Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 19, 2015

Mother Teresa’s Sainthood

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. Agnes was influenced 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.

Mother Teresa
Agnes developed a special interest in missions and began to sense God’s call to the missionary life at the age of twelve. At eighteen, she joined the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto and served in India. In 1946, Sister Teresa sensed God’s call to leave the convent because she believed God was calling her to help the poor by living among them. She left the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in 1948 and founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge introduced Mother Teresa to the world in an interview aired by the BBC in 1967. Muggeridge was deeply touched by the life and work of Mother Teresa. He later traveled to Calcutta to produce a documentary about her and wrote a best-selling book entitled Something Beautiful for God: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Letters Poster
Earlier this week, my wife and I went to the movie theater to watch The Letters — a movie based on the letters that Mother Teresa wrote over a 50-year period to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem. The movie portrays Mother Teresa’s decision to leave her life as a cloistered nun and many of the obstacles she had to overcome in order to care for the least of these on the streets of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa understood the importance of being a part of God’s story. She once said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” She believed that her life was a part of a grander and divine narrative. She captured the imagination of the world because she allowed God to write a legible message of love through her life on the parchment of service to the poor.

This week, the Catholic church announced that Mother Teresa is to be granted sainthood. Catholics believe that a saint is someone who lived a holy life, is already in heaven, and is capable of interceding with God on behalf of those in need of help. The process of granting Mother Teresa sainthood was officially sealed when the Catholic church confirmed two miracles attributed to prayers to Mother Teresa.

The New Testament understanding of saints is a bit different from that of the Catholic church. In the New Testament, the word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” This term is almost always used in the plural, referring to a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. According to the New Testament, all Christians are saints and also called to be saints while they live on this earth. And, unlike the Catholic understanding of what it means to be a saint, saints in the Bible are called to worship and to pray to God alone.

My Catholic friends are certainly happy that Mother Teresa will be officially canonized or declared to be a saint by Pope Francis. Honestly, I am not surprised that Mother Teresa’s path to sainthood in the Catholic context only took years instead of centuries (as in the case of many other Catholic saints). Regardless of your view on what it means to be a saint, it’s hard to argue with the impact of Mother Teresa’s life.

Omar at Mother Teresa's
I have admired Mother Teresa since my college years. I understood then that this diminutive sari-clad nun had taken seriously the words of Jesus to care for the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). I never imagined that one day I would actually travel to Calcutta to serve in her homes, one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Through her years of selfless service to the poor, Mother Teresa unwittingly showed the world what it means to be a saint by living a life set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. In these days when nothing but hatred and murderous acts of violence have dominated our news, I am happy to be reminded of the life and example of Mother Teresa. Our world would certainly benefit from more saints who love others like Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: