Vatican declares Mother Teresa as Saint Teresa!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
As a historic day for Christianity, Pope Francis on September 04 Sunday declared Mother Teresa of Kolkata, revered for her work among the poor, a Saint of the Catholic Church. “We declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a Saint,” the Pope said, to a roar from the thousands gathered at St. Peter’s Square here, including many Indians who held or waved the Indian flag. “We enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. The Pope invoked the trinity: In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!”
In 2002, the Vatican ruled that an Indian woman’s stomach tumor had been miraculously cured after prayers to Mother Teresa. Pope Francis cleared the way for sainthood last year when he recognised a second miracle attributed to her. She died in 1997 – aged 87 – and was beatified in 2003, the first step to sainthood. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. The sisterhood now has 4,500 nuns worldwide.
A mass of pilgrims flooded the Vatican on Sunday to celebrate the highly anticipated canonization of Mother Teresa, an event that Catholics and non-Catholics alike had looked forward to since the nun’s death in 1997. Saint Teresa, known as Mother, has been an inspiration for millions of humans who seek spiritual guidance for better religious selfless living, serving the cause of humanity. Mother Teresa was famed for her foundation of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a group of Roman Catholic women dedicated to the destitute, particularly in India.
The Vatican granted her permission to leave the Sisters of Loreto and to live her new call under the guidance of the Archbishop of Calcutta. Catholic News Agency said Mother Teresa’s canonization was significant not only because it took place during the Jubilee of Mercy but also because it fell during a special September 2-4 Jubilee celebration for workers and volunteers of mercy, of whom Mother Teresa is widely considered one of the greatest.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. After doing iconic work in the slums of Calcutta (now Kolkata) that won universal acclaim, she died in 1997 at the age of 87. She was beatified in 2003, the first step to sainthood. Two miraculous cures of the sick after Mother Teresa’s death have been attributed to her intercession. The youngest of three children, she attended a youth group run by a Jesuit priest called Sodality, which eventually led her to becoming a nun. She joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 17 and was sent to Calcutta, where she taught at a high school. After contracting tuberculosis, she was sent to rest in Darjeeling. It was on the way that she felt what she called “an order” from God to leave the convent and live among the poor.
At the time of her passing in 1997, Mother Teresa’s order consisted of hundreds of centers in more than 90 countries, with 4,000 nuns and hundreds of thousands of lay workers, and in her lifetime she was awarded numerous awards, none more famous than the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1979.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhia, better known as Mother Teresa, was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje in Macedonia. She was the youngest of three children of an Albanian family. As she was pink and plump, her brothers and sisters fondly called her `Gonxha` (flower bud). From childhood, the children were taught lessons of charity. Agnes liked to be in church and spend most of her free time reading, praying and singing.
About 1,500 homeless people from across Italy were brought to Rome in buses to attend the celebration and then a pizza lunch served by 250 nuns and priests of the Sisters of Charity order, media reports said. Tens of thousands of people flocked to Vatican City’s St Peter’s Square on Sunday to watch Pope Francis declare Mother Teresa a saint. Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass and Canonization on Sunday on the eve of Mother Teresa’s 19th death anniversary. She died on September 5, 1997, the BBC reported. Many pilgrims arrived at the Vatican before dawn on Sunday to get a good spot for the Mass, BBC reported. 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 Sisters of Charity order.
Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa Cardinal Angelo Amato read a brief biography of the work of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa and then asked the Pope to canonize her in the name of the Church. In his speech, the Pope also said: “For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a Saint.” Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity Sisters attended the event, along with several heads of state or government.
At the Vatican in front of large crowds, Francis praised Mother Teresa, an “emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life,” for her life’s work, which came to an end much more recently than that of most other saints, when she passed away in 1997. Speaking on Sunday, Francis admitted that it would be difficult for him and other admirers of the Albanian-born nun to make the switch from “Mother Teresa” to “St. Teresa,” as her saintliness is “so close to us.”
The decision to canonize Mother Teresa was a controversial one, especially so soon after her death. Some argued that, with the canonization so closely following her passing, the nun’s human flaws and weaknesses were too fresh in people’s minds. But others, such as Ines Angeli Murzaku, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, say the fact that St. Teresa may still feel more like a person than a saint in public memory is a good thing. “Critics who regard her as having been inflexible and fanatical don’t realize how human she really was,” writes Tim Stanley for The Telegraph. “She was not a relic of the Medieval hospice. She was every bit a 21st century saint: a woman from a poor country, tortured by doubt, whose spirituality was focused on care for the disadvantaged.
One question remains: why has the Church Pope taken so much of time in recognizing the Mother as Saint Teresa for her services to Christianity and humanity? She should have been given this spiritual status while she was still alive and at least soon after her death. Typically, saints are canonized decades or even centuries after their death.
The inordinate delay in Saint Teresa’s due recognition by the Church puzzles everyone – both Christians and others.