September 4, 2016

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Missionary and Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity

St. Teresa of Calcutta
September 5th, is the feast of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, (1910-1997) the Catholic religious, missionary and foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who experienced a “call within a call” to devote herself to caring for the sick and the poor. She was born, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, in the Ottoman Empire (now the Republic of Macedonia), in the city of Skopje. By the age of 12 she resolved to commit herself to a religious life and to go to India to care of the poverty-stricken.

At 18, Agnes left home to enter the Sisters of Loreto Abbey in Ireland as a missionary. She took her first religious vows on May 24, 1931. Six years later, she took her solemn vows on May 14, 1937, while serving as a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Calcutta. Teresa would serve there for almost twenty years. On September 10, 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" to help the suffering and the marginalized. From her Vatican biography:

"On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for ‘victims of love’ who would ‘radiate His love on souls.’ ‘Come be My light,’ He begged her. ‘I cannot go alone.’ He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor."

On August 17, 1948, Mother Teresa left the Loreto convent, dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari to begin her ministry to the poor. She walked the slums of Calcutta, tending to the sick and the marginalized. Soon after, she was joined by several of her former students. She began each day in prayer with Jesus in the Eucharist before going into the slums to serve Him in the unwanted, the unloved and the uncared for.

On October 7, 1950 the Missionaries of Charity Order was officially recognized in the Archdiocese of Calcutta where the mother house was located. A decade later, the Order had established several more homes throughout India. By the mid-sixties, the Missionaries of Charity had opened homes in Venezuela, Rome and Tanzania to become an international congregation. Today they operate houses on every continent.

To better meet the physical and spiritual needs of the indigent, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, a contemplative branch of the Sisters, in 1973, the Contemplative Brothers in 1979 and the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984. In response to the requests of many priests, in 1981, Mother Teresa began the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests as a “little way of holiness” for those who wish to engage in her charism and spirit.

In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace." At she at first declined the honor because she considered herself unworthy. Ultimately, she accepted the prize, and in so doing, used the platform afforded her to draw attention to the poor and the cause of human dignity.

Although not publicly known, her life of heroic virtue entailed great spiritual trial as her Vatican biography notes:

"Mother Teresa’s life and labour bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship with God. But there was another heroic side of this great woman that was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, ‘the darkness.’ The ‘painful night’ of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God."

Saint Mother Teresa was born into eternal life on September 5, 1997. She was granted a state funeral by the Indian government in gratitude for her services to the poor of India. Less than two years after her death, in view of Mother Teresa’s reputation of holiness, Pope Saint John Paul II allowed her Cause of Canonization to commence. Mother Teresa was beatified October 19, 2003, by St. John Paul II. She was canonized by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016. O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption, look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters, that those who believe in Christ may imitate Him in love and receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.

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