“The saint of the Gutters” – this is how Mother Teresa, who dedicated her whole life to the service of the sick, outcast, those who suffered from any chronic decease and the dying, was called. Today the Catholic Church declared her formally a Saint, even though she was known as a Saint among the people around the world.
Born of Albanian parents, she had a burning desire to work as a missionary in India. Hence at the age of 18 she joined the Congregation known as “Loretta Sisters”, who had a community in India. Having worked 17 years as the principal of a prestigious St. Mary’s high school in Calcutta, located in the north eastern part of India, a city very thickly populated with hundreds of slums – slums are cluster of huts, in which very poor people live without any hygiene and health care – she felt God’s call to serve the poor in 1946. With due permission from the Pope, she started the Order known as “Missionaries of Charity” with no money in hand.
Totally depending on the alms given by the people, she began a home for the dying in 1952 for the people lying on the streets. The following year she started a home for abandoned babies.
Today’s Gospel speaks of total dedication of a disciple of Christ. Mother Teresa lived her life with a spirit of total dedication to the service of the poor. It did not take long time for the world to see with admiration, what she did for the poor. Hence she was honored with Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Later in 1985 she was awarded with “Medal of Freedom” the highest U.S. civilian award and in 1996 was given an honorary U.S. citizenship. She was given, totally, 124 awards by various countries. The entire sum of money she received, she used to establish new homes in the countries, which required her service. Before her death on September 5, 1997, she established 594 communities of her nuns to serve the needy in 123 countries of the world.
Some of you asked me whether I have met Mother Teresa. Unfortunately, I did not meet her during her life. Once she came to my city; but I could not meet her, because of security, which, in fact, she did not personally like to have. Nevertheless, I have visited three times her Mother House in Calcutta, visited her tomb, celebrated Mass in their chapel for the sisters. When I went to celebrate Mass in the chapel for the first time, I was shocked to see, just in front of the altar, a figure as if Mother Teresa was actually squatting on the floor. It was just a statue of the Mother, erected on the exact location, where she would make her hour of adoration and participate in the daily Mass. She was a true Missionary of Charity. May God be glorified in her.
Fr. Arul Joseph V.