Five Degrees of Blessed Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was Catholic in the truest sense of the word -- universal. "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus." As her Feast Day is September 5th, here are five ways Mother Teresa is connected to the Universal Church.
St. Therese: Mother Teresa had not one, but two, two ties to St. Therese. She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Gonxha means "rosebud" or "little flower" in Albanian. St. Therese was also called the “Little Flower”. Later, when Mother Teresa took her first religious vows, she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.
St. Francis of Assisi: As St. Francis was devoted to the poor and especially lepers, Mother Teresa served in a similar fashion. She also incorporated Franciscan spirituality into her Missionaries of Charity, where St. Francis’s vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and submission to Christ are similar to her Orders. Additionally, the sisters pray St. Francis’ peace prayer during thanksgiving after Communion.
St. John of the Cross: Astonishingly, it was revealed several years ago in Mother Teresa’s book of letters ,“Come Be My Light”, that Mother Teresa suffered darkness for 50 years. This book is a must-read. She wrote “as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand." In another letter, she stated “I have come to love the darkness for I believe now that it is a very small part of Jesus' darkness and pain on earth.” This “Dark Night of the Soul” was endured by St. John of the Cross, among others. These saints, like Mother Teresa, didn’t feel abandoned by God, but rather embraced the silence and suffering as a share of Christ’s Passion.
Blessed John Paul II: Mother Teresa met John Paul II numerous times. She was beatified by him in 2003, who named her officially "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta". John Paul II, himself now Blessed, had this to say of Mother Teresa: "Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart."
Pope Benedict XVI: Pope Benedict XVI wrote that "in the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service.”. In fact, he discussed Mother Teresa three times in Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), his first encyclical, using her partially as an example to complement his thesis.
Mother Teresa was the small woman who implored us all to simply do “small things, with great love”. Her love was universal; she reminded us in her actions that we are all members of the Body of Christ, as “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”