A FULLY INDIAN SAINT

September 3, 2016

With Mother Teresa's canonization taking place on Sunday September 4, 2016, the Indian Bishop's Conference has declared her “fully Indian saint,” though she was born in Skopje in what became the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Archbishop Felix Machado said, "She is truly an Indian saint because Mother Teresa came from elsewhere to India, but once she came to India, she made India her country, in her heart." He explained that she became Indian herself through her love for the poor of India. "Mother Teresa spent her life and with great pride as an Indian. She spent her life for every poor [person], for every Indian. She made the culture of India her own."

"She choose the sari as her official religious habit; that was a sign. She went in for something that was so much part of the life-culture of the people in Bengal. And she learned the Bengali language, and her gestures were always those of the Indian people."

Archbishop Machado said her inculturation in India was a reflection of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. "She became incarnate, completely incarnated, in the soil of India. And that is why her sainthood for us bishops is the sainthood of a true Indian saint."

Founder of the religious order, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor, the sick, the dying and abandoned. She received numerous awards for her work, including the Nobel peace prize in 1979.  Mother Teresa died on September 5th, 1997 at the age of 87.  In 2003  she was beatified by blessed John Paul II.

Mother Teresa was already widely revered as a saint during her lifetime for her work of charity for the poor, the sick and dying, starting her mission in India and then in many other countries around the world.

Our own connection Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk is postulator for her cause for Sainthood said that, she was very gifted teacher, a born teacher, organizer, she sang, had a beautiful voice; she played the instrument, she wrote poetry. She had many talents.

“If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of Darkness,”  Mother Teresa once said.  She also believed she would be “absent from heaven.” Asked what she meant by this, Fr. Brian explained: “I think it was Mother Teresa’s ‘mission statement’ of what she will be doing when she,  as she used to say, ‘goes home to God.’  From the letters that we discovered [after her death]  when we began collecting the documents that were published in “Mother Teresa Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” to the surprise, if not shock of everyone, even the sisters closest to Mother Teresa, we discovered that her interior experience was what she called “the Darkness”  and that she is a woman passionately in love with Jesus.”

The shock was greatest because Mother Teresa’s seemingly never-ending energy and organizational skills had led everyone to believe she lived with the consoling knowledge of Jesus’ love for her.

Yet the letters revealed “that she is feeling unloved, unwanted by Jesus,” noted Fr. Brian.  “She feels that she cannot love Jesus as she wants to love him: as he’s never been loved before - which is a daring resolution to even make if you’re taking it seriously.”

Some of the most revealing of her letters were addressed directly to Jesus, to whom she described her agony over doubts about the strength of her faith and Jesus’ love for her.  She wrote, “I am willing to go through this for all eternity even if this is for your pleasure or if others can benefit from this, if it were possible” explained Fr. Brian.   “The magnanimity, the great soul in this is just tremendous:  ‘I want to satiate your thirst with every drop of blood that you can find in me.’  So that’s why when you are reading this or hearing this, the sisters were crying in the mother house.  If that’s not love for God, then I don’t know what is.”

Asked what Mother Teresa would have said if she knew that she would indeed be made a saint, Fr. Brian answered: “I think that she was innocent and pure but she wasn't stupid or naive.  So I think that she had a sense that…. You know, at a news conference, a journalist would ask:  ‘Well Mother Teresa, why do you think people call you a living saint?’ And then, she would say, … ‘you or we shouldn’t be surprised if you see Jesus in me because it’s an obligation for all of us to be holy.’”

“I think she must have had some sense that she would be (made a saint) but that said, I think one of her other outstanding virtues is humility,” continued Fr. Brian.  “Because she was one of the most admired women in the twentieth century – not just in the Church – not since St. Francis of Assisi has someone had that echo outside the Church.  Of course we have other great saints but (who) has that echo? … Even in the culture, you’ll see in a movie or in a book or something, someone will say, ‘who do you think I am, Mother Teresa?’  There’s a sense that they just identify Mother Teresa with goodness, kindness, charity….”

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