Teresa of Calcutta, mother of the poor

by Luis Fernando Figari
Published at El Comercio, Lima. July 17, 2003

“God has not called me to be a person of success, He has called me to be faithful”, said Mother Teresa. She answered this when she was asked how could she bear doing so little against all the poverty in the world.

On August 26 of 1910 Agnes Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje, then Ottoman territory. Her parents were of Albanian descent. At eight she lost her father, and her family fell into poverty. The mother, Drana, was a profoundly religious woman. She charitably shared the little they had with those even poorer than her. Agnes was educated in an austere and simple way. “Greet them and welcome them with love”, told the mother to her sons, when she invited abandoned people to eat.

As an adolescent, she entered the confraternity of the Daughters of Mary. At 18, she told her mother that she wanted to become a missionary and go to India. Her mother felt the natural pain for the separation that was about to happen. She remained in her room an entire day. Then, she called Agnes and gave her her blessing. In 1928 Agnes went to Ireland, to a house of a congregation known as the Sisters of Loreto.

In this community she took the name of Sister Mary Teresa. Less than a year after, she traveled to Calcutta, in India. Her dream of being a missionary was being fulfilled. In May she entered the novitiate for two years. Over this period, she familiarizes with the congregation, and is invited to discern her vocation to religious life. After this time, being 20 years old, she professes her temporal vows.

She then went to teach in a school of her congregation, the St. Mary’s High School. In May 1937 she professed her perpetual vows. She then said she had become “wife of Jesus” for “all eternity”. Already known as Mother Teresa, she dedicated to teaching and taking care of the poor. Before turning 37, during a journey by train, she had an interior inspiration: “Dedicate herself to serve Christ in the poorest among the poor”.

She informed her spiritual director, asking him to talk to the Archbishop of Calcutta. They both decided that the young nun should begin a period of discernment to see through which path God was calling her. Two years later she wore for the first time the blue and white sari, which she would make famous. In 1950, a new institution was born in the Church. Pope Paul VI approved the new congregation in 1965. The expansion of the congregation begins then, and it still continues today, even after Mother Teresa’s passing.

The words “I thirst” of Jesus from the Cross, and the biblical passage of the Samaritan, are constant in her thought. “To quench the infinite thirst of Christ for love of the souls” was the expression of her spirituality. “Obey the Church, obey the Pope”, said Mother Teresa. Her theology was clear. Between 1963 and 1984, she founded other religious institutions for women and men, active and contemplative.

Her life at the service of the poor is widely known. Small of stature, a face forged by a life of tireless service and announcement of Christ, tender look, wide smile, a great heart overflowing of charity. That is how Peru saw her in 1989. It was on occasion of the Congress on Reconciliation. Her conference was given in a shanty town, before thousands of people. Her message: Christ leads us to love and respect human dignity since conception. The horizon of Teresa of Calcutta is the entire world: those who are poor of bread and those who thirst for God.

She has been misunderstood and calumniated, even today. She bore this in silence, offering it to Christ Crucified. She reaches the altars six years after God called her to His presence. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, intercede so that the world lives the charity that comes from God!

 

Notice: This article has been translated from Spanish. The author has not looked over the translation.

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