Tens of thousands of faithful are expected to turn out for the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Sunday. Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor, the sick, the dying and unloved. She received numerous awards for her work, including the Nobel peace prize in 1979. Mother Teresa died on September 5th, 1997 at the age of 87. She was beatified bby Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Missionary of Charity Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk was postulator for her canonization cause. He told Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure, “She was very gifted humanly speaking. She was intelligent, very practical, a born teacher, organizer… she sang, had a beautiful voice; she played an instrument, she wrote poetry. She had many gifts.”
He added that Mother Teresa expected the 4,000 sisters who now make up the order to be devoted to Jesus and to live a life of simplicity: “The sisters who joined were very talented doctors, nurses and others – but they were supposed to live simply as all the other sisters. And she herself did it.”
“She disguised the profundity of her holiness by the exterior simplicity of her life and of her words, even.”
“If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of Darkness”
“If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of Darkness,” Mother Teresa once said. She also believed she would be “absent from heaven.” Asked what she meant by this, Fr. Brian explained:
“I think it was Mother Teresa’s ‘mission statement’ of what she will be doing when she, as she used to say, ‘goes home to God.’ From the letters that we discovered [after her death] when we began collecting the documents that were published in “Mother Teresa Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,” to the surprise, if not shock of everyone, even the sisters closest to Mother Teresa, we discovered that her interior experience was what she called ‘the Darkness’ and that she is a woman passionately in love with Jesus.”
The shock was greatest because Mother Teresa’s seemingly never-ending energy and organizational skills had led everyone to believe she lived with the consoling knowledge of Jesus’ love for her.
Yet the letters revealed “that she is feeling unloved, unwanted by Jesus,” noted Fr. Brian. “She feels that she cannot love Jesus as she wants to love him: as he’s never been loved before – which is a daring resolution to even make if you’re taking it seriously.”
Fr. Brian recalled reading some of her correspondence to the sisters in the mother house in Calcutta, India, who knew her well. “They were really crying because you were reading them and you know Mother, it’s your mother, and then you’re hearing this and you have a sense of how she’s suffering…”
Some of the most revealing of her letters were addressed directly to Jesus, to whom she described her agony over doubts about the strength of her faith and Jesus’ love for her.
She wrote, ‘I am willing to go through this for all eternity even if this is for your pleasure or if others can benefit from this, if it were possible’ explained Fr. Brian. “The magnanimity, the great soul in this is just tremendous: ‘I want to satiate your thirst with every drop of blood that you can find in me.’ So that’s why when you are reading this or hearing this, the sisters were crying in the mother house. If that’s not love for God, then I don’t know what is.”
Did Mother Teresa know she would be made a saint?
Asked what Mother Teresa would have said if she knew that she would indeed be made a saint, Fr. Brian answered:
“I think that she was innocent and pure but she wasn’t stupid or naive. So I think that she had a sense that…. You know, at a news conference, a journalist would ask: ‘Well Mother Teresa, why do you think people call you a living saint?’ And then, she would say, … ‘you or we shouldn’t be surprised if you see Jesus in me because it’s an obligation for all of us to be holy.’”
“I think she must have had some sense that she would be (made a saint) but that said, I think one of her other outstanding virtues is humility,” continued Fr. Brian. “Because she was one of the most admired women in the 20th century – not just in the Church – not since St. Francis of Assisi has someone had that echo outside the Church. Of course we have other great saints but (who) has that echo? … Even in the culture, you’ll see in a movie or in a book or something, someone will say, ‘who do you think I am, Mother Teresa?’ There’s a sense that they just identify Mother Teresa with goodness, kindness, charity….”
The miraculous healing of Marcilio Haddad Andrino in 2008 in Brazil has been attributed to Mother Teresa’s intervention. Fr. Brain notes that Marcilio was “diagnosed as having a bacterial brain infection that led to multiple abscesses which led to hydrocephaly – water in the brain … his wife Fernanda began a novena to pray for his recovery.”
She kept praying through December 9th, recounted Fr. Brian, when “he was in such extreme pain from all the pressure of water on the brain that he went into a coma. Basically, on that day he was dying. So they kept praying – a doctor wanted to do an operation to drain the liquid and they couldn’t do it the normal way because there was a problem in the throat and the anesthesiologist was afraid to do it. Around 6:00, Marcilio was in the operating room, and around 6.10 pm the doctor left to try to find I think the endocrinologist or someone to do it in another way.”
When the doctor returned to the operating room at about 6:40 pm, Fr. Brian explained, “Marcilio who was already in a deep coma, 3 on the Glasgow scale – 15 is conscious and 3 is like near death – and then [suddenly], Marcilio is awake, no pain, and he looks around the operating room and says, ‘what am I doing here?’ At that time, his wife was also praying intensely.”
Neurosurgeons in Brazil and Rome who examined Marcilio’s before and after brain scans were dumbfounded: they “said there’s no way you can go from here to here,” Fr. Brian added. The doctor who treated Marcilio said of the thirty patients in his care for the same condition, Marcilio is the only one to have ever survived.
The “side” miracle, Fr. Brian says, is the fact that Marcilio and his wife, who had been told they would never be able to have kids, discovered that Fernanda was pregnant and went on to have two children.