It can take the machinery of the Roman Catholic Church centuries to decide that someone is a saint, but in the case of Mother Teresa, the nun who championed compassion and mercy for poor people in India and, by her leadership, around the world, it took just 19 years, the BBC reports.
Her life has touched so many. I myself once worked with a woman who had worked side by side with Mother Teresa at an orphanage she founded in Calcutta.
Pope Francis yesterday referred to her as “an icon of the good Samaritan,” referring to the parable told by Jesus about a man who gives comfort to another man who had been robbed and left for dead, even as political and religious leaders rush off to their ceremonies and worldly duties. The reference is clear: showing mercy and compassion toward our fellow human being ranks higher than our office or even our belief system, Pope Francis suggests by the reference.
“She was one with us,” Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa in 1950, said at a Vatican news conference on Friday. “She never wanted or accepted anything not common with all the sisters.”
All 100,000 tickets to the canonization ceremony this morning in St Peter’s Square had been distributed, the Vatican reported.
The process of documenting the life and virtues of a holy man or woman can’t start until five years after death, EWTN, a Catholic media company based in Hanceville, Alabama, writes. “This waiting period ensures that the person has an enduring reputation for sanctity among the faithful. It can be waived by the [pope], and has been done on two occasions. Pope John Paul II waived three years of the waiting period in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Pope Benedict XVI waived all five years in the case of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.”
Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia in 1910. She became a nun and changed her name to Teresa when she was 18. Her first orphanage opened in India in 1957, and she died in 1997, after establishing a network of workers for her order that today includes more than 4,000 people in 120 countries.
But she had her critics, mostly from the secular world. For example, London-based physician Aroup Chatterjee blasted her after interviewing people associated with her religious order. He charged her existing facilities with adopting unscientific and unapproved practices such as reusing hypodermic needles and maintaining unsanitary conditions.
Others have said her ongoing work hasn’t helped the needy at all. “Standing firm against planned parenthood, modernization of equipment, and a myriad of other solution-based initiatives, Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor but rather a promoter of poverty,” writes Hemley Gonzalez, now a resident of Miami who worked for a few months in one of Mother Teresa’s facilities in Calcutta, on a Facebook page dedicated to stopping the unsafe practices at Mother Teresa’s care facilities. He charges the charity launched by Mother Teresa with medical negligence and financial fraud.