Thursday, August 26, 2010

Celebrating Blessed Mother Teresa at 100

In The Economic Times, Magnum photographer Raghu Rai describes his experience meeting Mother Teresa and following her great work helping those impoverished for close to three deades.

'Magnum photographer Raghu Rai met Mother Teresa in the early 1970s and was immediately captivated by a woman who, from the age of 12, was fully aware of her “mission”.

Threading his way through the impoverished streets of Calcutta for more than three decades, he captured her spiritual commitment and daily fight against poverty. “It was a beatific radiance,” says Raghu Rai.

“Meeting Mother was like having a darshan; the aura was something that always stayed with you. And after 3-4 weeks of work, I would go back again. I use the word sewa to illustrate her dedication,” he says.

“Her daily act and sewa were so intense and powerful; her eyes held compassion, concern and love. If you look at any image in the show, there is so much strength in her very being. I always felt: here was a person who was absolutely 100% human... Here was a person who did only two things — being in prayer and looking after the sick... The last time I met her, we were sitting and waiting outside the ICU. They had put her in a wheelchair. What I saw when she came out is something I can never forget. I looked at her and saw a rare glow on her face, the magic of her eyes. It was like a chamatkar ... just watching her was enough. Here was a lady who never fluctuated. She was the same all the time.

There was so much to learn from Mother Teresa’s wonderful example.”'

Navin Chawla has written a great piece on Mother Teresa's life, which was dedicated to serving the Lord:

Today, August 26, 2010, the birth centenary of Mother Teresa will be marked with celebration and thanksgiving in many parts of the world. This simple nun with her unique brand of faith and compassion was able to alleviate loneliness, hunger and destitution by reaching out through a worldwide mission to millions of abandoned, homeless and dying destitutes, irrespective of their religion, caste, faith or denomination. In the process she became, indisputably, the conscience-keeper of her century.

As one who was associated with her for 23 years and became one of her biographers, it is not easy to encapsulate her remarkable journey. Born in Skopje, a city in the folds of the Balkans, then as now a crucible of many religions and races, she was the youngest of three children of deeply Catholic Albanian parents. Her father died when she was seven; her mother struggled to feed her family and turned increasingly to the local church for spiritual sustenance. Young Agnes (as she was then known) encountered uncertainty and adversity early in life. The lessons of diligence, discipline, frugality and kindness were imbibed in these early years.

Today, when teenagers often have difficulty making up their minds as to which course to study and where, Agnes had decided, at the age of 14, to serve as a missionary, not in her local church, but in faraway India, then a world apart, of which decision the only certainty was that she would never return home.

A new life opened in Calcutta in 1929. She had joined the Loreto Order as a novice aged 19. Here she would take her religious vows and teach for almost 20 years. In 1948, in an even more cataclysmic turn of events, again entirely of her own making, she left the convent doors behind her for a vision of the street. She had realised that this was where her true vocation lay, and she pursued this goal with diligence, even obstinacy. This she did till the Vatican made her its first exception in several hundred years, permitting her to step out of the Loreto Order, but with her vows intact. She would remain a nun but without belonging to an established Order of the Church. These were early signs of spirit and will power, together with prayerfulness and faith, laced with not inconsiderable charm, which would provide the propulsion for the quite incredible journey that lay ahead.

The early milestones lay in recognition within her adopted country – first by the legendary Chief Minister of West Bengal Dr. B.C. Roy, to be followed by national recognition when Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in India awarding her the Padma Shri in 1962. Later, another redoubtable Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, was to provide her his unstinted support.

By 1965, she had set up a vast network of service across India. The time had come for her to move her mission overseas. She saw need everywhere; there were plenty of the poor and hungry in divisive societies in each continent, in desperately poor and prosperous societies alike. And so she set up feeding centres and leprosy stations in Africa, AIDS hospices in North America, community programmers in the Australian outback, and a host of services that helped lift the most marginalised, hungry and lonely from a desolate life in streets and slums of Africa, Asia and the West.

“God loves a cheerful giver” was a refrain I would often hear as I walked with the smiling Sisters of her Order among sullen faces under London's Waterloo Bridge, serving them their only hot meal on a wintry night; in the process I saw where they spent their nights: coffin-sized cardboard boxes, their only homes. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, I talked to young AIDS sufferers in her hospices, knowing that I would never see them again. In Madrid, I met the aged and the destitute, wracked by a disease called loneliness, which Mother Teresa called the “leprosy of the West”. And then the final triumph, a centre carved in the heart of Catholicism itself, in the shadow of St. Peter's in the Vatican, handed over by a Polish Pope to an obedient but persistent nun. She appeared a frail figure against the rigid hierarchy of the Church, some of whose members frowned in private that the Vatican had hardly any space let alone for a soup kitchen. Yet, in my eyes, Mother Teresa and John Paul II had, at one stroke, demystified a thousand years of sometimes rigid Papal tradition, in an understanding of the deepest Christian ethic that they shared. CONTINUED

Here is another wonderful piece on Mother Teresa with some great pictures of her. She is truly an inspiration, a model for all to follow. She devoted her life to serving both God and the destitute.  

26 August 2010: It was exactly hundred years ago that one of the great servants of humanity, Blessed Mother Teresa was born in a foreign land and later joining a religious order came to India and eventually became an Indian citizen. Witnessing the miserable condition of the poor, sick, destitute and neglected and lonely, Mother Teresa found her second calling in helping and caring for these unfortunate people. Mother Teresa, by her unconditional service to the destitute and dying earned the epithet as the ‘Saint of the Gutters’ and following her death in September 1997, was beatified by Pope John Paul II as ‘Blessed Mother Teresa’ in 2003. On the occasion of the centenary of her birth, it would be appropriate to review briefly her life and work that has inspired a large number of people all over the world.

Mother Teresa was born to Nikollë and Drana Bojaxhiu of Albanian ethnicity on 26 August 1910 in Skopje in Serbia as their youngest of three children and was named Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Her father, who was involved in Albanian politics died in 1919 when his daughter Agnes was just eight years old. After her father’s death, her mother raised her as a Roman Catholic. According to a biography, in her early years Agnes was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service, and when she was twelve years old, Agnes was convinced that she should commit herself to a religious life. With the passage of time she strongly felt the Divine call and at the age of eighteen Agnes left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. Agnes was sent to Dublin in Ireland for training in English language and after few months she was sent to India.

Arriving in India in 1929, Agnes began her novitiate in Darjeeling and took her first religious vows as a nun on 24 May 1931. At that time she chose the name ‘Teresa’ after Theresa of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. Later, she took her final vows on 14 May 1937, while serving as a teacher at the Loreto Convent School in eastern Kolkata.

From 1931 to 1948, Mother Teresa taught geography and catechism in St. Mary’s High School in Kolkata. Although Mother Teresa enjoyed teaching at the school, she was increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Kolkata. The Bengal Famine of 1943 brought misery and death to the city; and the outbreak of Hindu-Muslim riots in August 1946, plunged the city into despair and horror. During this period Mother Teresa became thoroughly acquainted with the sufferings of the poor and the marginalized section of the people of Kolkata. The sight of misery and sufferings of the deprived and downtrodden outside the walls of her convent pinched her conscience and she felt an urge to do something for these unfortunate people to the extent of moving out of the four walls of the convent and living with and serving the poor.

Mother Teresa felt strongly that she had a second Divine call to reach out to the poor and destitute. This was what she later described as "the call within the call" while traveling to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Kolkata for her annual retreat during which she made up her mind to devote herself to work among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. When approached to her convent superiors with a request to be allowed to leave the convent to carry on her new mission, her superiors gave her permission to follow her ‘second calling’.  CONTINUED

God Bless and Happy Birth Centenary
Blessed Mother Teresa!!!

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