Mother Teresa: Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

In 1979, Mother Teresa of Kolkata was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel Prize Committee:

… the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. The prize includes a medal, a personal diploma, and a large sum of prize money (currently 8 million Swedish crowns).

It was one of 124 prizes and awards she received over her 69 year religious life. As one might imagine, the tiny nun known for her work among the very poorest of the poor was not always thrilled with the recognition her work brought. She was always firm in telling people that it was not she who did the work, but God – always God.

Nevertheless, she traveled to Norway in 1979 to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In her lecture upon receiving the prize, she asked those assembled to pray together. Then she reminded those assembled (and the world) that they should be open to the will of God in the same way the Virgin Mary was, and it was Mary’s willingness to serve God that brought the very Prince of Peace into our world.

And as if that was not enough – it was not enough to become a man – he died on the cross to show that greater love, and he died for you and for me and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and New York, and London, and Oslo – and insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us. And we read that in the Gospel very clearly – love as I have loved you – as I love you – as the Father has loved me, I love you – and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour.

She spoke of the accolades and recognition she and her Sisters had received for their work, but she was stalwart in pointing always to Christ. And then she challenged all those listening to seek out the poor in their lives; not necessarily the monetarily poor, but those who craved love. For this lack of love, she said, was the greatest poverty our world experiences.

Because today there is so much suffering – and I feel that the passion of Christ is being relived all over again – are we there to share that passion, to share that suffering of people. Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society – that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult. Our Sisters are working amongst that kind of people in the West. So you must pray for us that we may be able to be that good news, but we cannot do that without you, you have to do that here in your country. You must come to know the poor, maybe our people here have material things, everything, but I think that if we all look into our own homes, how difficult we find it sometimes to smile at each, other, and that the smile is the beginning of love.

This tiny woman from Kolkata was unafraid to speak of Christ and His love for each of us, even in front of the most finely-dressed and most prestigious people on the planet. She was also unafraid to force them to examine their own lives – even in uncomfortable ways – to follow Christ’s example of love for the poor, the unwanted, the outcast. Surely, her words are as true today as they were 37 years ago.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa Of Kolkata: Our Newest Saint

In one month, Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa of Kolkata the Church’s newest saint. While most of us are familiar with her public work in India and elsewhere, it is good to learn more about this holy woman.

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, Mother Teresa was Albanian by birth, but lived most of her early years in Yugoslavia. At the age of just 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish order of teachers. During those years, she worked in India. However, God called her to something more.

Mother Teresa (the name she received when she entered the convent of the Loreto order) received a call from Christ to serve the poorest of the poor. In order to do that, she needed to leave her beloved Loreto Sisters and found a new order. She was determined that this order live among the poor, and that these sisters would live as the poor did: with as few possessions as possible.

Founding this new order took a great deal of determination. Mother Teresa was a tiny woman, with a warm smile and a heart for service. She was also one very determined lady. Although it took several years, she was finally given permission from the bishop to found her order: the Missionaries of Charity. These new sisters would wear simple saris, just like the women they would serve. The sisters would have only two habits: one to wear and another to change into when the first was dirty. They would wear sandals and carry rosaries. That was to be the sum total of their possessions. Mother Teresa felt strongly that in order to serve the poor, they must be poor themselves.

Her sisters would go out into the streets of Kolkata daily, feeding the poor, offering simple medicine for those who were ill and gathering the children for teaching and religious education. In twenty years, the order grew, as did their work.

Trusting entirely in God’s providence to sustain their work, in only three years they had built a motherhouse, established an orphanage, and set up a program to serve lepers throughout the city of Calcutta. Twelve years later they opened their first home outside of India. By 1971 the order ran 50 homes throughout the world, and many more were yet to come. Mother Teresa once told several sisters who were about to begin a new mission, “If there are poor people on the moon, we will go there.”

The work of the Missionaries of Charity was not without detractors. Many in India believed that the Sisters had set out to Christianize a Hindu nation. Others believed that the Sisters’ work was not enough: their hospices were not up to modern health standards, and they did little to actually help the poor, beyond offering food, simple medications and shelter. Through it all, Mother Teresa simply worked, serving her beloved poor.

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. In her acceptance speech, she implored those in the West to spread her mission of love themselves:

I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people. And find out about your next-door neighbour – do you know who they are? I had the most extraordinary experience with a Hindu family who had eight children. A gentleman came to our house and said: Mother Teresa, there is a family with eight children, they had not eaten for so long – do something. So I took some rice and I went there immediately. And I saw the children – their eyes shinning with hunger – I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often. And she took the rice, she divided the rice, and she went out. When she came back I asked her – where did you go, what did you do? And she gave me a very simple answer: They are hungry also.

Following her death in 1997, Pope John Paul II waived the five year period normally required for the process of canonization. He declared her “Blessed” in 2003 and Pope Francis will declare her a saint on September 4, 2016. The tiny woman who began her work with a call from God left a worldwide legacy that touched the lives of millions. However, she had only one focus: to serve God.

Mother Teresa’s spiritual vitality can be described with these words. “Don’t search for God in faraway lands. He is not there. He is close to you. He is with you. Just keep that lamp burning, and you will always see him.”

In the coming weeks prior to her canonization, we will explore more of the life and works of Mother Teresa. for now, let us take her advice and focus on the God who is with us here and now.