Not canonized, but beatified and remembered on September 5.
Most of the entry I wrote on Mother Teresa for The Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes is on the Loyola site, here.
When we think about the difference that love can make, many people very often think of one person: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A tiny woman, just under five feet tall, with no tools except prayer, love, and the unique qualities God had given her, Mother Teresa is probably the most powerful symbol of the virtue of charity for people today.
Mother Teresa wasn’t, of course, born with that name. Her parents named her Agnes—or Gonxha in her own language—when she was born to them in Albania, a country north of Greece.
Agnes was one of four children. Her childhood was a busy, ordinary one. Although Agnes was very interested in missionary work around the world, as a child she didn’t really think about becoming a nun; but when she turned 18, she felt that God was beginning to tug at her heart, to call her, asking her to follow him.
Now Agnes, like all of us, had a choice. She could have ignored the tug on her heart. She could have filled her life up with other things so maybe she wouldn’t hear God’s call. But of course, she didn’t do that. She listened and followed, joining a religious order called the Sisters of Loreto, who were based in Dublin, Ireland.
3. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Mk 10: 43). With particular emotion we remember today Mother Teresa, a great servant of the poor, of the Church and of the whole world. Her life is a testimony to the dignity and the privilege of humble service. She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give “until it hurts”. Her life was a radical living and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.
The cry of Jesus on the Cross, “I thirst” (Jn 19: 28), expressing the depth of God’s longing for man, penetrated Mother Teresa’s soul and found fertile soil in her heart. Satiating Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had become the sole aim of Mother Teresa’s existence and the inner force that drew her out of herself and made her “run in haste” across the globe to labour for the salvation and the sanctification of the poorest of the poor.
4. “As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25: 40). This Gospel passage, so crucial in understanding Mother Teresa’s service to the poor, was the basis of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest meaning of service – an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners (cf. Mt 25: 34-36) is done to Jesus himself.
Recognizing him, she ministered to him with wholehearted devotion, expressing the delicacy of her spousal love. Thus, in total gift of herself to God and neighbour, Mother Teresa found her greatest fulfilment and lived the noblest qualities of her femininity. She wanted to be a sign of “God’s love, God’s presence and God’s compassion”, and so remind all of the value and dignity of each of God’s children, “created to love and be loved”. Thus was Mother Teresa “bringing souls to God and God to souls” and satiating Christ’s thirst, especially for those most in need, those whose vision of God had been dimmed by suffering and pain.
5. “The Son of man also came… to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10: 45). Mother Teresa shared in the Passion of the crucified Christ in a special way during long years of “inner darkness”. For her that was a test, at times an agonizing one, which she accepted as a rare “gift and privilege”.
In the darkest hours she clung even more tenaciously to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This harsh spiritual trial led her toidentify herself more and more closely with those whom she served each day, feeling their pain and, at times, even their rejection. She was fond of repeating that the greatest poverty is to be unwanted, to have no one to take care of you.
6. “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you”. How often, like the Psalmist, did Mother Teresa call on her Lord in times of inner desolation: “In you, in you I hope, my God!”.
Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example
In 2010, the year of the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth, Pope Benedict lunched with 250 of Rome’s poor on December 26:
I think of the witness of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a reflection of the light of the love of God. To celebrate a hundred years since her birth is cause for gratitude and for reflection, that we might have a renewed and joyous charge toward the service of the Lord and our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest among us. As we know, the Lord himself wanted to be needy. Dear Sisters priests and brothers, dear friends, love is the force that changes the world, because God is love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta lived love for everyone without distinction, but with a preference for the poorest and most abandoned: a luminous sign of the fatherhood and the goodness of God. She knew to recognize in each person the face of Christ, who she loved with her whole self: the Christ who she loved and received in the Eucharist she continued to find in the streets and pathways of the city, becoming living “images” of Jesus who crosses over the wounds of man with the grace of his merciful love. Whoever asks why Mother Teresa became so famous, the answer is simple: because she lived in a humble, hidden way, for love and in love of God. She herself affirmed that her greatest prize was to love Jesus and serve him in the poor. Her tiny figure, whether with her hands joined together or embracing a sick person, a leper, the dying, a child, is the visible sign of an existence transformed by God. Amid the night of human suffering, she became resplendent in the light of divine Love and helped so many hearts find the peace only God can give.
Let us thank the Lord, that in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we all have seen how our existence can change when it encounters Jesus; it can become for others a reflection of the light of God. To many men and women, in situations of sorrow and suffering, she gave consolation and the certainty that God doesn’t abandon anyone, ever! Her mission continues among many, here and in other parts of the world, who live her charism of being missionaries and missionaries of Charity. Our thanks to you is great, dear Sisters, dear Brothers, for your humble, discreet, almost hidden presence in the eyes of men, but extraordinary and precious to the heart of God. To man often in search of happy, fleeting illusions, your witness of life says where true joy is found: in sharing, in giving, in loving with the same generosity of God that upends the logic of human selfishness.