Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 28, 2009

Kolkata’s North Star

Kolkata, India

North Star | Navigating around Kolkata turned out to be much easier than I expected. Our guest house is located on the same street as Mother Teresa’s Mother House. So, whenever we needed to get back to our home base all we had to do was say “Mother Teresa’s Mother House” and cab and rickshaw drivers would give us the distinctive Indian head-bob to acknowledge they knew the way. Mother Teresa was unknown when she first arrived in Calcutta on January 6, 1929. Today, it seems that every cab driver in this bee-hive of incessant human activity knows her name and her reputation as the friend of the poor. She is the city’s North Star for those who have come to serve the poor. And, Mother’s House and all of the Missionaries of Charity homes form a constellation of compassion, beckoning travelers from all nations to come serve the poor.

Rock Star | Twelve years after her death, Mother Teresa is also something of a rock star among the young. Her example and reputation as a servant of the poor continues to attract volunteers from the nations, many of them young people. I have lost track of the number of nations represented in the volunteer ranks this week. The amazing thing is that they are not all Christ-followers. One young man from France has embraced Buddhism but said there is still something missing in his life. A young Jewish girl is seriously considering becoming a Catholic because of Mother Teresa’s example. A college student from South Korea told me that he is tired of consuming his resource on himself. “It’s time I did something for others,” he said. So, he saved his money to come serve the poor in Kolkata for three weeks. And so go the stories of why they come. Although each story is different, the common thread that runs through each is the little nun who made a vow in April 1942 to not refuse God anything and gave Him her all.

Guiding Star | Mother Teresa’s legacy is a guiding star for those seeking to serve Christ is His distressing disguises. David, the great king of Israel, complained, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink down into the grave? Can my dust praise you from the grave? Can it tell the world of your faithfulness?” (Psalm 30:9). The first half of David’s complaint can only be answered by God. However, the second half can be answered from earth’s side of the equation. Mother Teresa reminds us that our dust can praise God from the grave and can continue to tell the world of God’s faithfulness. Mother Teresa did what each of us should do – she wrote a great script for her dust by living a life well-lived. Her dust – or her legacy – continues to guide people of every tongue and tribe and nation to forsake selfish living and to care for the least of these as though caring for Jesus Himself.

Morning Star | Mother Teresa, although dead, continues to point others to Jesus, “the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16). I was impressed by the fact that Jesus was repeatedly emphasized this week – in the prayer we recited every morning, in the team song that we sang before heading to our respective assignments, in the messages posted on the walls of her homes, and in the words and smiles of the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa said, “I rely on one. There is only one: Jesus.”

Mother Teresa’s legacy remains stronger than ever. A legacy is simply the echo that carries the sound of our influence to succeeding generations. Here are some concluding thoughts on why I believe Mother Teresa’s life continues to inspire people of all nations and all faiths to serve the least of these.

L = Life | Mother Teresa lived what she believed. While traveling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling on September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa received a “call within a call” to labor for “the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” She lived her life to fulfill that calling and left a remarkable example of selfless and sacrificial service.

E = Enlist | Mother Teresa knew that she could not do the work God had called her to do apart from the help of others. She challenged, enlisted, and equipped others to join her in the task of living like the poor and devoting a lifetime to serving them. Our legacy endures in direct proportion to the people who are influenced by our life and deeds.

G = Guidelines | Mother Teresa established clear guidelines so that those interested in becoming Missionaries of Charity would know without question what they were committing to. The life of a Missionary of Charity is not an easy one and she wanted for those interested to commit with their eyes open. These faithful servants maintain the integrity of what Mother Teresa started.

A = Access | Mother Teresa kept an open door. I have spoken with several people this week who knew her personally. In spite of her worldwide reputation, she remained approachable and accessible. Awards and recognitions did not change her. She died in the same small room with stark furnishings that she had lived in since founding the Missionaries of Charity.

C = Communication | Mother Teresa wrote letters and notes to those who served with her. Many books have been published about her life and her inspirational quotes are posted in every one of her homes. I enjoyed reading daily quotes by Mother Teresa that are written on a small chalkboard every morning at Mother’s House. They are simple yet profound messages that urge us to live in a Christ-like way.

Y = Years | Mother Teresa looked beyond the years she had on earth to envision something that would outlast her and continue to touch hurting humanity through practical expressions of God’s love. She made careful provision for the sustainability of her vision. The poorest of the poor continue to be the beneficiaries of her compassionate vision years after her death.


  1. Omar,

    I just opened my computer & keep reading your post’ Kolkata’s North Star’ I so glad to learning things about Mother Teresa.

    She showed & taught us that, how to make intimacy with the least.

    Thanks for the keep posted!


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