Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

August 26, 2016

Canonization of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is to be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church on Monday, September 4, 2016, in Rome. The program for the canonization and several pieces of information on Mother Teresa are available at the official site of the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta Biography

A compelling example of a person who recognized the basic dignity and goodness of each person was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Such was her profound respect for others that in her lifetime people of many faiths recognized her as a living saint.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bonjaxhiu on August 26, 1910, in Albania. As a child she felt a desire to work for God. Her spiritual director assured her that she would know God was calling her if she felt joy with the idea of serving him in others. Agnes felt this joy and responded to the call by joining the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto, a missionary order active in India. Agnes’ training in religious life took place in Ireland where she took the name of Sister Teresa in memory of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. When sent to India, Sr. Teresa began her work by caring for the sick and starving and helpless mothers in a hospital run by her order. The endless misery she met in her first assignment greatly touched her.

Before long, Sr. Teresa was sent to Calcutta to become a teacher. She became an effective and popular teacher and was eventually named principal of a high school for middle-class girls. However, close to this school was one of the great slums of Calcutta. Sr. Teresa could not turn her eyes from the misery she found there. She continued to visit and minister to the poor in the slums and the hospitals, enlisting the help of her students in this precious work.

Eventually, Sr. Teresa responded to a vocation within a vocation. God called her to minister to the poorest of the poor. She left her order, received some medical training, and began to work directly with the poor. Her good example drew others, including some of her former students, to help her in her work. By 1950 she had received permission to found a new religious order, the Missionaries of Charity. Besides taking the traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Missionaries take a fourth vow, service to the poorest of the poor. This marks their way to live and spread Christ’s gospel—working for the salvation and sanctification of the poor.

Mother Teresa’s unselfish work for the forgotten ones in society won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. At the time of her death in 1997, the Gallup Poll reported that she was the most admired woman in the world. Her order had grown to serve the poor and suffering in many cities throughout the world: ministering to unwanted, abandoned babies; supporting unwed mothers; caring for dying AIDS patients; feeding the hungry; loving the unlovable.

Mother Teresa’s motivation was simple. She taught by example that when we help and love a poor person we are helping and loving Jesus. God is not absent from our lives. He lives in our neighbor, most especially in those we tend to neglect and dislike.

The bottom line for Mother Teresa was that she had the utmost respect for the basic dignity of each person. In her many speeches around the world, she encouraged her listeners to do something beautiful for God. Every person, no matter how small, is a person of great dignity. Every person is Jesus-in-disguise.

Two quotes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta for busy teens to think about:

  • "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
  • “There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives—the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family.  Find them.  Love them.”

Mother Teresa’s National Prayer Breakfast Speech

One of the most remarkable speeches ever addressed to officials of the United States government was delivered by Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast, February 3, 1994, sponsored by the United States Senate and House of Representatives.  In this historic address, Mother Teresa spoke out for the dignity of all human life, but especially of the innocent lives of unborn babies.

Prayer Reflection

Pray these words of Mother Teresa:

Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you.

Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say, “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”

Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to
disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or
impatience. . . .

Assignment

Research several additional quotations of Mother Teresa. Write in your journal the three most compelling lines that affected you the most.  Compare your selections with those of a classmate.

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