The Saintly Life Of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia in a devout Roman Catholic family of Albanian descent.
When Agnes was 8 years old her father, a construction contractor, died of sudden illness. Thereafter Agnes became very close to her mother who was a pious and a compassionate lady and who instilled in her daughter a deep commitment to charity.
At a tender age of twelve she strongly felt the call of God within her. It urged her to spread the love of God to the poorest of the poor in the farthest reaches of the world.
She left her parental home at the age of eighteen and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns who had missions in different poor countries including India. There she took the name Sister Mary Teresa after Saint Therese of Lisieux. Later, when she took the final vows of nun-hood she became Mother Theresa by which name she is now well-known.
After a few months of training in Ireland she was sent to India. There she took her initial vows as a nun in 1931 and was assigned to teach at St Mary’s School for Girls in Kolkata (then Calcutta) for next 17 years. During this period she learned to speak Bengali and Hindi fluently.
During her stay in Kolkata she was appalled to see the misery and the suffering of the poor people living outside the convent walls. While travelling by train to a retreat centre at Himalayan foothills, she felt a Divine call within her the second time. This time the Divine Voice urged her to work among the poorest and the sickliest people in the slums of Kolkata. After receiving permission from her superiors she left the convent in 1948 in order to do charity work in the slums of Kolkata.
Totally devoid of funds but brimming with faith in Divine Providence she ventured into the slums of Kolkata with no specific goal in mind but to serve the unwanted, the unloved and the uncared for people. Initially she started an open-air school for slum children.
Seeing her courage and determination in fighting the solitary battle to alleviate human misery as a lone trooper, a few volunteers joined her and financial support also started forthcoming. This enabled her to expand her noble work step by step.
As her activities increased during the following two years, Mother Theresa received permission from the Pope to start her own religious order, “The Missionaries of Charity”. Their mission is to love and care those whom no one is prepared to care. The members of this order wear a uniform of blue and white sari with a hood covering the head.
Over the course of next couple of decades she established a leper colony, an orphanage, a family clinic, a nursing home and a string of mobile clinics in Kolkata.
Gradually, after a Papal decree, the organization expanded to become an International Religious Family which includes Active and Contemplative branches of Brothers, Sisters and ordained Priests spanning the seven continents of the world.
They primarily serve the poorest of the poor providing them physical and spiritual sustenance in a number of ways. They undertake relief work wherever natural calamities strike in the form of floods, famines and epidemics etc. They work among refugees in several strife-torn countries. They also take care of society’s scum like alcoholics, drug addicts, AIDS sufferers and the homeless.
Today the organization also includes over a million lay workers all over the world following Mother Teresa’s spirit of selfless service at individual family and community levels.
Mother Teresa’s dedication and service has been recognized throughout the world. She received several national and international honors. The Government of India has conferred Bharat Ratna on her recognizing her as one of the country’s most distinguished citizens. In 1979 she received Nobel Prize for Peace for the humanitarian work done by her.
During her lifetime Mother Teresa was known as “the Living Saint” and “the Saint of the Gutters”. Clean in body and soul she showed no repulsion while working in stinking filth and with rotten flesh. Heavenly peace and goodness exuded from her smiling face.
In 2003 the Catholic Church beatified her as “Blessed Mother Theresa” at a grand ceremony in Rome. This takes her a step closer in the arduous process of canonization.
However, Mother Teresa was severely criticized in certain circles for her unwavering support as an obedient follower to the Catholic Church’s policy against abortions and the use of contraceptives.
Mother Teresa’s life exemplifies one of her numerous inspiring quotes, which exhorts everyone not to wait for any leader to give the lead; instead you take the lead start doing good work alone, person to person.
Mother Teresa was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta MC on 4th September, 2016. The ceremony was held in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City and carried out by Pope Francis.
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