By Astrid Lee
Whether titled ‘Goddess of kindness’ or ‘Saint of the gutter’, who hasn’t heard of Mother Teresa?
While we all seem to know of here, how many of us actually know the story of her life and work? I certainly did not know many details until I started reading and learning about this remarkable and inspirational woman.
The Christian Missionary Mother Teresa lived and worked most of her life in India. She died at age 87, in 1997. Within record time (i.e. in just a few years), she was declared a Saint in 2003.
‘Mother Teresa’ is not her real name. She was born in 1910 under the name Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She grew up in an Albanian family in Macedonia. Like her two siblings, she went to the local school. But at age 12, Mother Teresa felt the Call of God.
By the time she was 18, Agnes went to the Loreto Abbey in Ireland to learn English, the language the Sisters of Loreto used to teach school children in India. She arrived in India in 1929, and took her vows as a nun in 1931. At that time she chose the name ‘Teresa’ after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. Mother Teresa taught at the St Mary’s High School Convent in Calcutta for 17 years.
Then, she got a call within a call: ‘to be God’s Love in action to the poorest of the poor, the forgotten people of the city’. So, in 1948, Mother Teresa set aside her nun’s habit and put on an Indian sari, and really went to WORK! :
In the face of such extreme misery, Mother Teresa struggled to maintain her belief. This make her outstanding actions for humanity even more pronounced.
By the early 1970s, Mother Teresa had become an international celebrity. Her fame can be in large part attributed to the 1969 documentary Something Beautiful for God.
In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work, which she accepted on behalf of the poor and destitute everywhere. Other awards are: the title Padmashri, ‘Lord of the Lotus’ for her services to the people of India (1963, Indian gvmt); the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971, Pope); and many other awards. An BBC broadcast of her inspiring work helped her gain worldwide recognition.
Mother Teresa was living proof that “devoted hard work + loving compassion” translates in both a successful and long life. I recently read a neat saying that ‘if you take one step toward Spirit (or God), Spirit takes a thousand steps towards you.’ This seems to be particularly true in Mother’s life. With no resources of her own other than her personal values, she managed to attract the people and funds she needed to realize her thousands of altruistic and humanistic projects. She manages to continue living as a role model for our beings and our souls.
Some of the wise words Mother Teresa said include:
“The poor give us much more than we give them. They’re such strong people, living day to day with no food. And they never curse, never complain. We don’t have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.”
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them. Put your love for them in living action. For in loving them, you are loving God Himself.”
When Mother Teresa received the prize, she was asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered “Go home and love your family.”
About the Author
Astrid Lee is Reiki Master Teacher of the Usui System of Natural Healing. She is inspired and humbled by Mother Teresa. With an MBA in her pocket, Astrid only starts to get her act in to gear where it matters most: love & compassion for all people, and assisting the healing industry towards greater effectiveness.