Mother Teresa and Poverty of Heart
The Vatican website reports that Mother Teresa was born on 26 August 1910 in Skopje, Albania, and baptised with the name Gonxha Agnes. When she was 18, young Gonxha joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. There she received the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux and, in December 1928, she departed for India. After making her First Profession of Vows in May 1931, Sister Teresa was assigned to the Loreto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at St. Mary’s School for girls. In May 1937, Sister Teresa made her Final Profession of Vows, becoming, in her words, the “spouse of Jesus” for “all eternity.” From that time on, she was called Mother Teresa.
It was on September 10, 1946, during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, that Mother Teresa received her “inspiration” -- her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never fully 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. It is reported that Jesus revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. Mother Teresa then sought to dedicate herself to the service of the poorest of the poor, as being the will of Jesus. However, it was nearly two years before she received permission to begin.
On August 17, 1948, Mother Teresa removed her habit of the Sisters of Loreto and took up her white, blue-bordered sari before leaving her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor. Initially, she ministered to the poor alone, accompanied only by the Lord. She visited families, washed the sores of children, cared for those lying sick on the road, and nursed the dying. She went out each day, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” In time, Mother Teresa was joined by her former students at the St. Mary's School and, in October 1950, the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta.
A missionary must be a missionary of Love. A missionary is one who is sent. God sent his Son. Today God sends us. Each one of us is sent by God and his Church. Sent for what? Sent to be his love among men. Sent to bring his love and compassion among men. We have to carry our Lord to places he has not walked before. . . .
Once a man came to Nirmol Hridoy, Home for the Dying Destitutes, Calcutta. He just walked in—right into the ward. I was there. After a little while he came back and said to me: "I came here with so much hate in my heart,- hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty, faithless, embittered and I saw a sister inside, giving her whole-hearted attention to that patient there. I realize that God still loves. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and he loves us still." . . .
We make the Church present by proclaiming the Good News. What is the Good News? The Good News is that God still loves the world through each one of us. You are God's Good News; you are God's love in action. Through you God is still loving the world. Each time people come into contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God's love. . . .
How beautiful is our vocation as missionaries. How great is our calling. How fortunate people would think themselves if they were given a chance to give personal service to the king of this world. And here we are—we can touch, love and serve Christ, the King of kings—all the days of our life. . . .
Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and Christ, by his Incarnation, is united with each human person. In the beginning when I first started the work, some people passed remarks that the Church is not made of rubbish. That meant the poor, the sick, the dying, the crippled, the homeless, etc. Now everyone seems to have turned towards what was considered rubbish. Yes, the poor are worthy of respect and human dignity. Human beings cannot become conscious of their own dignity unless they have experienced love. It reminds me of the man who died in Nirmol Hridoy: "I have lived like an animal in the street, but I will die like an angel, loved and cared for."
By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world.
Mother Teresa-The Legacy
On September 5, 1997, the earthly journey of Mother Teresa ended. Immediately, countless numbers of people throughout the world professed their belief that she is a saint. And on October 19, 2003, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II, who said,
With the witness of her life, Mother Teresa reminds everyone that the evangelizing mission of the Church passes through charity, nourished by prayer and listening to God's word. Emblematic of this missionary style is the image that shows the new Blessed clasping a child's hand in one hand while moving her Rosary beads with the other. Contemplation and action, evangelization and human promotion: Mother Teresa proclaimed the Gospel living her life as a total gift to the poor but, at the same time, steeped in prayer. . . .
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. . . .
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. . . .
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.
Virgin Mary, Queen of all the Saints, help us to be gentle and humble of heart like this fearless messenger of Love. Help us to serve every person we meet with joy and a smile. Help us to be missionaries of Christ, our peace and our hope. Amen!
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Let us pray:
God, who called the virgin blessed Teresa
to respond to the love of your Son thirsting on the cross
with outstanding charity to the poorest of the poor,
grant us, we beseech you, by her intercession,
to minister to Christ in his suffering brothers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.