his activity to providing medical care to the poor. He was also involved in public service, even serving in the German parliament. He founded the St. Francis Xavier Mission Society in Germany and the "Giuseppino" Institute for those suffering from incurable illnesses. He died in 1882. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican
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