A little Christian woman, barely five feet in height, stands tall in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the globe. She is known affectionately as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
I personally consider her one of my “Heroes of the Faith.” Her godly example has helped me over the years to share the love and compassion of Christ with people in need.
My wife, Lynn, and I have done our small part over the years to care for the homeless, the addicted, the prisoners, and the lost, and to point them toward a loving Heavenly Father.
Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, and was given the name Anjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu at birth.
Agnes’s father died when she was just 8 years old, leaving her mother to support the family’s three children with her embroidery and cloth business. Agnes was very involved in the activities of the Roman Catholic parish she was raised in, and at the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto Convent in Dublin, Ireland. While there she was given the name Teresa.
In January of 1929, Sister Teresa she was sent to Calcutta, India, where she lived and served the Lord as a missionary for most of her life. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Sister Teresa taught at St. Mary’s Bengali Medium School. In 1937 she made her final profession as a Loreto nun, and from that point on she was called Mother Teresa.
It was on a train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling that Teresa received what she called “God’s call within the call” to serve the poor.
To fulfill that calling from God, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order whose mission she said was “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls by laboring at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.”
Over the years, Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity managed homes for the dying, operated soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, counseling programs, as well as orphanages and schools.
The members of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and they also profess a fourth vow, which is to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”
In Mother Teresa’s words their mission has always been to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, and all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
The Missionaries of Charity began as a small community of 12 members in Calcutta in 1950, and now in 2020 there are more than 5,000 members serving in 139 countries in 760 homes, with 244 of those homes in India, 19 of them in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Mother Teresa received a number of honors throughout the years for her charity and obedience to God’s call.
In 1962, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize for “Peace and International Understanding,” which is an award from the Philippines. There are 18 Missionaries of Charity homes across the Philippines today. In 1979, Mother Teresa was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu died on September 5, 1997, at the age of 87.
The anniversary of her death is recognized as a feast day in the Church. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in September of 2016, and is now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Someone once said, “While many of us were playing the part of the guy in the parable who passes by on the other side of the road, Mother Teresa was the Good Samaritan, binding the wounds of those our world beats up and leaves for dead.”
She has often been compared to Saint Lawrence of Rome, who when ordered by the Emperor’s men to turn over the Church’s wealth, he showed up with a large group of beggars, lame and homeless, and smiling St. Lawrence declared, “These are the treasures of the Church.” He was roasted alive for impertinence in A.D. 258 A.D. Mother Teresa also wanted us to see in the poor the richness of Christ.
She would tell visitors to her missions in Calcutta, “These are our treasures. They are Jesus. Each one is Jesus in his distressing disguise.”
Saint Teresa, following the example of Christ, taught us to meet our Creator in the poorest of the poor, and to find our salvation there.
The following is a prayer of Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, from the book “Jesus Is My All in All: Praying with the ‘Saint of Calcutta.’”
Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass For the sins of the world and mine.
Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth – to be told. Jesus is the Way – to be walked.
Jesus is the Light – to be lit.
Jesus is the Life – to be lived.
Jesus is the Love – to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be offered.
Jesus is the Peace – to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.
Jesus is the Retarded – to protect him.
Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.
Jesus is the Blind – to lead him.
Jesus is the Dumb – to speak for him.
Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug addict – to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend.
Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be remembered as an ordinary nun personally touched by Jesus, called to abandon herself, to imitate his life in the slums, and to bring the Good News of God’s love to the poorest of the poor.
“My little one, come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor . . . their dark, unhappy homes,” He told her. “Come, be their victim. In your immolation, in your love for Me, they will see Me, know Me, and want Me.”