by M. K. Eelaventhan, Toronto, September 3, 2016
September is a month of significance because Mother Teresa passed away on 5th September 1997 at the age of 87.
Mother Teresa reflects the thinking – the utterence of Pongunthenar, the universal poet of the Sangam age, who said the following, “every country is my country and every man is my kinsman.” Father Thaninyayagam,the cultural ambasador of the tamils was fond of this saying. When Father Thaninyayagam made this pronouncement at the International Tamil Conference in 1966 in Malaysia, “every country is my country and every man is my kinsman,” it was echoed and re-echoed by the Malaysian prime minister at that time, Tunku Adbul Rahman with a standing ovation to what was said.
The month of September witnesses the birth and death of world personalities and Mother Teresa is one of them who passed away on 5th septmber 1997. Her canonisation as a saint took place on 4th september 2016 a day before her 19th anniversary of her death.
mother teresa was a divinely inspired personality. she was born on 26 august ,1910. she was an Albanian by birth. she passed on sept 5th 1997 at the age of 87. keeping with the noble concept “my duty is to serve and its god’s duty to look after me.” mother teresa founded the missionaries of charities roman catholic religious congregation. it consisted of 4500 sisters and was active was in 133 countries. this was the figure in the year 2012. they run hospices and homes for people with hiv-(aids), leprosy and tuberclosis. they also run soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics. they also run children and family counsel programmes, orphanages and schools. Being disciplinary, body members must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. the fourth vow is more important than what is being mentioned about. to quote “whole hearted free service to the poorest of poor.”
mother theresa was recognised for her services and the world responded. 1979 she was given the nobel prize for her services. on 19th october 2003 she beatified as “blessed teresa of calcutta.” in december 2015 pope francis recognized her second miracle, paving the way for her to be recognized as a saint by the roman catholic church.
tracing her biography she was the youngest child in the family. her father was involved in the politics of the albanian community in macedonian community and he died in 1990 when teresa was only eight years old. her father’s ancestry traced to prizren, kosovo and her mother’s origin is traced to a village near gjakova. mother teresa whose origianl name was agnes was fascinated by the services rendered by the christian missionaries and by the age of twelve she committed herself to the religious life. her final resolution to serve was taken on 15 august 1928 while praying at the shrine of the black madonna of vitina-letnice.
agnes left home at 1928, at the age of eighteen to join the sisters of loreto abbey in rathfrarnham, ireland to learn english. she considered the knowledge of english as a must for her religious propagation. after she left her home at the age of 18, she never saw her mother or her sister again. a turning point takes place in her career when she arrived in india in 1929 and began her novitaite in darjeeling near the himalayan mountains. she taught at st. tersa’s school which was near her convent. she took her first religious vows as a nun on 24 may 1931. she served at the convent for almost 20 years and in 1944 was appointed as headmistress.
though teresa enjoyed teaching school the poverty that she saw in calcutta moved her to tears. the bengal famine from 1943 brought misery and death to the city. and the climax of hindu-muslim violence in august 1946 drowned the city in chaos and turmoil.
teresa experienced “a call within a call” on 10 septmeber 1946. this decision made her leave the convent and serve the poor people. though no one knew the change, sister teresa had now become mother teresa. she left her traditional loretto habit and replaced it with simple white cotton saree decorated with a blue border. then she got herself trained in the holy family hospital in patna. she was helped in her mission by a group of young women to serve the poorest among the poor.
by this time she attracted the attention of the indian prime minister and the indian government. to quote her own words in her diary” she had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. she further added in her dairy “our lord wants me to be free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. today, i learned a good lesson. the poverty of the poor must be hard for them. while looking for a home i walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. i thought how much they much ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. then, the comfort of loreto (her former congregation) came to tempt me. you have only to say the word and all that will be yours again. “the tempter kept on saying… of free choice, my god, and out of love for you, i desire to remain and do whatever be your holy will in my regard. i did not let a single tear come.’
her resolve is expressed in the following words, “the hungry,the naked, the homeless,the crppled,the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted,unloved,uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
her congregation which began with 13 members in calcutta by 1997 it had grown to more than 4000 sisters running orphanages aids hospices and charity centres worldwide and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged,alcoholic, the poor and the homeless, victims of floods, epidemics and famine
in the most unexpected way she made another history by opening the first home for the dying in 1952. with the help of indian officials she converted an abandoned hindu temple into a kalighat home for the dying. she renamed it “the home of the pure heart” and also indianize the name to nirmal hriday. though she was a catholic she was a catholic in outlook by giving an opportunity to die with dignity according to rituals of their faith. muslims were read the quran, hindus received water from the ganges and catholics received the last rites and described as “a beautiful death, for the people who lived like animals but died as angels.” mother teresa through her missionary of charity took increasing number of children to be looked after. in 1955 she opened the nirmala shishu bhavan-the children’s home.
her charitable contribution attracted the world attention. and her first house outside india was opened in venezuela in 1965 with five sisters. this move was followed in rome, tanzania, austria, asia, africa and united states.
later she started missionaries of charities approximately for 450 brothers and 5000 sisters covering six hundred missions in one hundred and twenty countries. when we think of the services she rendered to humanity we cannot but recollect what saint appar in the seventh century said,” my duty is to serve and god’s duty is to serve me.” this saying of his echoes and rechoes in the life of mother teresa.
in conclusion what mother teresa said of herself is worth quoting. these are her words “by blood i am an albanian, by citizenship an indian. by faith i am a catholic nun. as to by calling i belong to the world. as to my heart i belong entirely to the heart of jesus. as the writer said earlier though she was a catholic nun she was a catholic in outlook. again it’s very interesting to note that she reflects the thinking – the utterence of pongunthenar the universal poet of the sangam age said the following,” every country is my country and every man is my kinsman.” father thaninyayagam quotes it not out of context if this writer expresses father thaninyayagam the cultural ambasador of the tamils was often fond of this saying. when father thaninyayagam made this pronouncement at the international tamil conference in 1966 in malaysia” every country is my country and every man is my kinsman , “ it was echoed and re-echoed by the malaysian prime minister at that time tunku adbul rahman with a standing ovation to what was said.
her death was mourned by all countries breaking the geographical boundaries. indian government granted a state funeral for her in gratitude for her services for the poor for all the religions in india. nawaz sharif the prime minster of pakistan said’” she was a rare and unique indiviudal who lived long for higher purposes. her life long devotions to the care 0f the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged was one of the highest examples service to humanity.”
the climax of tribute to her came from former un secretary general javier perez de cueller who said “she is the united nations, she is the peace in the world.”