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Mother Teresa's life of selfless devotion


It's been 13 years since Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack and died at 87 years old on Sept. 5, 1997 in Calcutta. Thursday, Aug. 26, marked the 100th birthday of this great woman.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
26 August 1910-5 September 1997

The day after she died, she was supposed to have led an interfaith memorial prayer service in Calcutta for her friend Diana, Princess of Wales, who had been tragically killed in a car accident one week earlier.

How well I remember those days… my own father died on August 27 that year. On the night I returned to Toronto from his funeral, the Princess was killed in the horrible car crash in Paris. One week later, Mother Teresa was called home to God. I commentated her funeral for several national television networks in Canada. The pomp, precision and somber majesty of Princess Diana's London farewell one week earlier were hardly visible in the chaotic scenes of Mother Teresa's simple wooden casket riding on a gun carriage through the mobbed and chaotic streets of Calcutta for her State funeral.

Mother Teresa's life was not a sound byte, but rather a metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness. Her most famous work began in 1950 with the opening of the first Nirmal Hriday (Tender Heart) home for the dying and destitute in Calcutta. Mother's words remain inscribed on the walls of that home: "Nowadays the most horrible disease is not leprosy or tuberculosis. It is the feeling to be undesirable, rejected, abandoned by all."

There are critics in the Church, and not a few religious women and men, who say that Mother Teresa personified a "pre-Vatican Council" view of faith and did not address systemic evils. They criticized her and her followers for their relentless condemnation of abortion. Some have said that in Mother Teresa, there was no element of prophetic criticism in her teachings and her lifestyle. Instead of acting sensibly by applying for government grants to create programs to eliminate poverty, Mother Teresa and her sisters moved into neighbourhoods and befriended people. Their houses often become oases of hope and peace, like the ones in Canada, and especially the convent in downtown Toronto. When Mother Teresa spoke of ‘sharing poverty,' she defied the logic of institutions that preferred agendas for the poor, not communion with individual poor people. Agents and instruments of communion are often called irrelevant by the world.

Several years ago this tiny nun made the news big time ago with the publication of her letters. Many in the media got the story wrong, believing that the letters were an admission that her faith had been lost. These people seemed unaware that those who prepared Mother's Beatification in 2003 cited the same letters as proof of her exceptional faith and not the absence of it.

Mother Teresa tells us in those deeply personal messages that she once felt God's powerful presence and heard Jesus speak to her. Then God withdrew and Jesus was silent. What Mother Teresa experienced thereafter was faith devoid of any emotional consolation. In the end Mother Teresa had to rely on raw faith, hope and charity. These are the virtues of all Christians, not just the spiritual elite. She was, after all, one of us.

Mother Teresa tells us in those deeply personal messages that she once felt God's powerful presence and heard Jesus speak to her. Then God withdrew and Jesus was silent.

Years ago, during my graduate studies in Rome, I met Mother Teresa several times while I was teaching her sisters in a slum neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Eternal City. At the end of our first visit, she blessed my forehead before placing into my hands one of her famous business cards unlike any I had ever seen.

On one side of the card were these words: "The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE. God bless you. – Mother Teresa."

There were no e-mail address, phone number or web site on the card. Mother didn't need an address back then. And Blessed Teresa of Calcutta certainly doesn't need contact information today. Everyone now knows where she is and how to reach her.



Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, "Mother Teresas life of selfless devotion." National Post, (Canada) August 23, 2010.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.

The Author

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network. He is a Consultor for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and a member of the General Council of the Congregation of St. Basil.  Father Rosica holds advanced degrees in Theology and Sacred Scripture from Regis College in the Toronto School of Theology [1985], the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome [1991] and the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem [1993]. From 1994-2000 Fr. Rosica served as Executive Director and Pastor of the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto. He began lecturing in Sacred Scripture at the Faculty of Theology of the University of St. Michael's College in 1990 and has continued until the present.  From 1999-2003, he served as the National Director and Chief Executive Officer of World Youth Day 2002 and the Papal Visit to Canada.  Father Roscia is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. He can be reached at:

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