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MOTHER TERESA by Jim Gallagher
All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE
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CONTENTS Introduction ....................................................................3 Early Years and Family Life .........................................5 Sister Teresa, Loreto Nun ...........................................17 Mystical Experiences and Founding a Congregation ............................................27 The Long Dark Night: Motherâ€™s Interior Desolation ......................................58 Final Years ....................................................................72 Bibliography .................................................................77
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INTRODUCTION For decades she had been known quite simply as Mother. When, just five and a half years after her death, Pope John Paul II approved two decrees issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, her ‘daughters’ the Missionaries of Charity issued a celebratory statement. “Today, after three and a half years of investigation and study, the Church confirms that Mother heroically lived the Christian life and that God has lifted her up as both a model of holiness and an intercessor for all. “Mother is a symbol of love and compassion. When Mother was with us, we were witnesses to her shining example of all the Christian virtues. Her life of loving service to the poor has inspired many to follow the same path. Her witness and message are cherished by those of every religion as a sign that ‘God still loves the world today’.” From May 1998 Monika Besra, a thirty-year-old woman from Bengal was being treated for TB. From March of that year, however, a swelling had begun in her abdomen. By the time an ultrasound scan was performed on 8th August, the doctors could report a tumour equivalent to the size of a foetus of “about 24 weeks of size”. Due to Monika’s continued TB and poor general condition, the doctors advised against operating at that
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time. By now she was being cared for by Missionaries of Charity in their house at Patiram. Monika later testified to a Diocesan Enquiry that on the morning of 5th September 1998 she had joined other patients for special prayers in the home’s chapel for the first anniversary of Mother’s death. She said, “I felt a ray of light from Mother’s photo coming to me. I was frightened and my heart started to beat faster. After that I felt lighter but my pain in the abdomen was there. All this happened in the morning. “In the evening, around 5pm when I was in the ward, Sr Bartholomea, Sr Ann Sevika and Habil Handsa (a helper of the Sisters) came to pray over me. Sr Bartholomea gave a medal and put it on my stomach and prayed over me. That time I felt lighter and pain lessened and I fell asleep. “At night, around one o’clock, I woke up as usual and I was feeling lighter and with no pain. I touched my abdomen. I could not find the tumour. I informed my bedside neighbour, ‘See, I am feeling lighter and there is no pain and the tumour has gone’.” It was to the findings by the various commissions that this was indeed a “miracle obtained through the intercession of the Servant of God, Mother Teresa of Calcutta” that Pope John Paul II gave his approval on 20th December 2002. It was announced that the Beatification of Mother Teresa would take place in Rome on Mission Sunday, 19th October 2003, the closest Sunday to the 25th anniversary of the Holy Father’s Pontificate and the end of the Year of the Rosary.
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EARLY YEARS AND FAMILY LIFE When she died in September 1997, presidents and princes from around the world flocked to India to attend her funeral. They were representing their governments, their countries, their peoples - to pay tribute to the small stooped woman who had become one of the most recognised faces on the planet. Her name, Mother Teresa, had become synonymous with goodness, kindness and a life of mercy and charity. The woman who during her life had been honoured by countries from the Soviet Union to the United States, hailed from Albania in the south-east of Europe. When she was born in Skopje (later to become part of Serbia) on 26th August 1910, her parents gave her the baptismal name of Agnes. She was the third child born to Nikola and Dranafile Bojaxhiu, having an elder sister Age, and an elder brother Lazar. As a child she was plump and round and tidy and her family usually referred to her by her middle name of Gonxha, which in Albanian means â€˜flower budâ€™. Prosperous Family When Agnes Gonxha was born, her family lived in very comfortable circumstances. Her father Nikola, known as Kole, was a successful entrepreneur. He had three different business partnerships: with a doctor friend he
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had opened up a pharmacy/chemist shop in Skopje; then he collaborated with a builder and their company was responsible for building the first Skopje Theatre, among other things. His third successful business was in partnership with an Italian man, importing luxury products and foodstuffs into Albania. This business would sometimes take Kole away from home to other countries on buying trips. He spoke five languages. Agnes’ brother Lazar remembered in later life how joyful were his father’s homecomings and great the delight of the three children at the different gifts he would bring them. The children also noted how, even when he was working locally, every day their mother Drana would change her dress and fix her hair for her husband’s return from work to the family home for their evening meal and family Rosary. Kole was a member of the Town Council of Skopje. He also played regularly in the town’s brass band and loved to sing too. Their house was very comfortable and had a nice garden. The family also owned the house next door. They lived just down the street from the local Catholic church of the Sacred Heart. Catholics formed only 10 per cent of the Albanian population and the Bojaxhiu family’s religious and social life centred around the lively parish. Dranafile was quite a bit younger than her husband and married in her teens. They loved each other dearly. Drana was a good and conscientious homemaker. She was also a
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devout and pious Catholic. Most mornings she took her three children with her to Mass at Sacred Heart church. Kole was considered quite progressive as he insisted on giving his daughters as well as his son a full education. The three children attended primary school in the parish halls of Sacred Heart church. Classes were conducted in Albanian and then in their final year in Serbo-Croat, the language which would be used when they went on to the state-run secondary school. Early ‘love for souls’ In later life Agnes was to write, “From childhood the Heart of Jesus has been my first love.” On making her first Holy Communion she seems to have received a special grace from Him. As an adult she remembered, as she wrote in a letter, “From the age of five and a half years, when I first received him, the love for souls has been within. It grew with the years.” This “love for souls”, for the whole person, was also easily absorbed from her mother and father. When Kole had to go away on a business trip he would ensure that he left Drana not only enough money for the family budget but also extra to ensure that she would be able to feed anyone who came to their door in need. Indeed there were so often strangers at the table that the young Agnes was to remember in later life that she just thought they were relatives come to share the family
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meal. It was only much later that she realised that her mother was in the habit of feeding and clothing complete strangers and treating them as one of her own. But Drana did not only wait for those in need to knock at her door. If she heard of anyone sick or suffering she would make her way to them. Lazar remembered that it was most often Agnes who accompanied their mother on these missions of mercy. In later life Agnes particularly remembered helping her mother to wash a poor alcoholic woman who was covered in wounds. She also remembered going with her mother to visit a young mother of six children who was dying of cancer. In 1908 the Young Turks took power and by 1910 they were insisting on the use of the traditional Arabic alphabet. The Albanians organised massive popular rallies in favour of the Latin alphabet. In March 1910 a popular revolt against the paying of taxes on imported goods to Istanbul spread very quickly. A 20,000-strong army crushed this brutally. In August of that year, after thousands of terrified Albanians had fled as refugees from a new reign of terror, the Ottoman forces took direct control of the region. During the following year this war plunged thousands of Albanian families into poverty and illness. In 1912 when the Balkan States formed an alliance to divide among themselves the Ottoman possessions in Europe, the Albanians found themselves forced to surrender their neutrality and fight on the side of the
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declining Ottoman Empire. Soon Skopje was under Serbian occupation. Thus even before the outbreak of the First World War, the young Agnes and her family experienced the bitter fruits of racial, ethnic and religious rivalry. At the end of the Second World War Agnes would once again witness such hatred and inter-ethnic violence, albeit in another country and another continent. The end of the ‘Great War’, the ‘war to end all wars’ in 1918 only renewed the debate about the new borders of the Balkans. And very shortly the comfortable existence of Agnes and her family would come to an abrupt end. Her father Kole was a passionate defender of Albanian independence. He joined a movement which wanted to keep the province of Kosovo, inhabited mostly by Albanians, in the Greater Albania. In the end, the new federation of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians - known from 1929 as Yugoslavia received most of northern Albania, including Kosovo. But in 1919 Kole was still arguing his case and even travelled the 160 miles from Skopje to Belgrade to attend a political dinner on the subject. When he arrived back home he was clearly a sick man. It was generally believed that he had been poisoned. Seeing the poor state he was in Drana despatched Agnes to fetch the parish priest. At the presbytery of Sacred Heart parish she was told that the priest had gone out. The child ran to the railway station hoping to find him and instead spotted a priest she
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had never seen before. She ran up to him and explained that her father was very ill indeed. The priest immediately left with her for the Bojaxhiu house and administered the Last Rites to Kole. The family rushed Kole to hospital where he was operated on the next morning. The following day, however, he died. Speaking in 1982 Agnes’s brother Lazar said, “Our family’s suffering began at the time the Yugoslavs and the Albanians fought for Kosovo and the other Albanian provinces, among which included the city of Skopje. Our father was very active in politics and very concerned about the national Albanian issue. He tried to obtain national rights for the Albanians and he tried with all his heart to conserve the unity of the Albanian territories of Yugoslavia with Albania. Once Yugoslavia took control of the territories the family was persecuted and my father was poisoned.” Massive crowds attended the funeral of Nikola Bojaxhiu, including an official deputation from City Hall. He was known as a just and sincere man and a great benefactor of the area. On the day of his funeral all the jeweller shops closed as a mark of respect. The children in the local schools were issued with a commemorative handkerchief to mark the day. After Kole’s death, a business partner appropriated the assets of his business and the family was left with only the house they lived in. The loss of her husband for a time paralysed Drana with grief. She relied heavily on her
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children, particularly her eldest, Agnesâ€™s big sister Age, to whom she even temporarily entrusted the keys of the house. Hardworking Mother But Drana also now had to support her family, nine yearold Agnes and Lazar and Age. She was a hardworking woman and one of entrepreneurial spirit. She set up a business of handcrafted embroidery, moving on also to sell different types of cloth. The business further expanded to include locally crafted carpets. Her son Lazar accompanied her to the textile factories and in later life remembered how impressed he had been when the managers would seek her advice about which materials and designs to use to increase their sales. The family home continued to be filled with the friends of the Bojaxhiu children. As they were growing up the girls took a full part in school and parish life. Both Agnes and her elder sister sang in the church choir and were also members of the Albanian Catholic Choir of Skopje, which gave benefit concerts. Agnes had a fine soprano voice and was often called on to sing solo. Active Teenager Family and friends noticed that young Agnes never wasted time. When she was not helping with housework, studying, or even tutoring her friends who needed help with their studies, enjoying social activities with friends
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and taking part in parish activities, she would have her head in a book, an avid reader. A young Jesuit priest, Fr Jambrenovic, had set up a parish library. He became parish priest in 1925 and seemed to have a great rapport with the young people of his parish. He set up for them the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the youngsters were challenged by the words of the Jesuit founder St Ignatius Loyola: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?” The young people were encouraged to serve Christ in His poor. They also learned about the lives of saints and missionaries. It was possibly via the parish library that Agnes first learned about and was exposed to the writings of the young French Carmelite nun who was canonised in 1925: St Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1927 the young saint was declared patroness of missionaries. That same year in far-away India, Mohandas Gandhi suggested to the Christians in India, “... start at the bottom ... In a word, ... go to the people not as patrons, but as one of them, not to oblige them, but to serve them and work among them.” Little could he have known that in a farflung corner of south-eastern Europe there was a young Albanian girl who would one day be revered as India’s greatest citizen alongside Gandhi himself! But all that was far in the future. In 1927 in Skopje Agnes and two of her friends were receiving mandolin
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lessons from a second cousin of the Bojaxhius’. His name was Lorec Antoni who became a well-known musician and composer. He directed the mandolin orchestra and gave Agnes and her friends lessons without ever thinking of charging for this service. Agnes told him that if he didn’t want the money he should at least take a dinar from each of the girls and she could send it to the missions in India! For the youth group, the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, heard lots about the various Jesuit missions from their young pastor. Agnes loved to read the magazine published by the Association for the Propagation of the Faith called ‘Catholic Missions’. Young Catechism Teacher Agnes, like all her family, was very involved in the life of Sacred Heart parish. She often acted as interpreter from Serbo-Croat to Albanian for the priest. As well as giving lessons to those of her classmates who needed tuition in various subjects, she taught catechism class to the little ones of the parish. This, and her ‘love for souls’ seems to have instilled in her a great love of teaching which would mark her future life. Friends of the time remembered that on social gatherings such as picnics (when they would sing as they made their way into the countryside on horse-drawn carts) or at other get-togethers, Agnes would always carry a notebook with her. Sometimes she would read to them
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Young Agnes Bojaxhiu before she left home and family to enter religious life.
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some of the poems she had written. She also had a couple of articles published in a local newspaper, ‘Blagovest’. Her cousin Lorenc Antoni was convinced that she had talent and could have made it as a writer. Fr Jambrenovic had helped the young members of the Sodality to organise little prayer groups to pray for the missions. The ‘Call’ was becoming more insistent within Agnes’s heart. At first it seems that she did not want to become a nun and leave her family. Her love was for teaching and she enjoyed particularly teaching the Faith to the little ones of the parish. She later said that she had known from the age of twelve that she wanted to dedicate her life to God in some way. How to know a vocation? Her cousin Lorenc remembered that Agnes wondered how you could know if God was calling you and even if you could know? He also remembered that Fr Jambrenovic spoke of vocation in terms of joy. If God were calling you, you should feel deep joy at the thought of serving God and neighbour within this vocation. In 1927 and 1928 Agnes spent longer times than usual on retreat at a well-known Marian shrine in the region. Approaching her 18th birthday, she went there for the last time on the Feast of the Assumption, 15th August, 1928. Having discerned her call, Agnes Bojaxhiu did not hold back. As she said later, “I wanted to be a missionary. I
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wanted to go out and give the life of Christ to the people.” Priests from the same Jesuit province as Fr Jambrenovic were working in Bengal. They wrote that sisters from another international order had been working in the area for some time. They were sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin and were of the Irish branch of that community. Agnes would apply to join them and contact was made with the motherhouse in Rafthfarnham, Dublin. When she told her mother of her decision, Drana, well aware that it would mean she would never see her daughter again, could not come out of her room for twenty-four hours. When she did emerge, once more composed, she told her daughter, still not quite eighteen, “Put your hand in His hand and make your entire journey with Him.” On 1st September 1928 Albania became a monarchy under King Zog I. Agnes’s brother Lazar, now 21, had been made a lieutenant and was to become an equerry to the king. When Agnes wrote to him to congratulate him, and also to tell her of her decision to enter religious life for the missions in India, Lazar was understandably upset and wrote back asking how a lovely young girl like her could give up everything and go so far away, probably never to see him and the rest of the family again? In her reply Agnes wrote one sentence which Lazar remembered word for word for the rest of his life. “You will serve a king of two million people,” she wrote. “I shall serve the king of the whole world.”
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SISTER TERESA, LORETO NUN Farewell to Skopje In September her young friends of the Sodality and of the choir put on a concert, part of which was a farewell to Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. On the 25th of September, the evening before her departure, all her friends gathered at the Bojaxhiu house to bid their last farewells. The next day Agnes set out with her mother and her sister Age for the train journey to Zagreb. As she waved goodbye to all her friends gathered on the platform as the train sped off, tears streamed down Agnes’s face. At Zagreb they met another girl, Betike Kanjc, who also wished to join the Loreto Sisters and Agnes made her heartbreaking departure from her mother and sister. The two girls were to present themselves at the Loreto house in Paris. There, with the aid of an interpreter from the Yugoslavian Embassy, they were interviewed by the mother superior. From there they were sent to the ‘mother house’ of the Irish Loreto Sisters. Arriving there at the end of September, they spent six weeks studying English. In mid-November they set sail for India. On the sevenweek sea voyage there were also three young Franciscan sisters. Christmas 1928 was spent on board ship and the five young women made a Christmas crib. At the end of
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December the ship docked at Colombo and, like the other passengers, the young religious visited the city. On reembarking they discovered that a priest had joined the ship and from then on they would have Holy Mass every day. Sister Agnes wrote in a letter, “May God be praised; we began the new year with a sung Mass, which seemed to us a bit more majestic than low Mass.” Encounter with poverty The two novices came ashore at Madras and were immediately struck by the poverty of the people. As Sr Agnes wrote home, “If our people could only see all that, they would cease to complain about their troubles and give thanks to God for having blessed them with such abundance!” On the 6th January 1929 they went up the River Hooghly as far as Bengal, where a group of Indian sisters was waiting to welcome them. Sister Agnes wrote home, “With an indescribable joy we stepped onto Bengali soil for the first time. At the convent we first of all gave thanks to the Redeemer for having allowed us to arrive safe and well at our destination. Pray that we might become good and courageous missionaries.” After just a week in Calcutta, capital of the Bengal province of India, the young Sisters Agnes and Betike were sent to the Loreto Sisters’ novitiate house, 450 miles away, in Darjeeling.
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Along with her religious formation, Sister Agnes studied Hindi and Bengali, as well as perfecting her English. In the mornings the novices taught the boys and girls in the Sisters’ adjoining school. Agnes also sometimes worked in the little clinic run by the Sisters. She wrote, “The tiny verandah is always full of sick people, poor and suffering. All eyes are fixed on us, full of hope ...” According to her friend and biographer in later life, Eileen Egan, it was during this period that Sister Agnes was exposed to the life and writings of Thérèse Martin, the young French Carmelite nun who was canonised as St Thérèse of Lisieux. First Vows On 24th May 1931 Agnes Bojaxhiu made her first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Loreto, there in Darjeeling. She received the name in religion of Sister Teresa (spelt in the Spanish style as there was already a Sister M Therese Breen in the novitiate). In later life she would often stress that she was named after, “Not the big St Teresa, of Avila, but the little one.” (When I spoke to her about this, I recalled the saying of St Thérèse of Lisieux that she would like a whole train of souls to follow after her, who would follow her ‘little way’ of love. I asked Mother if her Missionaries of Charity might be part of this train of ‘little souls’ in the
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little way of love? She smiled at me. The fact that sitting with us was Mother’s responsible Superior of the MCs in Britain, Sister Marie-Celine, the name of one of St Thérèse’s sisters, somehow only enforced the link!) Soon after this first profession of vows, Sister Teresa was sent to Calcutta where she would teach in one of the Loreto schools. She was assigned to the Loreto School in Entally, an industrial district in the east of Calcutta. She taught mainly geography and catechism, and later on history. Classes were conducted in English, in which Sister Teresa had become fluent. (In total, she would speak five languages fluently; Albanian, Serbo-Croat, English, Bengali and Hindi.) Bengali Teresa Attached to the Loreto school of Entally, in the same compound, was another school, St Mary’s. This was staffed by a native diocesan congregation of sisters, the Daughters of St Anne, who wore Indian saris, rather than the traditional western-style religious habits. Attended by about three hundred girls from a variety of backgrounds, classes were conducted in Bengali. Soon Sister Teresa was giving classes there too. Some people referred to her as the ‘Bengali Teresa’ to distinguish her from Sister M Therese Breen. The Mother Provincial of the Loreto Sisters was the Superior of the diocesan Daughters of St Anne. She entrusted these Sisters to the care of Sister Teresa.
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In 1935 Teresa was asked to teach also in another Bengali school, St Teresa’s, a distance away from the main complex of the Loreto and St Mary’s schools. While she was permitted to leave the enclosure to journey between these different schools, Sr Teresa was otherwise bound by the strict policy of ‘cloister’. By all accounts, she was an extremely popular teacher, whom the girls loved. One former pupil remembered, “Her classes were wonderful; she seemed to make the subjects come alive for us.” At Entally, many of the older girls were part of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as their teacher herself had been while a young girl back in Skopje. As the girls discussed the links between those who had much and those who had very little, they eventually decided that they would like to visit poor families living in the surrounding slums and the patients in a nearby hospital. Their favourite teacher encouraged them and spoke of the joy of forgetting self and working at the service of others. She could not, however, accompany the girls on their visits. She was, remember, bound by the rule of cloister. Final Vows Sister Teresa returned to her former novitiate each year to make her annual retreat. There, on 14th May 1937 she made her final vows as a Sister of Loreto. Six months later she wrote of that event to Fr Jambrekovic at home in Skopje, “If you would know how happy I was. Of my
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free will I could have set on fire my own holocaust ... I want to be only all for Jesus ... I would give everything for Him, even life itself.” In time Sister Teresa was also made Headmistress of St Mary’s School. While she was confined (apart from the journey to and from St Teresa’s school) to the Loreto compound at Entally, she was far from unaware of the suffering of so many Indians around her in Calcutta. (In fact, it seems that because of the serious situation, she was allowed to accompany the girls of the Confraternity in some of their visits to the slums and the hospital from 1941.) During the Second World War there occurred the infamous Bengal Famine. Official figures from the University of Calcutta put the number of victims at three and a half million. Devastating floods and a cyclone had destroyed the rice crop. Calcutta was flooded by a tide of starving refugees. As Sister Teresa was teaching the girls at Loreto and St Mary’s, the poor displaced, who were literally living on the streets, were queuing at the city’s soup kitchens. So many were those who died that the smoke from the funeral pyres hung continually over the city. As part of the British Empire, India, whether it liked it or not, was involved in the War. Calcutta increasingly became a city ready for war as Japanese troops built up in neighbouring Burma. The entire Entally complex was requisitioned by the British Army as a military hospital.
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The girls’ dormitories became hospital wards. The Sisters evacuated most of their charges to other convents and converted hotels throughout the province. Sister Teresa, though, as headmistress and the sister responsible for the Daughters of St Anne, remained in Calcutta. She oversaw the removal from Entally to a building on Convent Road in Calcutta. She continued to teach geography, catechism and history, and also English. It was at this time that she met the Belgian Jesuit priest Father Celeste Van Exem, who would become her spiritual director. Extraordinary Private Vow At the end of 2002, the Postulator of Mother Teresa’s Cause published information about a key event in Mother’s life which took place in 1942. It was in the nature of a ‘private vow’, made with the permission of her spiritual director, and would remain secret until Mother referred to it again in 1959 - in relation to the founding of her Congregation - to a priest and to the Archbishop of Calcutta. Towards the end of her annual retreat in 1942 the thirty-two-year-old Loreto nun, as she later explained it, “wanted to give Jesus something very beautiful ... something without reserve”. In accord with her spiritual director, Sister Teresa bound herself “to give to God anything that He may ask - not to refuse Him anything”.
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This longing by the still-young woman to give her all, to express in some way her desire to hold nothing whatsoever back from God, was surely divinely inspired and was part of what lay ahead. As we shall read, the Good Lord, it seems, would refer to it Himself when calling Sister Teresa to leave the security of life in Loreto and ‘put out into the deep’. Day of the Great Killing In 1946 another disaster struck Calcutta, this time a manmade one. British rule was approaching its end. Tensions were high amid the debates about a possible future Hindustan and Pakistan. Bengal threatened to declare independence. The Muslim League declared Friday 16th August as a ‘Direct Action Day’. Three days before the event, possibly in the hope of averting clashes between the different communities, the Muslim leader of the Calcutta Corporation declared that the 16th would be a public holiday so that people did not have to go to work. The Muslim League convened a mass rally in Calcutta’s great park, the Maidan. The day was hot, with a temperature of 31 degrees celsius - and a humidity rate of 91 per cent. As the meeting broke up, Direct Action Day erupted into horrendous inter-community violence in Calcutta. It turned into a frenzy of carnage and slaughter and destruction. On both sides, Muslim and Hindu, people were burned alive, slashed to pieces, beaten to death.
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The military were called in on the Saturday to put an end to what had become a bloodbath. The streets of Calcutta literally ran with human blood, the drains became blocked with human body parts. For some days there were eruptions of further violence throughout the city. Normal human activity ceased. There was only death and destruction. During those days at least 5,000 people were killed in Calcutta, and at least another 15,000 wounded. Over 100,000 people fled the city and within the city itself another 100,000 were displaced. There were no shops open or deliveries of food or goods. Here was a time if ever there was one when the normal rule of cloister had to give way to necessity. Mother Teresa later related to Eileen Egan, “I went out from St Mary’s, Entally. I had three hundred girls in the boarding school and we had nothing to eat. “We were not supposed to go out into the streets, but I went anyway. Then I saw the bodies on the streets, stabbed, beaten, lying there in strange positions in their dried blood. “We had been behind our safe walls. We knew that there had been rioting. People had been jumping over our walls, first a Hindu, then a Muslim. “You see, our compound was between Moti Jihl, which was mainly Muslim then, and Tengra, with the potteries and tanneries. That was Hindu. We took in each one and helped him to escape safely.
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“When I went out on the street - only then I saw the death that was following them. “A lorry full of soldiers stopped me and told me I should not be out on the street. No-one should be out, they said. “I told them I had to come out and take the risk. I had three hundred students who had nothing to eat. The soldiers had rice and they drove me back to the school and unloaded bags of rice.” It was perhaps not the first, and certainly not the last time that Sister Teresa would take a risk, even to her own life, for the sake of others’ needs - to find that Providence provided her with exactly what was required. As the violence subsided and eventually died away after some days, vultures were feasting on human remains in the streets of Calcutta. Once again, the smell of smoke from human flesh hung over the city as the thousands of corpses were cremated in the traditional burning ghats. The event became known as the Day of the Great Killing and thereafter, whenever Mother Teresa referred to it, her face would cloud over with the deepest sadness.
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MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES AND FOUNDING A CONGREGATION Throughout Mother Teresa’s long life, whenever she was asked about her decision to leave the Loreto congregation to found a new religious community, her answer was always the same, practically word for word. This lucidity and simplicity we will also see in her dealings with the ecclesiastical authority, the Archbishop of Calcutta. For in whatever concerned those momentous events that would lead to the creation of a worldwide network of centres of Christian charity, thousands of women dedicating their lives to Jesus “in the poorest of the poor” and herself becoming the most famous woman on the planet, the details were seared in the mind and heart and soul of Mother Teresa. Whenever she was asked if the experiences of the Day of the Great Killing were what propelled her to leave the security of Loreto to work with the poor on their streets and in their hovels, she was quite clear. No, it was not. The very first words of the Constitutions of her new religious family are a quotation from St John the Evangelist. “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you.”
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As she repeated in many interviews in later years, she was on the train to Darjeeling to make her annual retreat as usual, on 10th September 1946. “It was on that train that I heard the call to give up all and follow Him into the slums - to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. I knew it was His will and that I had to follow Him. There was no doubt that it was to be His work.” Let us recall that this was a person who had been close to Jesus since her childhood. She would later write to the Archbishop of Calcutta, “From childhood the Heart of Jesus has been my first love”. At the age of eighteen she had clearly discerned her own vocation to the religious life and followed that resolutely at the cost of abandoning her homeland and the likelihood of ever seeing her mother again. Writing of her years in religious life in Loreto, she could honestly say, “I have tried to live up to His desires. I have been burning with longing to love Him as He has never been loved before”. At the age of thirty-two, having been a religious sister for fourteen years, she felt the call, and received permission to answer it with a private vow, “to give to God anything that He may ask - not to refuse Him anything”. The sensitivity of such a woman to the will of God and the ‘still small voice within’ her must surely be heightened.
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‘It was an order’ For her part, the event that she described as “a call within a call”, on the train to Darjeeling, was perfectly clear and straightforward. “The message was quite clear,” she explained. “I was to leave the convent and work with the poor while living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there.” She would submit everything to her spiritual director, and through him to the discernment of the legitimatelyappointed successor to the Apostles, her Local Ordinary, the Archbishop of Calcutta. When she returned from retreat, Sr Teresa informed Fr Van Exem of what had happened - not so much in words but as he recalled, with “a whole sheaf of papers”, notes she had made on retreat. Everything was clear and precise. The Lord wanted a new congregation. Indian sisters who would wear a simple sari. They would live among the poor and give free service to the poorest of the poor. They would not be bound by cloister but would go out, in pairs, to serve Christ in His poor. Girls who would join from other countries must become ‘Indian-minded’ and dress in simple saris and sandals. The sisters should learn how to ride bicycles in order to reach the people where they are in need. Some would need to learn to drive buses. The sisters would be called Missionaries of Charity.
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From the initial train journey, throughout that retreat of 1946, everything was made clear to Sister Teresa, not without some fear and trepidation on her part. Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, Postulator of Mother’s Cause for Beatification, has revealed that during that retreat she had several locutions and interior visions. On hearing all this Fr Van Exem exercised his pastoral role of discernment too. He tried to ‘cool off’ Sister Teresa and her enthusiastic and detailed plans. After some months he concluded that it seemed that the inspiration was really a call from God. He spoke to Archbishop Perier about it in December 1946. ‘Year of Waiting’ The archbishop decided that no decision should be taken for a year. This formal ‘year of waiting’ would begin on 1st January 1947, which happened to coincide with the beginning of Indian independence. When Mother Superior of Loreto at Entally was informed that Sr Teresa was about to embark on this year of discernment she transferred Sister, later that January 1947, to a Loreto convent in Asano, 130 miles north of Calcutta. There Teresa was placed in charge of the kitchen and the garden and was also allowed to teach geography.
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When the last British forces left India in August 1947 and partition of the country began into Muslim Pakistan and the majority-Hindu India there began a gigantic displacement of populations; some sixty million people. Violence erupted, giving rise to another bloodbath, claiming some one million victims. In a few short weeks some four million refugees arrived in West Bengal. Sister Teresa continued teaching geography at Asano while managing the kitchen and garden. On 12th January 1947 Fr Van Exem gave Sister Teresa permission to tell the archbishop everything, to write to him “as a daughter to her father, in perfect trust and sincerity, without any fear or anxiety...” The next day, while still at St Mary’s Entally, she wrote a long letter to Archbishop Perier. ‘Wilt thou refuse?’ She explained how since September 1946 and her annual retreat she had heard the insistent call of Our Lord to do something new. She revealed the suffering this caused in her soul. “I have been and am very happy as a Loreto nun. To leave that which I love and expose myself to new labours and sufferings which will be great, to be the laughing stock of so many, especially religious, to cling and choose deliberately the hard things of an Indian life, to loneliness and ignominy, to
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uncertainty - and all because Jesus wants it, because something is calling me to leave all and gather the few to live His life, to do His work in India. These thoughts were a cause of much suffering, but the voice kept on saying, ‘Wilt thou refuse?’ “One day at Holy Communion I heard the same voice very distinctly, ‘I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Martha and Mary, who would be so very united to me as to radiate my love on souls. I want free nuns covered with my poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with my obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross. Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?’” As Fr Van Exem had advised, simply and with the trust of a child speaking to her father, Sr Teresa detailed how each day this interior voice had become more insistent. And very rationally and honestly, she recognised the fear that the requests being put to her provoked in her very soul. “These words, or rather this voice, frightened me. The thought of eating, sleeping, living like the Indians filled me with fear. I prayed long - I prayed so much - I asked Our Mother Mary to ask Jesus to remove all this from me. The more I prayed, the clearer grew the voice in my heart and so I prayed that He would do with me whatever He wanted. He asked again and again.
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“Then once more the voice was very clear: ‘You have been always saying, “Do with me whatever you wish.” Now I want to act. Let me do it, My little Spouse, My own little one. Do not fear. I shall be with you always. You will suffer and you suffer now, but if you are my own little Spouse, the Spouse of the Crucified Jesus, you will have to bear these torments on your heart. Let me act. Refuse me not. Trust me lovingly, trust me blindly.’” After having related, in these words and more, the requests she had heard from that interior voice, with the logic of a geography and history teacher and headmistress, Teresa outlined how she saw the call being put into practice. “This is what went on between Him and me during the days of much prayer. Now the whole thing stands clear before my eyes as follows:” The Call and The Work She then addressed two areas; The Call and The Work. In the eventual Constitutions of her new religious congregation and throughout her life, this distinction would remain clear. The Work came from The Call. The Sisters, and later brothers and priests, were first of all called to belong completely to Jesus, to refuse Him nothing. That was the first and essential point. From there The Work would develop.
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Thus under ‘The Call’, “The Sisters are to cling to perfect poverty - Poverty of the Cross - nothing but God.” “The Sisters should get a very full knowledge of the interior life from holy priests who would help them to become so united to God as to radiate Him when they join the mission field.” “Love should be the word, the fire, that will make them live this life to its full.” Under ‘The Work’ she outlined the style of life and rhythm of day that the Sisters would live. Later she, and eventually thousands of Sisters, would live life exactly as Sister Teresa had seen it and explained it to the archbishop. “The Sisters’ work would be to go to the people - no boarding schools, but plenty of schools, free, up to class two only.” “In each parish two Sisters would go - one for the sick and dying, one for the school.” “At the appointed time the Sisters will all meet at the same place from the different parishes and go home, where they would have complete separation from the world.” “To move about with great ease and fast, each nun should learn how to ride a bicycle, some how to drive a bus. This is a little too up-to-date, but souls are dying for want of care, for want of love.” “The nuns of this order will be Missionaries of Charity or Missionary Sisters of Charity.”
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‘They will think me mad’ And with her completely down-to-earth nature, Sister Teresa wears no rose-tinted spectacles. She is well aware of how she will be perceived by others. “They will think me mad, after so many years, to begin a thing which will bring me for the most part only suffering ...” Throughout her ‘year of waiting’, 1947, Sister Teresa kept in touch with Archbishop Perier by letter and also through Fr Van Exem. Far from abating, the call within her only grew more insistent. In December of that year in a letter to her spiritual director which she asks him to pass to the Archbishop, she repeated word for word the ‘locutions’ or interior messages she had received from Our Lord during her retreat in September 1946. Only this time she also included the responses she made to Christ. She also included descriptions of three ‘interior visions’ she experienced. All involve a large crowd of people, eagerly awaiting her to bring Jesus to them. In the second one she saw herself “kneeling near Our Lady who was facing them. I did not see her face but I heard Her say, ‘Take care of them. They are mine. Bring them to Jesus. Fear not. Teach them to say the Rosary, the family Rosary, and all will be well. Fear not. Jesus and I will be with you and your children.’”
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Approaching the end of the appointed year of waiting, she relates to Fr Van Exem and the Archbishop, “These desires to satiate the longing of Our Lord for souls of the poor, for pure victims of His love, go on increasing with every Mass and Holy Communion. All my prayers and the whole day, in a word, are full of this desire. Please do not delay any longer. Ask Our Lady to give us this Grace on her feast day on the 8th (December).” When the Archbishop received this letter, he was still in the process of consulting experts about the case of the little Albanian nun in his diocese who wanted to found an order for Indian sisters. By the beginning of January, though, he had reached his conclusion. By withholding his consent, he said, he “would hamper the realisation, through her, of the will of God.” Archbishop’s Approval After celebrating Holy Mass in the convent chapel on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6th January 1948, he called for Sister Teresa and communicated his decision to her. Four days later she wrote to the Superior General of the Loreto Congregation in Dublin, explaining her ‘call within a call’. The Superior General gave her consent and advised Sister Teresa to write to Rome requesting ‘exclaustration’, i.e. to be released from her community of Loreto while remaining a consecrated sister.
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While this permission was granted in April, the letter from the Papal Nuncio did not reach Sister Teresa in Calcutta until August. It granted her exclaustration for a period of one year, to be reviewed after that by the local archbishop. On 16th August 1948, two years exactly after the Day of the Great Killing, Sister Teresa removed the traditional long black habit of the Loreto nuns for the last time. Dressed in a simple white sari and open sandals, a little suitcase in her hand, she walked out of the security of the Loreto enclosure, the life she had so loved - â€œLoreto meant everything to meâ€? - for the last time. From there she travelled some 300 miles north-west of Calcutta to Patna. She would spend some time there to receive basic nursing training from the Medical Missionaries of Mary. The train left Calcutta in the evening and the next day, 17th August, Sr Teresa arrived at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna. The Medical Missionaries of Mary were religious sisters who were doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and nutritionists. At their school of nursing they trained Indian girls in different branches of nursing.
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Nursing Training For three months Sister Teresa was trained in the basics of healthcare, nursing, nutrition. The Medical Missionaries insisted strongly on good hygiene. While Teresa wanted only to hear of rice and salt “like the poor”, they had to persuade her that she must eat properly or she would soon get run down and burnt out. She learned how to administer injections, assisted at childbirths, washed, clothed and fed children, the sick, the old, the dying. One of the Medical Missionary Sisters, Doctor Elise Wynen, remembered Sister Teresa’s time with her community at Patna. “Whenever there was a new admission, an emergency or an operation or delivery, Mother Teresa was called at the same time as the nurse called the doctor. She would come flying across the lawn and stay with the patient. “... She became acquainted with fatal accidents, mothers dying on the delivery room table, children sick from being abandoned by hopelessly torn and desperate families. She also attended cholera and smallpox patients. As I remember, nothing ever fazed her. She just wanted to know what was going on and what she could do to help. “... During evening recreations, we would all talk together, and she would share her hopes and ideas with
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us. We did not spare her, and I think she welcomed our insights and criticisms. It soon became clear that if a group or community wanted to work for the poor, they would have to make up their minds to work only for the poor.” While she was staying in Patna, Sister Teresa received a visit from another young European woman dressed in an Indian sari. She had heard about Sister Teresa and wanted to meet her as she too wanted to dedicate her life to working for and with the poor in India. Her name was Jacqueline De Decker, from Belgium. One day Fr Van Exem, who was in Patna to make his annual retreat, was speaking to some of the Medical Missionary Sisters. He asked for news of Sister Teresa from Calcutta. A voice pipped up from the back of the company, “I’m here!” He had not recognised her in the simple sari that he himself had blessed back in Calcutta. Likewise, when she had arrived at Patna, some of the nurses at Holy Family Hospital who had been her pupils at Entally were shocked. Seeing their former headmistress dressed as a poor Indian woman caused them to weep. Once they learned of her purpose they could accept it and enjoy the presence of their beloved former teacher once again. Time was short for Sister Teresa. She had been granted a year’s provisional exclaustration. She could not afford
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to spend more than a few weeks, three months maximum, with the Medical Missionary Sisters. In December she returned to Calcutta. Fr Van Exem had arranged for her to have temporary lodgings with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who had a house for the elderly, St Joseph’s Home. For the rest of her life she remained profoundly grateful to these two congregations, the Medical Missionaries of Mary and the Little Sisters of the Poor, for the help and hospitality they showed her in those earliest days of her own foundation. At St Joseph’s Sister Teresa first made a short retreat under the direction of Fr Van Exem, who would visit her in the mornings. She would spend the rest of the day in prayer and giving a hand in the care of the elderly. But soon she would have to step out - out onto the streets of Calcutta. Onto the Streets Early in the morning of 21st December 1948, she set out from St Joseph’s, her lunch wrapped in a little packet, and walked for an hour to the district of Moti Jihl where her former pupils of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin had visited poor families. She had nothing. Nothing to give the poor, nothing to take with her on her visit to their area. But she had two good hands. And she could teach. While she had no
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paper, no pens, no chalkboards or charts, she took a stick and began to write on the dusty ground. The little children began to gather round her. She began to teach them and every day they would come back for more. Some of the adults viewed this Christian foreigner with suspicion. But soon they came to see the good she was doing for their children. The children themselves, just like her hundreds upon hundreds of pupils at Entally, loved her. Soon, when she had moved out of the Little Sistersâ€™ home, they would even come looking for her at her new home. But in those first days at the end of 1948 and the first months of 1949, Sister Teresa had to steel herself every morning and set out again on the task the Lord had given her. Today, Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity working in hot countries bring a bottle of water with them in their bag when they set out on the dayâ€™s work. It is so that they do not have to ask anything of the poor. In those first days when Sister Teresa used to set out with her little lunch packet, at midday she would seek a quiet place where she could find some water and there eat her lunch. Once she knocked on the door of a convent and asked if she could have some shelter to eat her packed lunch. She was sent around the back and left under the back stairs to eat her meagre ration like a beggar.
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‘Give me courage’ The Archbishop had told her to keep a diary in those early days. Only a little of it still exists. She once recorded, “God wants me to be a lonely nun, laden with the poverty of the Cross. Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor is so hard. When I was going and going until my legs and arms were aching, I was thinking how they have to suffer to get food and shelter. Then the comfort of Loreto came to tempt me, but of my own free choice, My God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain, and do whatever is your holy will in my regard. Give me courage now, this moment.” And take her courage in her hands she did, every morning. She taught her little children in the street; basic literacy - for being able to read and write would not only change their perception of self for ever, it would eventually help them and their families on the path out of dire poverty; basic hygiene - bars of soap were handed out as prizes for attendance, they were taught how to keep clean and to comb their hair; and something about God, who loved them. Soon the numbers of ‘her children’ increased and she had to divide them into different classes. She rented a shed at Moti Jihil for five rupees a month. Of course, teaching the children, Sister Teresa soon got to know many of their parents too and saw at first
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hand the misery and poverty in which so many of them lived. She slept very little and would go out at night too, to visit a sick mother, to prepare something to eat for her helpless children, to clean up a dirty hovel where an old couple lived, to bring medicine for a sick child. In that first diary that the archbishop had ordered her to keep, she once wrote, â€œOh God! If I cannot help these people in their misery and their suffering, at least let me die with them, alongside them, so that in some way I can show them your love.â€? She knew that her lodging with the Little Sisters of the Poor was just a short-term thing. Sister Teresa herself wanted to live with and among the poor in their slums. As the Medical Missionaries had stressed to her the need to eat adequately herself, so Fr Van Exem convinced her that she would only wear herself out and thus become useless to the people she wanted to help. The Jesuit priest asked around and found a Catholic family who had spare room in their house. Michael Gomes, a teacher, and his family lived at 14 Creek Lane, Calcutta and they offered her, free of charge, a room on the second floor of their house. In February 1949 she moved in, having furnished the room with a single chair and an old packing case that she could use as her desk and a few other wooden boxes that would be used as seats.
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First Vocations On the Feast of St Joseph, 19th March 1949, a young Bengali girl, a former pupil of Sister Teresa’s at Entally, turned up at 14 Creek Lane. She wanted to join her former headmistress in her new work. A few weeks later another former pupil arrived with the same aim. Within another couple of months they were now ten. And other girls kept on coming. As four of these were pupils who quit their final year of schooling at St Mary’s to join their former teacher, Sister Teresa had to meet several anxious parents. She also ensured that in the midst of their work with the poor, the girls had time to study and every one of them passed their final exams with flying colours. As their number increased, the Gomes family gave the fledgling religious community use of their uppermost floor as well, a type of attic loft. From 14 Creek Lane those first recruits and Sister Teresa, dressed in their simple saris, would set out every morning to teach poor children (the sisters had been given some money and Sister Teresa paid eight rupees a month each to rent two further rooms for the school) - and to offer comfort and care to the many who were left to die in the gutters. As they were not yet a ‘recognised’ religious community, they could not have a chapel at home and they attended Mass in their parish church, St Teresa’s.
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During 1949 Sister Teresa applied for, and was granted, Indian nationality. Who could have known then that she would one day be India’s most famous citizen? On 16th August 1949, the ‘year of exclaustration’ was up. The archbishop made thorough enquiries as to whether there were any negative reports about Sister Teresa and her young band of sisters. By the end of 1949 Archbishop Perier pronounced himself content. In early 1950 he told Sister Teresa that he would be happy to have the Missionaries of Charity erected as a congregation of his archdiocese. This would need the permission of the relevant arm of the Holy See, Propaganda Fidei. A Constitution of the new religious congregation would have to be submitted. The Archbishop himself would be in Rome in April 1950 and would be happy to present these papers in person. Fourth Vow What distinguished these constitutions from any other religious order or congregation in the world was the addition of a fourth vow which the nuns would make - “to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor”. The official approval of the Church, in the name of Pope Pius XII, was granted on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, 7th October, in the Holy Year of 1950. Archbishop Perier himself came to the Gomes house at 14 Creek Lane to celebrate Holy Mass in that upper
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room. Fr Van Exem was delegated to read out the decree of approval. Sister Teresa was now Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. Within two years the sisters numbered twentyeight. They filled the loft and an annexe next to it. A Muslim friend of Fr Van Exem, a retired magistrate, was emigrating to Pakistan. The Archdiocese of Calcutta advanced the money necessary to buy his house at 54A Lower Circular Road. It would become, and remains to this day, the motherhouse of a worldwide religious congregation. One morning in April 1953 the new community made its way to Calcuttaâ€™s old Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. There, Mother Teresa restated her religious vows, now as a Missionary of Charity, in the hands of the archbishop. Then, as superior, she received in her hands the first vows of the four first sisters to be officially professed as Missionaries of Charity. Mother and her sisters continued their life of prayer and action. From the very beginning the timetable of each day was meticulously planned. From the beginning, too, in those insights during her retreat of 1946, as she had written in her first letter to the archbishop, the Sisters were to have one day a week free from The Work, remaining at home in prayer and contemplation.
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‘In Search of Souls’ But for every other day, the timetable was, and remains the following. Rise at 04h45. As she dons her white sari, each sister prays, “Dear Lord, as I put on this sari, I pray that this habit be a reminder of my separation from the world and its vanities. “Let the world be nothing to me and I nothing to the world. “Let it remind me of my baptismal robe and help me to keep my heart pure from sin just for today. “As I put on these sandals, I pledge of my own free will, dear Jesus, to follow you wherever you shall go in search of souls, at any cost to myself and out of pure love of you. Amen.” Daily Mass and homily is at 05h45, followed by breakfast and household chores. From 08h30 to 12h30, service of the poor. Lunch at 12h30 followed by a short rest. Lectio Divina, reading and meditation, from 14h30, followed by tea. From 15h15 to 16h30 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Once again service of the poor, until 19h30, followed by supper. Night Prayer at 21h00 and retire at 21h45. Home for the Dying Throughout the 1950s the congregation and the work of the Missionaries of Charity grew and expanded, as it
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would every year right up to Mother’s death and beyond. They continued to open one school after another as the numbers of children coming for education increased. Shortly after moving into the new motherhouse, Mother decided the Missionaries of Charity needed their own home for the dying. She had picked up a dying woman from the street whose feet were being eaten by cockroaches and rats. As Mother carted the poor woman to one hospital after another, each one refused to accept the dying patient. And she had many similar experiences when she transported dying destitutes from the street by whatever means she could, taxi, rickshaw, even in a wheelbarrow, to city hospitals, only to be turned away at each. Very well, she would open a home where the dying, of whatever religion or caste, would be welcomed and cared for. In the Hindu religion, death was something impure and thus it was that so many were put out onto the streets to await their demise, rather than defile the family home. It was such a big problem that Mother asked the Calcutta Corporation to find somewhere where people could be cared for in their final weeks and days and “die in dignity and love”. The Corporation offered her a disused former pilgrims’ hostel next to a Temple of Kali. Kali is the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. Many Hindus tried to get to the temple to die there. Corpses were incinerated there in the
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traditional ghat, Khaligat. Even though the former hospital was in disrepair and occupied by squatters and down-andouts, Mother accepted it. She and the Sisters set to, scrubbing it clean and restoring it.
Petitions and Demonstrations This house of a Christian missionary was unwelcome to many Hindus. The brahmins, the priestly caste, were angry that Christian missionaries should be housed next to their temple in what was clearly a Hindu complex. There were demonstrations in the street. Petitions were signed and presented to the Calcutta Corporation demanding the removal of the Missionaries of Charity. As this was the place offered to her when she asked for a property, Mother remained serene in her belief that this was where God wanted her home for the dying. She named it ‘Nirmal Hriday’, Bengali for ‘Pure Heart’, and it was opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 22nd August 1952. It was decided to accept only those who had been turned away by the city’s hospitals. Soon City of Calcutta ambulances began bringing there the worst cases, those rejected by the hospitals. It was a place of last resort, a place as she had foreseen, to “die in dignity and love”. Just over five years later, in 1957, Mother was able to report that Nirmal Hriday had received more than 8,000
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dying people. Over 3,500 had died. The mortal remains of the Hindus were taken to the nearby ghats for cremation, those of the Muslims and Christians to their respective cemeteries. Mother said, “At first most died, no matter what we did. Then in 1955 and 1956 about half lived. And now, more live than die.” The opposition from the Hindu brahmin of the Temple of Kali was overcome too, by charity. The priests of Kali became more accepting when one of their own number, a young brahmin dying of TB, was lovingly cared for by the Missionaries of Charity. In 1955 Mother opened a home for orphaned and abandoned children, near to the motherhouse. By 1958 she had facilities to accommodate 90 children. Already in 1956 she had organised the Missionaries of Charity’s first ‘mobile clinic’ to reach out to those in need who could not make it to any of the centres where the Sisters were by now working and offering nursing and medical care. That first van was financed by an American Catholic charitable agency. Mother’s early vision that some sisters would need to be able to drive a bus (or a van) was prescient! Mobile Clinics A condition imposed by the Corporation upon making the former hostel available to Mother was that she would not take in lepers. From a public health point of
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view one could understand the authorities’ fear in view of the contagious nature of that disease. But the previous leprosy hospital in Calcutta had been closed and the city’s 30,000 lepers had nowhere to go. Mother Teresa established another ‘mobile dispensary’ to reach out to the lepers. In September 1957 the Calcutta Statesman newspaper published a photograph of Mother with Archbishop Perier blessing a second mobile dispensary for lepers. Within a year there were eight ‘outpost clinics’ for lepers which the mobile dispensary would visit. In a very short time from the erection of the Missionaries of Charity as a diocesan congregation, they were running a home for children, a home for the dying, many elementary schools and several clinics and mobile dispensaries. Those who knew Mother in these days remember that she seemed to sleep very little. She was always full of energy and when confronted by a person in need focused her attention completely on him or her; what could she do for that person here and now? Even those who knew her as headmistress of St Mary’s Entally remembered that she was always on the go - and she had a penchant for moving furniture about! Often she would come into a room of the school and decide that things could be better arranged. She would set to and rearrange the room to her satisfaction.
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News of the untiring work and devotion of the Catholic nun who lived completely for the poor began to spread not only throughout India, but abroad. In 1958 the little nun from Calcutta appeared on the cover of an American Catholic magazine, through the initiative of Eileen Egan. A decade after she had received the vows of those first four Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta’s old cathedral, in 1960 Mother Teresa could count 119 sisters. She herself turned 50 that year. According to Canon Law of the time, a diocesan congregation had to be in existence for at least ten years before it could seek to make a foundation in any other diocese. Mother was impatient for the day! She had the sisters and would send some wherever they were requested to go. By the end of 1960 four new Missionaries of Charity foundations had been made outside the Archdiocese of Calcutta, one in the state of Bihar, north of Calcutta, one in the capital, Delhi, and two more in Utter Pradesh. Mother’s Travels Begin In 1960, Mother Teresa finally accepted the insistent invitation of an American Catholic women’s organisation to address their national congress. Thus in the autumn of that year Mother left India for the first time since she had arrived as a young Loreto
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sister in January 1929. (Some might wonder how she came, in time, to traverse the globe by aeroplane. Air India offered her and her sisters free travel. Mother asked if she might somehow work her passage, making herself useful on the flights, serving meals, for example? The national airline assured her this would not be necessary!) The National Council of Catholic Women’s congress was held in Las Vegas. Mother spoke simply and without notes to some 3,000 delegates, telling what she and her sisters did among the poorest of the poor in India. As would be the case for the rest of her life, whenever she attended such events people wanted to greet her, to be near her, to touch her. While this could at times be stifling and claustrophobic, she never complained, but always focused on the person speaking to her, giving a word of encouragement, a smile, a touch on the arm or the head. From Las Vegas she was taken to New York. There she met the famous ‘media priest’ Bishop Fulton Sheen who was head of the US branch of the missionary organisation Propagation of the Faith. She also met the director of the World Health Organisation and told him about the urgent needs of the lepers in India. He promised that if she would have the Indian Government present a list, the WHO would send the necessary medicines.
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After New York it was London. She was received as an honoured guest by the Indian High Commission. She was also interviewed by the BBC. From there she went to Germany. After a short visit to Switzerland, she went on to Rome. She presented there a request that Pope John XXIII would recognise the Missionaries of Charity as an organisation of Pontifical Right. This would allow her congregation to work outside the confines of just one country, India. While in Rome Mother Teresa met her brother Lazar, whom she had not seen for over thirty-two years. When Italy had occupied Albania in 1939 he had joined the Italian army. After the war the Communist authorities, in his absence, condemned him to death. He could not return to Albania. Mother Teresaâ€™s mother and sister remained in what became Yugoslavia. Many times over the years Mother would be refused entry to the Communist state. Likewise her efforts to bring her mother out to be with Lazar in Italy were in vain. Worldwide Approval by Paul VI Motherâ€™s request for the Missionaries of Charity to be of Pontifical Right was granted by Pope Paul VI in 1965. While the congregation and the work had continued to spread and expand in India, once the universal approval was granted, a bishop from
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Venezuela immediately requested Mother to make a foundation in his diocese. In July 1965 she took four Indian sisters to Venezuela, sending another three later in the year. The next year a foundation was made in Sri Lanka. In 1967 a house was opened in a suburb of Rome at the invitation of the Pope himself, and another in Tanzania. From there on a new Missionaries of Charity foundation was made somewhere in the world practically every six months. Throughout the 1960s her reputation and that of her Missionaries of Charity spread throughout the Church, and the world. In 1968 the BBC sent the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (who had once worked on the Calcutta Statesman) and a crew to make a television documentary on Mother Teresa. She herself was reluctant to co-operate but, after the intervention of a bishop possibly Cardinal Heenan of London, possibly Archbishop Perier, or both - she acquiesced. She agreed to it, she told Muggeridge, â€œif this television programme helps to people having more loveâ€?. Earlier that year Muggeridge had interviewed Mother for the BBC during a visit to London. The programme broadcast on a Sunday evening and was immensely popular. Due to popular demand, it was broadcast a second time. The 50-minute documentary had an immediate and huge impact. After the filming was over, Mother had written to Malcolm Muggeridge, a well-known sceptic and
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agnostic, “I cannot tell you the sacrifice it cost to make a film, but I am happy to have done it because it brought us all closer to God. In your way, try to show the world that it is never too late to do something beautiful for God.” That phrase, ‘Something beautiful for God’, became the title of the film and of the book Muggeridge later wrote. Published in English in 1970, the book was translated into dozens of languages around the world. Muggeridge donated all the royalties to Mother Teresa. Some years later he and his wife Kitty were received into the Catholic Church in a little chapel of the Sons of Divine Providence in England. Nobel Prize Mother Teresa became a household name. From 1962 she had been decorated with honours and prizes from governments (the first was from the President of India) and universities. In 1971 Pope Paul VI presented her with the John XXIII Peace Prize. In 1973 she was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In 1979, the United Nations Year of the Child, she was the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Who could ever forget her acceptance speech to the assembled dignitaries? “We are talking of peace but I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” When Malcolm Muggeridge spoke at the launch of his book back in 1970 he had explained why he had included
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nine pages of direct interview with Mother Teresa. “Mother Teresa will never write about herself or her work,” he said. “When it comes to deciding whether she should be awarded the Nobel Prize it is good that there be a written record of her own words.” Muggeridge was indeed prescient in his prediction about the Nobel Prize. (And several prominent figures supported her candidacy during the 1970s.) But Muggeridge was also correct that Mother would never write about herself. She had not spoken or written about her mystical experiences in 1946 which brought about the founding of the Missionaries of Charity (except to her spiritual director and the archbishop). She never wanted herself to become the focus of the story. Throughout her life she would say she was just like a pen in the hand of God. If her sisters pressed her for details she would say that the experiences with God were sacred and she preferred, like Our Lady, to “ponder these things in her heart”. While she saw the Work expand phenomenally and hundreds of girls from around the world consecrate themselves to Jesus and the service of the poorest of the poor in ‘her’ congregation, while she was feted and honoured by the media, by popes and presidents, she herself, it now emerges, was living in interior spiritual darkness and bleakness.
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THE LONG DARK NIGHT: MOTHER’S INTERIOR DESOLATION The Postulator of her Cause has only recently released some of the evidence that suggests Mother Teresa, while bringing hope and succour and enlightenment to thousands upon thousands of people the world over, was herself living a long and painful ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ as described by the mystical doctor of the Church, St John of the Cross. In an essay ‘The Experience of Darkness’, the second part of an article entitled ‘The Soul of Mother Teresa’, Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk MC points out, “The faithful and loving endurance of these trials or ‘nights’ results in a deeper faith, hope and love of God and neighbour, a deeper union of love with God, a greater holiness.” But he goes on to explain further, “The lives of certain holy men and women reveal that even when deep union with God has been reached, intense spiritual trials may be experienced. Here the purpose of the suffering is no longer mainly preparation for union, but rather a loving participation in Christ’s own redemptive suffering, which bears fruit in the person’s apostolate or mission.” A saint’s life Fifty years ago, in a meditation on the lives of the saints, another foundress, Chiara Lubich of the Focolare, wrote, “The saint’s life is made up of abysses and peaks:
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bottomless abysses, nights as black as hell, dark tunnels where the soul, invaded by an absolutely superior light, is dazzled in dark contemplation and submerged in a sea of anguish or near desperation due to its clear awareness of its own nothingness and wretchedness. ...Then, after a long time of being worked upon in a crucible comparable to purgatory, the soul of the saint is slowly drawn by its divine Craftsman into a life that is serene, full, radiant, active and immune to any blow. But now in the soul it is no longer itself that lives. In it, glorious and strong, honoured and heeded, there lives the Creator and Lord of every human heart. “... This is the hour when an unknown, unique, divine strength flourishes in the saint which fuses together the most contrasting virtues in his soul: meekness and strength, mercy and justice, simplicity and prudence. “... Then God uses him for his great works that make up and adorn the heavenly city, the Church, which is destined to ascend to God as the spotless and worthy Bride of Christ who founded it.” Once Mother Teresa left Loreto to begin ‘The Work’, she was no longer supported by the memory of the spiritual consolations that she had once enjoyed. She confided to Archbishop Perier, “I am longing with painful longing to be all for God, to be holy in such a way that Jesus can live His life to the full in me. The more I want Him, the less I am wanted. I want to love Him as He has
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not been loved - and yet there is that separation, that terrible emptiness, that feeling of absence of God.” In one letter she confided, “If you knew what I am going through ... but I hold no claim in myself. He is free to do anything. Pray that I keep smiling at Him.” Ordeal of Love The most painful trial she endured was the ordeal of love. In a letter to her spiritual director at the time, she wrote, “That terrible longing keeps growing and I feel as if something will break in me one day. And then that darkness, that loneliness, that feeling of terrible aloneness ... And yet I long for God. I long to love Him with every drop of life in me.” Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk MC writes that this ‘darkness’ and ‘unremitting pain’ were her constant companions throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, he says, “darkness and nothingness were still the themes she discussed with her spiritual directors. ...Only two years before her death she was moved to say that she had received a wonderful gift from God in being able to offer Him the emptiness she felt. As far as we know, Mother Teresa remained in that state of ‘dark’ faith and total surrender until her death.” We have read how Mother had a phenomenal capacity for work and seemed to sleep very little. When she was at home in the motherhouse in Calcutta, she occupied the
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lowliest of rooms, directly above the kitchens. At nighttime when people might ring from anywhere in the world, she herself answered the telephone. That young European woman who had dressed in a sari and visited Mother when she was doing her nursing training in Patna was the Belgian Jacqueline de Decker. She had wanted to join Mother in her work from the outset but she had to return to Belgium for a medical operation. That would turn out to be the first of many operations Jacqueline would have on her spine. Her life became one of disability and suffering. When the Co-workers of Mother Teresa was set up, Mother named Jacqueline to be the International Link for the Sick and Suffering. When it became clear that Jacqueline would not be able to lead the active life of a religious Missionary of Charity, Mother had asked her if she would offer her suffering for the work. The two women became closely spiritually linked. Mother would call her ‘another self’ and explained that she, like each of the sisters, had ‘another self’ linked to them. These sick or disabled people offered their sufferings for the work of the sister and the sister offered the graces and work of her day for the suffering person. While the links with sick and suffering co-workers remain, Mother eventually closed down the large ‘Coworkers of Mother Teresa’ that had developed around the world, explaining that she did not want any large organisation or staff or conferences or travel or fundraising
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involved. People could associate themselves with her work in an informal way and meet together as friends if they wished, but she did not want an official organisation. While the work of her congregation continued to expand throughout the globe from the moment it was recognised as of Pontifical Right, demands on Mother Teresa to appear personally on the world stage dramatically increased especially when she became a Nobel Laureate in 1979. In 1980, at the direct request of Pope John Paul II, she spoke at a Family Congress held in Guatemala. She spoke of family prayer (remember Our Ladyâ€™s request to her in 1946 to promote the Family Rosary) and once again pleaded the cause of the unborn child. The fact that here was a woman whose whole existence was devoted to the service of the poorest of the poor, and whom people could perceive neither wanted nor had anything of her own, somehow made her pleas all the stronger and more eloquent. As she continued to respond to requests to open houses and send sisters to countries throughout the world right to the end of her life, she most often went to the place involved herself. She would meet the local bishop and others, check out the situation, find the right house. She wanted to know to where and to what she was sending her sisters. Usually she would also return to the place with the designated sisters to present
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personally her Missionaries of Charity to the Church and the poor and needy of that place. Let us just look at two such visits which came in succession in one year, in this case 1982. Defender of the littlest Early in that year, officials of a pro-life organisation, the Scottish arm of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, decided to invite Mother Teresa to address a mass rally in a city-centre park. They wrote to Mother and she replied that if it were Godâ€™s will she would attend, though as she was getting older, would they excuse her from the lengthy march of witness through the city which would precede the rally. As the date of the planned event grew nearer, the organisers had to book other speakers, obtain permission from the City Council and police for the event, organise a large stage, loudspeakers, generate publicity and all the usual things necessary for such a large event. Still it was not clear. Could they announce and advertise the presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta? Evelyn Lochrin, a Catholic teacher from the Diocese of Motherwell was the press and media officer for the event. She remembers that as a certain cut-off point arrived by when they would have to print posters, plan press advertisements and so on, they needed a definite answer from Mother Teresa.
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Mother speaking at a Pro-life rally on Glasgow Green, July 1982.
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“We were all working in our tiny little one-room office one evening when one of my colleagues also working on the event said he would telephone the Missionaries of Charity motherhouse. In our busy-ness and enthusiasm we had completely forgotten about the large timedifference. It was the middle of the night in Calcutta! “Mother Teresa herself answered the telephone. My colleague explained the reason for his call. Mother Teresa repeated what she had said in her letter, that if it were God’s will she would attend. My colleague then started to explain how we needed to make so many arrangements, could we print her name on posters etc? He even went on to say how we would have to arrange for the temporary installation of public lavatories and so on at the site of the rally. Mother laughed at his eagerness and concern. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said, ‘if it is God’s will I will be there.’ He took this to mean that she intended to attend.” A typical whirlwind visit She did attend. And Mother obviously knew it was God’s will because she had also been invited to open a Missionaries of Charity house in the Archdiocese of Edinburgh. Evelyn Lochrin and her colleague took Mother Teresa to visit the property they were being offered. In a ‘new town’ it consisted of two council houses made into one. There were many social problems in the area, particularly the disaffection of youth and the
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resultant problem of drug abuse. The place had a higherthan-average suicide rate. Different communities of religious sisters had stayed there for a short while. Now the sisters currently living there were pulling out. Mother went to visit the house. While the sisters then living there certainly did not live in luxury or anything approaching it, the house was furnished in a way that people would think standard in a working-class part of any west European city. Mother went through the house from room to room with Sister Marie-Celine, superior of the MC convent in London. This would have to go, that would have to go. Carpets must be pulled up, television removed, soft sofa and armchairs taken out. Mother was adamant. Her sisters were wedded to poverty, the â€œpoverty of the Crossâ€? and in this was their protection and their freedom. A couple of days later Mother did speak at the pro-life rally, held in Glasgow. She spoke of the little unborn child and how God had carved each one on the palm of His hand. She spoke of how love began and was nurtured in families and encouraged the thousands of participants that day to increase love in their families and to pray together as families. At the request of the organisers she had spoken at two press conferences prior to the event, and had been interviewed for a half-hour special television programme. Her pro-life talk in Glasgow made the headlines in Scotland, of course, and was also reported in many other countries.
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After the morning press conference and while the thousands of participants made their way through the city on their march of witness, the City of Glasgow sent the Lord Provost’s official limousine to take Mother Teresa and Sister Marie-Celine to an official reception at the City Chambers. As the Lord Provost was away at the time, the Deputy Provost, City Treasurer Councillor Bob Gray acted as host. He remembers that “Mother Teresa did not even need to speak to give evidence of her holiness.” He had the impression of having met a saint. He remembers Mother’s embarrassment of being taken through the city in the official limousine with police outriders. This was the type of treatment given to famous and important people. They should not be doing this for her! Her very presence affected people One person who remembers Mother’s visit particularly is Sister Roseann Reddy who went on to become the foundress of a new religious community in Scotland, the Sisters of the Gospel of Life. Roseann was a teenager at the time, living in a small Scottish town. She had recently become involved in the pro-life cause and often asked herself, “But what can I do?” “It struck me,” she says, “that this tiny little elderly lady did not come to us in Scotland from some ‘powerful’ city such as London or New York, but from Calcutta. I
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had travelled to Glasgow that day from my little hometown of Bonnybridge. “Her faithfulness to God’s call was evident by her words and actions. One could say that just by her very presence among us she called us in our turn to be faithful to God’s call.” Roseann in her turn went on to labour for the pro-life cause, first working for the very organisation that had arranged Mother’s visit and the pro-life rally, later for the Pro-Life Initiative launched by Cardinal Thomas Winning. Today she lives in her religious community of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, who work to spread the Church’s pro-life teaching and care for expectant mothers in need and new mothers and their babies. Profoundly touched by Mother Teresa’s presence and talk in Glasgow, the young Roseann made the journey the next day to the Scottish town of Linlithgow where Mother would meet the Scottish Co-workers. After Mass Roseann had an opportunity to greet Mother Teresa. She gave her a ‘tiny feet’ badge, an actual size representation of the tiny little feet of a ten week-old unborn baby. Mother pinned it onto her sari. When the television later showed Mother departing Glasgow airport, Rosann was delighted to notice that she was still wearing her tiny feet badge. When news of Mother’s impending visit to Scotland was released, Irish pro-lifers got in touch and asked if she might
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pay them a visit too. Thus from Glasgow she flew to Dublin where she also addressed a press conference and addressed a major pro-life rally held in a national sports stadium. Evelyn Lochrin remembers that after the pro-life rally in Glasgow Mother seemed struck by the peaceful atmosphere and the feeling of unity there had been. After leaving Ireland Mother flew to Rome. Participants at the weekly Papal Audience at the Popeâ€™s summer residence of Castelgandolfo were surprised when from the balcony the Holy Father announced, â€œI have a visitorâ€?. He turned and seemed to be motioning to someone behind the doors. Next a little head covered in a white sari appeared around the door and the Pope brought her to stand next to him. He told the crowds that Mother had told him of her visit to Scotland and the great unity there had been at a rally defending the unborn child! Into a war-zone In short order, that same summer, Mother was in Lebanon. Beirut was torn apart by civil war. The city was divided in two with people unable to cross from one to the other. Thanks to a film made by Jeanette Petrie who for some time accompanied Mother and produced two documentaries on her work, we have the scene from that summer of 1982 preserved on tape. Mother meets with a Monsignor and a priest in East Beirut. Fighting has been going on for days. It is
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impossible to cross from one side to the other. The Monsignor says that the needs of people trapped in West Beirut will be very great. Mother Teresa: “And I think the Church should be there now, because we don’t mix up in politics...” The priest says that for the moment that might be rather difficult. “But it is a good idea.” Quick as a flash Mother Teresa replies, “It is not an idea, Father. I think it is our duty.” Mother insists to the two clergyman that a way can be found to get safely to the other side and bring over those who are sick or suffering and need care. The priest reminds her: “Don’t forget that two weeks ago they killed quite a few priests, just like that, for the sake of killing priests.” Mother Teresa: “All for Jesus.” Priest: “Yes. Nobody else.” Mother: “You see, I always feel like this. Many years back when I picked up the first person, if I didn’t do it that time I would never have picked up 42,000. In Calcutta, 42,000 from the streets. So, I think, ‘one at a time’.” Our Lady’s Ceasefire Mother asked to see the American Ambassador to enquire if he could help her get across. He replied, “You hear the shells? You know it is absolutely impossible for you to cross at this present time. We will have to have a ceasefire first.”
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Once again, Mother Teresa had a quick-fire response: “Oh, but I have been praying to Our Lady and I have asked her to let us have a ceasefire here tomorrow, the day before her feast day (of 15th August).” A short ceasefire did occur, inexplicable to the officials. As soon as it is announced, Mother Teresa kneels down for a short prayer. Then she gets up, and without a moment’s hesitation reels off a list of what they would need to bring with them to the other side. A representative of the Red Cross was quoted in The Times of 16th August: “What struck everyone was her energy and her efficiency. She perceived the problem, fell to her knees and prayed for a few seconds and then she immediately began to list the things she needed; nappies, rubber pants, potties. The problem was that in wartime attention is focused on the wounded. But one tends to forget the blind, the deaf, the alienated and the disabled when in fact it is at precisely that moment that they most need help. Mother Teresa immediately understood this.” The tiny 72-year-old nun, accompanied by Red Cross officials and someone from the American Embassy, crossed the front line. Moving swiftly and surely, encouraging the others also to waste no time, she found the deserted home for the handicapped and joined the others in carrying out those forgotten and abandoned people onto buses and across to safety and care in East Beirut.
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FINAL YEARS Declining Health It seemed that Mother Teresaâ€™s energy was limitless, that she would go on and on spending herself in the service of the poorest of the poor. In fact, she had first been diagnosed with heart problems in 1974. Mother being Mother, she swore those who knew about it to secrecy. In September 1989 she suffered a heart attack. In December she was fitted with a pacemaker. In the last six years of her life she had further heart problems and operations, she had falls, she had a particularly bad attack of recidivist malaria, slow to heal because of her continued heart and lung problems and exhaustion. In 1990 she had informed the Pope of her wish to retire as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity because of her failing health. At their General Chapter the sisters unanimously re-elected her as Superior General! Pope Paul VI had been an admirer of Mother Teresa and her work. When he visited India in 1964 for the Eucharistic Congress he gifted to Mother Teresa the white Cadillac limousine that had been given to him by an American Catholic university. Mother raffled it off and
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with the proceeds bought another van to be converted into a mobile dispensary. The Pope himself later gifted another such dispensary van. Vicar of Christ at Home for the Dying The day that Mother Teresa described as the happiest day of her life occurred on 4th February 1986. The Vicar of Christ himself came to minister to the people housed in Nirmal Hriday, the House of the Immaculate Heart, at Khaligat. When he got there he first took Mother Teresa in his arms. Then, holding her veiled head in his hands, he kissed her forehead. (In a chance encounter in an airport at the time of the Ethiopian Famine, the campaigner and well-known rock musician Bob Geldof had instinctively stooped to kiss the diminutive nun. She turned her head away. Geldof felt a bit miffed by this at the time but later learned that the only people Mother Teresa allowed to kiss her were lepers.) Pope John Paul spent over an hour at Khaligat. He served some food to those who were able to eat, and blessed those who were too weakened. He visited the homeâ€™s mortuary and blessed the mortal remains of those residents who had so recently died. John Paul II, like countless numbers of people who had seen or heard or met her, recognised in Mother Teresa the answer to one of her own favourite prayers which she prayed every day. Composed by Cardinal
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Newman, it asks, “Give your light through me and remain in me in such a way that every soul I come in contact with can feel your presence in me. May people not see me, but see you in me.” Death and Funeral On 5th September 1997, Mother was at home in the motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity, in Lower Circular Road. She planned to attend a special prayer service that evening for her friend Diana, Princess of Wales, who had been killed in a car crash the previous weekend. But in the morning Mother suffered pains in her chest and was seen by the doctor. He could not do much and the pain persisted all day. At 9.30 that evening Mother Teresa died of another heart attack. The Indian Government immediately announced that its most famous citizen would be given a State Funeral, which was held eight days later. While her body lay in state in St Thomas’s church in Calcutta, a city which counts barely 30,000 Catholics, crowds thronged to file past her coffin, sometimes as many as 200,000 a day. She ‘belonged’ to everyone. The girl who left her home in Albania in 1918 had become simply ‘Mother’ to the whole world. At the time of her death her congregation numbered 3,914 sisters established in 594 communities in 123 countries. She had also founded four other branches of the Missionaries of Charity; active MC
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brothers, contemplative sisters, contemplative brothers, and the priests. Hearing of her death, the Indian Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral said, “We in India are fortunate that the Mother chose to make Calcutta the base for her world-wide mission of mercy and compassion.” Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003, the 25th Anniversary of his pontificate. Spiritual Testament? In June 1983 while Mother Teresa was suffering poor health and receiving medical treatment, she asked for a pen and paper and wrote the following meditation. It could be seen as Mother’s spiritual testament. Who is Jesus to me? The Word made flesh. The Bread of life. The Victim offered on the cross. The Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine. The Way to be walked. The Joy to be shared. The Peace to be given. The Leper - to wash his wounds. The Beggar - to give him a smile. The Drunkard - to listen to him. The Mental (Patient) - to protect him.
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The Little One - to embrace him. The Blind - to lead him. The Dumb - to speak for him. The Crippled - to walk with him. The Drug Addict - to befriend him. The Prostitute - to be removed from danger and befriended. The Prisoner - to be visited. The Old - to be served. To me, Jesus is my God. Jesus is my Spouse. Jesus is my Life. Jesus is my only Love. Jesus is my all in all. Jesus is my everything. Jesus, I love you with my whole heart, with my whole being. I have given Him all, even my sins and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love. Now and for all life I am the spouse of my crucified Spouse. Amen.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY Eileen Egan, ‘Such A Vision Of The Street’, Image Books, New York, 1986 Eileen Egan, ‘Mother Teresa’s Prayer Book’, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1999 Anne Sebba, ‘Mère Teresa - La Face câchée’, Editions Golias, France, 1997 Other Useful Sources: Official website; www.motherteresacause.info Documentary film on Mother Teresa: Petrie Productions 77 Bleecker St., C2-22 New York, NY 10012, USA.
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