Mother Teresa: biography and latest news!

  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

“By blood, I am Albanian. By my nationality, I am Indian. By my faith, I am a Catholic nun. By my calling, I belong to the world. As far as my heart is concerned, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

Small in stature, with a rock-solid faith, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming the infinite thirst of God’s love for humanity, especially for the poorest of the poor, “God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and compassion to the poor.” She was a soul filled with the light of Christ, burning with love for Him and consumed with one desire: “to quench His thirst for love and souls.”

This luminous messenger of God’s love was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, a city located at the crossroads of Balkan history. The youngest child of Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu, she was named Gonxha Agnes; she received her first communion at the age of five and a half and was confirmed in November 1916. On the day of her first communion, she was filled with a great love for souls. The sudden death of her father when she was about eight years old left the family in a difficult financial condition. Drane raised her children with love and firmness, greatly influencing the character and vocation of her daughter. Gonxha’s religious formation was supported by the very active Jesuit parish of Sacred Heart in which she was well involved.

At the age of eighteen, driven by the desire to become a missionary, Gonxha left home in September 1928 to enter the Institute of the Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. There she received the name Sister Mary Teresa, after St. Therese of Lisieux. In December, she left for India, arriving in Calcutta on January 6, 1929. After taking her first vows in May 1931, Sister Teresa was sent to the Loretto Entally community in Calcutta and taught at the girls’ school, St. Mary’s. On May 24, 1937, Sister Teresa made her final vows becoming, as she said, “the bride of Jesus” for “all eternity.” From then on, she was called Mother Teresa. She continued to teach at St. Mary’s and in 1944 became the school’s principal. Mother Teresa’s twenty years at Loreto were filled with deep joy, she was very devout, loving her sisters and students deeply. Noted for her charity, generosity and courage, her resistance to work and her natural talent for organization, she lived her consecration to Jesus, in the midst of her companions, with joy and fidelity.

On September 10, 1946, on her way to her annual retreat in Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration” on the train, her “call within a call”. On that day, in a way she will never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and her thirst for souls took possession of her heart and the desire to satisfy that thirst became the motivation of her life. In the weeks and months that followed, Jesus revealed to her, through interior locutions and visions, the desire of his heart to have “victims of love” who would “spread his love over souls. He begged her “Come, be my light”. “I cannot go alone. He revealed to her his pain at the neglect of the poor, his sorrow at being ignored by them and his immense desire to be loved by them. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Almost two years of trials and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin. On August 17, 1948, she put on her white sari, trimmed with blue, for the first time and walked through the doors of her beloved convent in Loreto into the world of the poor.

After a short internship with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta and found temporary accommodation with the Little Sisters of the Poor. On December 21, she went to the slums for the first time. She visited some families, washed the wounds of several children, took care of an old sick man lying in the street and a woman with tuberculosis dying of hunger. She began each day in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and then went out, rosary in hand, to find and serve Him in “the rejected, the unloved, the neglected.” After a few months, her former students joined her one by one.

On October 7, 1950, the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. In the early 1960s, Mother Teresa began to send her sisters to other parts of India. The approval granted by Pope Paul VI in February 1965 encouraged her to open a house in Venezuela. This was soon followed by foundations in Rome and Tanzania and eventually on all continents. Beginning in 1980 and continuing through the 1990s, Mother Teresa opened houses in almost every communist country, including the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba.

In order to better respond to the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the poor, Mother Teresa founded the Missionary Brothers of Charity in 1963, the Contemplative branch of the sisters in 1976, the Contemplative Brothers in 1979, and the Missionary Fathers of Charity in 1984. However, her inspiration was not limited to those with a religious vocation. She formed the Cooperators of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Cooperators, people of different faiths and nationalities with whom she shared her spirit of prayer, simplicity, sacrifice and her apostolate for the humble works of love. This spirit later inspired the Lay Missionaries of Charity. In response to requests from many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa also began the Corpus Christi movement for priests, tracing a “small path of holiness” for those who wished to share her charism and spirit.

During these years of rapid growth, the world began to look at Mother Teresa and the work she had begun. She received many awards to honor her work, beginning with the Indian Padmashri Award in 1962 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, as the media, with growing interest, began to follow her activities. She received all this “for the glory of God and in the name of the poor”.

The whole of Mother Teresa’s life and work testify to the joy of loving, to the greatness and dignity of every human being, to the value of every little thing done with faith and love, and, above all, to friendship with God. But there was another heroic side to this great woman that was revealed only after her death. Hidden from the eyes of all, hidden even from those closest to her, her inner life was marked by the experience of a deep, painful and constant feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by him, accompanied by an ever-increasing desire for his love. She called her inner experience, “the darkness”. The “painful night” of her soul, which began about the time she began her work for the poor and continued until the end of her life, led Mother Teresa to an ever deeper union with God. Through this darkness, she mystically participated in Jesus’ thirst for painful and ardent love, and she shared the inner desolation of the poor.

In the last years of her life, despite increasingly serious health problems, Mother Teresa continued to govern her congregation and to respond to the needs of the poor and the Church. By 1997, Mother Teresa’s sisters numbered about 4,000 and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries around the world. In March 1997, she blessed the newly elected Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity and made another trip abroad. After meeting Pope John Paul II for the last time, she returned to Calcutta and spent her last weeks receiving visitors and teaching the sisters. September 5 was the last day of Mother Teresa’s earthly life. She was given an official funeral by the government of India and her body was buried in the Motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity. Her grave soon became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for people of all faiths, rich and poor. Mother Teresa left a testament of unshakable faith, invincible hope and extraordinary charity. Her response to the cause of Jesus, “Come be my light,” made her a Missionary of Charity, a “mother for the poor,” a symbol of compassion for the world and a living testimony to God’s thirst for love.

Less than two years after her death, due to Mother Teresa’s widespread reputation for holiness and the report of favors received, Pope John Paul II allowed the opening of her cause for canonization. On December 20, 2002, he approved the decrees of her heroic virtues and miracles.