August 26, 2010, marked the centenary of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata). The one-hundredth anniversary of this holy woman’s birth provides an opportunity for celebration, but also for reflection. Mother Teresa taught the world the meaning of charity, and her faith is an inspiration to many.
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia, she was born a citizen of the Ottoman Empire. Agnes joined the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland when she was eighteen. She loved those she ministered to with her physical touch. She laid her hands on those dying of hunger, tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS.
In 1946, she was taking a train to Darjeeling. Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, was a popular summer retreat. On the journey, she had a mystical experience in which Christ spoke to her. She founded the Missionaries of Charity Sisters to minister spiritually and physically to the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She died on the fifth of September, 1997. Less than two years later, Pope John Paul II opened her Cause of Canonization. She was beatified (a step toward sainthood) on October 19, 2003.
In 2007, on the tenth anniversary of her death, the book ‘Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,’ containing her letters and other writings edited and compiled by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, was published by Doubleday. The book revealed to the world Mother Teresa’s feelings of spiritual abandonment, which lasted nearly fifty years. She felt alone in her faith, as if she were sent out on a mission without any support.
Mother Teresa was once asked if unity among Christians was important. She replied:
« Yes, because Christians represent a light for others. If we are Christians, we must resemble Christ. » She was also a great believer in trusting the Lord to work through Christians to reach the unconvinced. She said, « God has His own means and ways of working in the hearts of people, and we do not know how close they are to Him. But in their actions we always have a clue to their attitude toward Him, whether or not they are responsive toward Him. Muslim, Hindu, or Christian, the way you live your life is the measure of your belonging to God. We cannot condemn or judge or speak words that might hurt. » She recognized that small actions often amounted to greater things: « We realize that what we are accomplishing is a drop in the ocean. But if this drop were not in the ocean, it would be missed. »
Human, humble, sometimes plagued by the thought her prayers were going unanswered, Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplified charity, faith, and giving of one’s self. She was fond of saying, « We are all called to love, love until it hurts. » One hundred years after her birth, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta continues to inspire love and devotion.