“I am like a little pencil in His hand, nothing else. He is the One who thinks. He is the one who writes. The pencil has nothing to do with any of this. The pencil only has to be used.” Thus spoke Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A famous Nobel Peace Prize (1979), defined herself merely as a tool in the hands of the Creator. A strong sign of humility and faith in God, a warning and a slap in the face of the powerful of this Earth. Pope Francis, who on Saturday met the participants in the Jubilee, volunteers and mercy operators, canonized Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu – that is her real name – in St. Peter’s Square. These were intense moments in the history of the Church: 100 thousand allowed to enter Bernini’s colonnade is only a small part of the crowd that was observing the invading celebration Via della Conciliazione and the adjacent spaces. A multitude that almost contrasts with the slender built by a nun who spent her life in India with the marginalized.
The work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is clear evidence of how love can generate unimaginable and extraordinary miracles. Her testimony, as affirmed by the Holy Father, “joins the innumerable men and women who have made visible the love of Christ through their holiness. Let us follow their example and ask to be humble tools in God’s hands to alleviate the suffering of the world and give joy and hope of resurrection.” Born on August 26, 1910, she came from an Albanian family in Skopje, the capital of present-day Macedonia. “She was tiny, but her faith was strong as a rock,” said Pope John Paul II. She “was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming Jesus’ thirsty love of humanity.” The history of Christianity includes a huge array of special people who have provided concrete examples to follow and imitate. The figure of Mother Teresa shows at the same time that saints are not unreachable “superheroes” but people like us who, after a journey of conversion, showed the victory of love over selfishness and of hope over death.
The first important choices of this woman began when she was 18 and left her home to enter the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as “the Sisters of Loreto”, in Ireland, where in 1937, she professed her perpetual vows. She was a teacher and the head of the St. Mary school before the fateful date of September 10, 1946. That day, traveling on a train from Calcutta to Darjeeling, she received “inspiration”, the “call within a call”, the irrepressible desire to serve God serving the needy. Thus, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to helping the poorest of the poor. Since 1948, year in which she wore for the first time the famous blue-bordered white sari – the colors of the untouchable caste – she had to wait until 1950 for the Archdiocese of Calcutta to acknowledge her congregation. Then, she obtained the Pontifical Right thanks to Paul VI in February 1965. Since then, she began expanding in all continents with hundreds of shelters and thousands of missionaries in tow, assisting the lepers, the dying, and all those who live on the edge of our society.
Mother Teresa is an example of the love that produces altruism, faces trials of life and pays no attention to the logic and good sense. “People are hungry for love, because we are all too busy,” said the great little Albanian nun. A keen observer of the society, she openly denounced the injustices in the world, without being overawed by anyone and always stressing that respect for the dignity of the human being from conception to natural death. “Today, we no longer even have time to meet, talk, and transmit each other joy – she explained –, not to mention being what our children expect from us, or husbands expect from their wives and vice versa. Thus, we are less and less in touch with each other. The world is in ruins, because of lack of sweetness and kindness”.
A collection of letters published a few years ago has reinforced her deeds, especially for those who for so long have doubted and opposed her actions. Words such as “dark nights”, “spiritual barrenness” and “torture of loneliness” have returned the Christians – and not only – the image of a woman who has experienced herself the problems and limitations of every individual, with doubts, questions, hard and traumatic fights, both in religious and human terms.
Because of health problems, at a certain point of her journey, the Missionary of Charity even resigned from her role as a superior, but at the general chapter she was re-elected and she accepted the task again. Before the confirmation, with a clarity and disarming simplicity, she confided: “No, I am not retired. The poor do not retire!” Moreover, “I have not resigned as Mother Teresa.” Despite the difficulties, Mother Teresa has never lost her enthusiasm and the constant search is of Christ, who was the “great absence”, but also the one for which she felt a “deep joy”. According to her, this was happiness: “that Jesus stops suffering his agony, wanting to suffer it through me.” On 5 September 1997, due to serious health problems, Mother Teresa left the earthly life to be reunited with the Heavenly Father. In Calcutta, her tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for people of every religion and social status.