Vol. 167 No. 37 - September 10 - September 16, 2016
Throughout the night, pilgrims prayed at vigils in area churches and flocked before dawn to the Vatican under heavy security to try to get a good spot for the Mass that was expected to draw an unprecedented mammoth crowd, hailing from different corners of the world to witness the final journey to sainthood of their beloved Mother Teresa, the undisputed angelic friend of the poorest of the poor.
As the congregation settled down and the bells pealed and hymns resounded over Piazza del San Pietro, in the presence of a bubbling sea of humanity, Mother Teresa was elevated to the altar of the Roman Catholic Church, on September 4, 2016, in Rome, 19 years after her death. The ceremony to proclaim the entry of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was recognised globally for her work with poor people in the slums of Kolkata in India, into the official book of Saints drew more than a hundred thousand pilgrims from around the world to St Peter's Square in the Vatican City.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, read a brief biography of Mother Teresa's work, and petitioned the Pope to canonise her in the name of the Church.
Pope Francis responded in Latin: "For the honour of the Blessed Trinity … we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Kolkata to be a saint, and we enrol her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church," as he presided over the ceremony.
The Pope said Mother Teresa had spent her life "bowing down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity." He added: "She made her voice heard before the powers of the world, so that they might recognise their guilt for the crimes of poverty they themselves created." He then named the crimes of poverty that span society.
Teresa was born an ethnic Albanian, and the Albanian flag was much in evidence, as was the distinctive white habit, trimmed with blue stripes, worn by the nuns of her order, the Missionaries of Charity. Yet another conspicuous group was a large contingent of Indians where Mother lived and fulfilled her vocation as 'Saint of the gutters' in Kolkata. All the four Indian cardinals were present for the solemn occasion. Cardinal Oswald Gracias and Cardinal George Alencherry were among the main concelebrants who had a role in the Eucharistic Prayer at the solemn Pontifical Mass that followed.
In his homily on St Teresa's work, Pope Francis said "she had shone a light in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering." It was clear that her life reflected the kind of Church that this Pope is trying to build: one that shows mercy to all and offers practical help for the poorest and for all those in need.
The pontiff said that even though the nun had been declared a saint, she was and would always be Mother Teresa to the Catholic family. Echoing his own vision of a "poor Church for the poor", Pope Francis described Mother Teresa's work as "eloquent witness to God's closeness to the poorest of the poor."
"Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us to continue this eloquent witness to the abandoned and deprived. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! I think, perhaps, we may have some difficulty in calling her 'Saint Teresa': her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her "Mother Teresa". May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, 'Perhaps I don't speak their language, but I can smile.' Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness."
Pope Francis also used his sermon to recall Mother Teresa's fervent opposition to abortion, which she termed "murder by the mother" in a controversial Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1979.
Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that "the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, and the most vulnerable."
For Mother Teresa, mercy was the "salt" which gave flavour to her work, it was the "light" which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.
Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity sisters attended the event, along with 13 heads of state or government. Some 1,500 homeless people across Italy were also brought to Rome in buses to be given seats of honour at the celebration - and then a pizza lunch served by 250 nuns and priests of the Missionaries of Charity.
Millions of Catholics revere her as a model of compassion, and the Vatican could easily have issued double the number of tickets, but for space and security restrictions. Helicopters had earlier buzzed over the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, testifying to the huge but relatively discreet security operation under way. Around 3,000 officers were on duty to ensure the day passed off peacefully.
Pope Francis said, "While we prepare to close this celebration, I wish to greet and thank all of you who have taken part. First of all, all the Missionaries of Charity, who are the spiritual family of Mother Teresa. May your holy founder always watch you on your way and help you remain faithful to God, to the Church and to the poor.
With grateful deference, I greet the distinguished authorities present, in particular those of the countries linked to the figure of the new saint, as well as the official delegations and the numerous pilgrims who have come from these countries on this happy occasion. God bless your nations.
With affection, I greet all of you, dear volunteers and workers of mercy. I entrust you to the protection of Mother Teresa: May she teach you to contemplate and adore Jesus Crucified every day in order to recognise Him and serve Him in our needy brothers and sisters. We also ask this grace for all those who have joined us through the media, in every part of the world.
At this time, I would like to remember how much you serve others in difficult and risky environments. I am thinking especially of so many religious who give their lives unsparingly. We pray especially for Spanish missionary nun, Sister Isabel [Sister Isabel Sola Macas], who was killed two days ago in the capital of Haiti, a country so tormented, for which I pray for an end to such acts of violence and for greater security for all. We also remember other sisters that have recently experienced violence in other countries.
St Peter's Basilica was bathed in sunlight for the occasion and decked out with a tapestry of the late nun in her trademark blue-hemmed white robes. Despite the intense heat, the atmosphere among the pilgrims in St Peter's Square was one of joy, and the service a celebration of the life of this extraordinary woman.
Compiled from various Internet and print media reports
It was a moment of great joy and satisfaction for the Christians in India, and also as a nation, that one of our citizens was being greatly honoured by respective bodies in the world. Starting with the most valued honour given to Mother Teresa when she was living: ‘Bharat Ratna’ which means the ‘Jewel of India’. And then the world community honoured her with the Nobel Prize, and now for a person from the faith aspect, the highest honour that heaven can confer is sainthood. So it’s a beautiful blend of these two realities: acceptance of the human society, acceptance of the divine (or as we say heaven), that Mother Teresa is a saint. And it’s a matter of great joy for everyone, those who believe from the faith aspect, those who believe from the missionary aspect and those who believe in the service aspect. For everyone, it’s a great time of joy and satisfaction.
Mother Teresa changed the mindset of many people, because sometimes people were given the understanding, “If you’re a Christian, talk only to other Christians. If you’re a Hindu, don’t talk to any other. If you’re a Muslim, stay away from the other people.” But Mother Teresa found in everyone, as I said, the face of Jesus… And Mother Teresa played a great role in India, not only in serving the poor, but in bringing everyone to fight against poverty. And spirituality always brings this beautiful blend of everything to one reality: for God’s love, you need to come together to share it. For God’s mercy, if it is to be shared, we need to come together.
What would Mother Teresa say if she were here with us? Maybe Mother Teresa is here with us. She would smile and say: "Do not talk about me, talk about Jesus. I am only a pencil in His hands. Now stop talking and do something."
My first impression of the Mother was her courage. For us in India, she was already a saint. On September 4, the Church recognised this, but for us this was already the case. Many Hindu friends told me: "Why do you go through all these procedures? She is already a saint."
She was very courageous. She left home, first for London, and then Calcutta. She was a brave person who wanted to give everything to her mission. It took a lot of courage when she heard the calling which would involve a great deal of travelling by rail, leaving the Loreto Institute and reaching out to find her poor.
Some opposed her. "You cannot go from one congregation to found another." But she did, thanks to her great love for God.
Years ago, when the abortion law was being discussed, Mother Teresa wrote to the Prime Minister of the time: "You will not live forever. Sooner or later, you will have to die. If this law goes into effect, what will you say to God?"
Special attraction of Mother Teresa
This being the Year of Mercy, it is very fitting that Mother Teresa has been consecrated on September 4, 2016. In the communion of Saints, we love all the Saints, request them to pray for us in Heaven, and we seek to imitate them, to be with them forever, in union with the Holy Trinity.
Even so, Mother Teresa is special to us, because she is truly an Indian Saint. Though born in a Balkan state of former Yugoslavia, she worked in India well over 60 years, and most of us have been her contemporaries. We witnessed her life and activities. Many of us were privileged to meet her personally, I being one of them.
Humility of Mother Teresa
She was among the best known faces in the world. Her mission and members of her Missionaries of Charity Congregation spread well over 100 nations of the world. She established over 700 institutions (Houses) of charitable activities. She received the highest national award - the Bharat Ratna, and the Nobel Peace Prize and several other meritorious awards from various countries of the world. She could find easy access to the world’s mighty and powerful
President Pranab Mukherjee called Mother Teresa a "messiah" of the poor and a pillar of support for the weak, as he said every Indian will take pride on her canonisation on Sunday, Sept 4.
In his message on the eve of the canonisation ceremony by Pope Francis at Vatican City, President Mukherjee said Mother Teresa was an embodiment of compassion.
"She dedicated her entire life to serving the poorest of the poor, as well as the destitute and forsaken. Mother Teresa saw herself as 'a small pencil in the hands of the Lord' and went about her work quietly, offering smiles and warm human gestures.
"Always dressed in a simple white, blue border sari, Mother Teresa undertook her work with great love and commitment. Mother Teresa provided dignity and respect to those who had been defeated by life. She was a messiah of the poor and a pillar of support for the weak and suffering. Her simple manners touched the hearts of millions of people of all faiths," he said.
Mother Teresa, who was formally canonised on Sept. 4 by Pope Francis in Rome, was widely known as “the Saint of Calcutta”. She founded religious orders of women and men that serve the poor in more than 130 countries. Even for a woman who is an icon of modern saintliness, the Roman Catholic Church requires that someone must gather evidence of miracles and present a case that she is worthy to be admitted to the pantheon of saints.
That someone is the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a Canadian priest and member of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, a religious order founded by Mother Teresa. Soon after she died in 1997 at age 87, he was made the postulator — the main promoter of her case for sainthood. Fr Brian, who divides his time between Rome and a Missionaries of Charity house in Tijuana, Mexico, is also the editor of a new book, “A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve,” drawn from Mother Teresa’s teachings and testimony about her life. He was interviewed in August before leaving for Rome to prepare for the canonisation ceremonies. This interview has been edited and condensed.
The Mysticism of Mother Teresa, who was canonised on September 4 at Saint Peter’s Square by Pope Francis, comes from being a saint of the periphery: Mother Teresa comes from the periphery. She was born and raised in Skopje, a geographical and existential periphery. Mother Teresa grew up in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society where the Catholic community was a peripheral minority. Mother Teresa knew first-hand the existential peripheries of poverty, misery, war, displacement and ethnic cleansing. It was the “periphery of periphery” that taught and prepared Mother Teresa for her mission in India.
Agnes Gonxhe (Albanian for rosebud-flower) Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje, currently in Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Gonxhe was born to Albanian parents Drane and Nikolas Bojaxhiu (originally from Prizren in Kosovo) who had moved to Skopje. The Albanian Catholic community of Skopje during the time of Mother Teresa was a minority. Catholics were outnumbered by the Eastern Orthodox majority and Muslims, which constituted the second largest religion. Skopje was made up of various ethnicities including Albanian, Croatian, Bosniaks, etc. Her peripheral native Skopje exposed future Mother Teresa at an early age to people of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures and languages. The geographical periphery was also a political-imperial periphery.
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