Everyone can learn from Mother Teresa

On Sunday, Mother Teresa will become a saint. Almost exactly 19 years after the day of her 1997 death, she will be canonized by the Catholic Church.
A poor Yugoslavian girl born in 1910, who began as a teenager to serve those even poorer than herself, is to enter the pantheon of thousands.
Teresa became a nun at age 18, then left for India one year later, in 1929. Her order, Missionaries of Charity, was not formally founded until 1950, but the poorest of the poor had long before begun blessing the woman wrapped in blue-edged white and those who followed her. The Catholic religious generally wear crosses on their chests; Teresa’s followers use them on their left shoulders, to secure their simple saris.
The Church requires proof: one miracle for beatification — the step preceding possible entry into the canon — and an additional one for the ultimate honor. Modern miracles are seldom — maybe never — like those attributed to Jesus: no water into wine, no multitudes fed with a few loaves and fishes. They are most likely to be in areas of health, involving what physicians today call incidents of spontaneous recovery without their assistance — “a cure inexplicable in light of present-day medical knowledge.”
If the family depicted in the recent film Miracles from Heaven had been Catholics who prayed to a certain Blessed, their child — who, after a head-first fall that alone might have killed her, instead emerged minus the intestinal problem that had been threatening her life — might well have moved a candidate forward. But it was actually another abdominal problem that paved the way for this newest Saint to first become Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Her first miracle took place in Iraq, where in 2002 a woman patient “… applied a locket with Mother’s picture in it (to her inoperable tumor). There was a beam of light …” And after much study of the healing that followed, the miracle was affirmed.
A second verified miracle must lead the way to sainthood. Teresa’s occurred in Brazil in 2008. That patient was a man with a viral brain infection who had been in a coma, slowly dying, for months. Every day his wife prayed at his bedside, but on that final day, she called the family’s priest and nine relatives and friends to join her in prayers to Blessed Teresa. The next morning, the man awoke as normal, and was soon able to resume his pre-illness life. Catholics believe that saints have direct contact with God, and can exercise such influence in Heaven.
Mother Teresa’s followers now number 5,000, including some men, known across the world as Missionaries of Charity. You may be surprised to know that five of her nuns are here, in an unobtrusive house in Dallas, dedicating their lives to giving comfort and all necessary assistance to unwed mothers, and feeding many struggling neighbors with good produce from their outsized garden.
I know them because the Rotary Club I belong to provides help to these Sisters as one of our ongoing service projects; our members prepare their soil every spring, and help with planting and harvesting during the growing season. But the Sisters have asked us not to say much more than this little bit about them; that was Mother Teresa’s way.
Since his election to the Throne of Rome in 2013, Pope Francis has already canonized more than 800, including two of his papal predecessors and, as a group, more than 500 Italians who, back in 1480, chose death rather than convert to Islam — an incident more than a bit reminiscent of our own ancestors at Masada. But on this day, all of us can honor the newest saint, the humble Teresa of Calcutta, by appreciating her wise words that cut across faiths as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979: “I am a pencil in the hand of the writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

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