Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Saint of the Gutters

In 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje (now Macedonia), to Albanian parents. Her father was a grocer. At the young age of twelve she developed an interest in overseas missions and realized her calling...aiding and caring for the poorest of the poor.

Inspired by the Jesuit missionaries and their work in Bengal, she left home at eighteen to join a community of Irish nuns in Calcutta, India. There she was given the name Sister Teresa, after Saint Teresa of Lisieux, the patroness of missionaries.

And so began her life's work as the embodiment of comfort and love to India's poorest of the poor, the lepers, and outcasts. She gave dignity to the dying by opening the Nirmal Hriday (or Pure Heart) Home for Dying Destitutes. There, homeless people, uncared for and unacceptable at other institutions, were washed, fed, and allowed to die surrounded by loving faces.

Mother Teresa presided over an order of 4,000 nuns who ran orphanages, AIDS hospices, and other worldwide charities. In 1990, due to failing health, she attempted to resign, but during a secret ballot of her sisters, she was re-elected almost unanimously. The only dissenting vote was her own. She continued to lead until her death in 1997 at the age of eighty-seven.

About poverty she said: "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"

In a letter to U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, January 1991, she wrote: "Please choose the way of peace. ... In the short term there may be winners and losers in this war that we all dread. But that never can, nor never will justify the suffering, pain and loss of life your weapons will cause."

She vehemently opposed abortion, and is quoted as saying, Abortion "is murder in the womb ... A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him, give him to me." And because of her strong influence in India, is thought to have been the major stumbling block to family planning in that country.

When asked about the plight of the poor, she said, "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

And most profoundly, she said, "I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. "

Mother Teresa did not make everyone happy with her strong conservative Catholic beliefs but that didn't matter. She went on about the work she felt she was here to do and look at the impact one woman from Skopje made.

Use Mother Teresa as an example of God's love in this world, an example of peaceful, compassionate strength...a gently, effective way to walk through life. Believe in your dreams and the passion of your heart, work with all you have to make them come true.


NeoAuteur said...

I agree. The impact of Mother Teresa touched people beyond their faith.

Lisa McGlaun said...

After I posted this I read a few more articles. I guess there was some controversy after her death concerning the finances of her charities.

No one is without scandal in today's world, I guess.

La delirante said...

"after Saint Teresa of Lisieux" I have a book about her (it's my husband's actually) Amazing lives!

Lisa McGlaun said...

I agree. She helped countless numbers of people and lived in a way she felt pleased God.