Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 19, 2009

Meet Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa In his letter to the Philippians, Paul exhorted his readers to follow his example and to “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). Paul set himself up as an example worthy of imitation. While his words seem to have a ring of alarming audacity, we must not overlook the fact that Paul’s exhortation is framed within the context of his confession that he was not perfect and continued to press on toward the goal.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul wrote these words: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Paul wanted for others to follow his example only insofar as he followed the example of Christ. But, Paul did not claim to be the only one who followed Christ’s example. There were others whose lives were exemplary and worthy of imitation. That’s why he also exhorted the Philippians to “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

Christ-followers can and should learn from the examples set by those who faithfully follow Christ. For example, Billy Graham has set an example of the importance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, Mother Teresa set an example of what it means to serve others, especially the least of these. Billy Graham and Mother Teresa are two Christ-followers whose lives are worthy of imitation. Below is a broad overview of Mother Teresa’s exemplary life.

Early Life | Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu — the child who would one day be known as Mother Teresa — was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Albania. Her family lived next door to the church, where she spent much of her time. She was inspired by the example of her mother, a compassionate and generous woman who never allowed the poor who came to her door to leave empty-handed. As a young girl, Agnes had a special interest in missions and began to sense God’s call to the missionary life at the age of twelve.

Call to Missions | At the age of eighteen, Agnes applied for admission to the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto because she was attracted by their missionary work in India. On December 1, 1928 she boarded a ship for India and arrived in Calcutta on January 6.

A New Name | In May 1931, Agnes changed her baptismal name to Teresa because she was impressed by the example set by Therese of Lisieux, a Catholic nun also known as “The Little Flower of Jesus.” Therese, who died at the age of twenty-four, understood the importance of serving God by doing little things well. She wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

Call within a Call | On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa felt a call within her call. She later wrote, “I was quietly praying when I clearly felt a call within my calling. The message was very clear. I had to leave the convent and consecrate myself to helping the poor by living among them. It was a command. I knew I had to go, but I did not know how to get there.”

The White Sari | Sister Teresa left the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto on August 16, 1948. Setting aside the religious habit of the order, she put on a white sari (trimmed in blue), like the ones worn by the poorest women in India, and became an Indian citizen in 1949.

Her Work | Mother Teresa founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 and opened the first home for dying destitutes in Kalighat, a Hindu temple in the heart of Calcutta, in 1952. She named the home Nirmal Hriday which means “Home for the Pure Heart.” Mother Teresa and her nuns dedicated themselves to caring for abandoned street children and the sick and dying.

Recognitions | Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 17, 1979 and asked that the prize money be given to the poor in India. President Ronald Reagan presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, in 1985. In October 1996, President Bill Clinton signed legislation making Mother Teresa an honorary United States Citizen. In June 1997 she received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

Her Death | Mother Teresa passed away quietly at her home in Calcutta on September 5, 1997. Throughout the years she worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Many admonished her to slow down and rest. However, Mother Teresa always labored on, saying “I have all eternity to rest.” Mother Teresa lived a life worthy of imitation. At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity were operating 610 missions in 123 countries. She continues to inspire others by her example, challenging them to look beyond themselves and to consider the needs of the least of these.

• • • • •

Note I leave for India today with my friends Jon and Holloway to work at one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the least of these in Kolkata (Calcutta). I will post about my experiences as I have opportunity, so please check back often. And, if you are interested in reading more about Mother Teresa, please check out my book list.


Responses

  1. Thanks Omar, for your updates of work in kolkat. and article about Mother teresa. I thought, she done the things are very much biblical. she gave sheltors for the people,she helped the people be cured.
    all dose things she done for the people, she her self was cured by the Jesus Christ…

    This is I am thinking!
    have good trip at india, infact, you guys are very close to me.
    please tell helo to John, and Holloway.

    Thanks,
    Mortuza
    Dhaka


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