At every canonization ceremony in the Catholic Church, people connected to the new saint carry to the altar a relic in a reliquary which is often an ornate work of art in gold or silver.
A relic is a keepsake, a tangible reminder that the new saint was human yet heroically lived a life of holiness.
The relic may be the purported or actual physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.
In the Catholic Church, a reliquary, also known as a shrine or by the French term châsse is used as a container for relics.
The relic presented at the Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta was a few drops of her blood contained in a phial embedded within the centre of a wooden reliquary in the form of a simple cross reflecting her life and values.
The back of the cross-shaped reliquary is made from Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani), a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region, known as a symbol of nobility and spiritual greatness.
The front of the large cross is made of wood taken from places associated with Mother Teresa’s works of mercy: The first home for the dying she established in Calcutta, a home for those with Hansen’s disease, an immigrants’ boat, a Gypsy shack, and wood from the kneeler of a confessional because Mother Teresa believed the “Sacrament of Penance” also known as “Confession” or “Reconciliation” was the greatest expression of God’s mercy.
In the centre of the cross, the phial of Mother Teresa’s blood is sealed in a glass orb in the shape of a water drop as a symbol of her vow to quench the thirst of those literally without water and those dying in the aridness of being unloved.
A roughly sculpted wrinkled hand supports the glass to symbolize that it carries this drop of water, full of love, in response to the cry of Jesus “I thirst” on the cross echoed by millions of people around the world.
The religious dress of the Missionaries of Charity bears special significance. The white colour of their sari stands for truth and purity and the three blue borders each signify the vows that the nuns of the Order take: the first thin band represents “Poverty”, the second thin band represents “Obedience”, and the third broad band represents the vows of “Chastity” and of “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.
The water drop on the reliquary is framed by a heart of three sweeping bands of blue on the left and a white band on the right to symbolize the sari St. Teresa adopted as a habit for her sisters of Missionaries of Charity as well as to express devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The three sweeping bands of blue on the left side of the heart are curved and bent to represent St. Teresa’s own curved form bent in prayer. The white band on the right side of the heart displays the words, “I thirst“ in gold, reproduced in St. Teresa’s handwriting.
The base of the reliquary is made of battered iron to represent how society always sees the poor people whom Mother Teresa loved with her whole heart.
At the end oflife, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the “nun of the gutters”, a champion for the poor, the dying and the unborn died on September 5, 1997.
Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing Mother Teresa.
As a fitting climax to a process that stretched on for almost 19 years, Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4, 2016, a day before Mother Teresa’s 19th death anniversary, formally declared Mother Teresa, as the newest saint of the Catholic Church at a ceremony that drew 100,000 pilgrims from around the world to St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
“For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta be saint and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.“
Pope Francis, however, acknowledged that despite the fact she now has a formal title as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta“, she will always remain “Mother Teresa” to the world. The pontiff said:
“We may have some difficulty in calling her ‘Saint’ Teresa, her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her “Mother”. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes of poverty they created.”
“If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness’. I will continually be absent from Heaven —to (light) the light of those in darkness on earth.”
– Prophetic words of Mother Teresa
Born Agnes Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Mother Teresa became world-famous for her devotion to the destitute and dying. The religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, she established in 1950, has more than 4,500 religious sisters around the world.
In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifetime of service to humanity.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta died on September 5, 1997.
Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing her.
Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., one of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, was appointed on March 9, 1999, as postulator (a person who presents a case for the canonization or beatification) of Mother Teresa’s cause.
The first session of the process of beatification leading to canonization took place at St. Mary Parish, in Rippon Lane, Calcutta, close to the Missionaries of Charity’s motherhouse.
As soon as the first stage of the process concluded on August 15, 2001, the second stage began in Rome.
Thirty-five thousand pages of documentation called the “Position” were collected in 2001 and 2002.
In the Catholic Church, humanitarian work alone is not sufficient enough for canonization as a saint. It is mandatory that a candidate for sainthood must be associated with at least two miracles to demonstrate that he or she, worthy of sainthood, must be in heaven, interceding with God on behalf of those in need of healing.
Robert Emmet Barron is an American prelate of the Catholic Church, author, theologian and evangelist, known for his Word on Fire ministry. As a frequent commentator on Catholicism and spirituality, he says:
“A saint is someone who has lived a life of great virtue, whom we look to and admire. But if that’s all we emphasize, we flatten out sanctity. The saint is also someone who’s now in heaven, living in this fullness of life with God. And the miracle, to put it bluntly, is the proof of it.”
In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised a miracle Mother Teresa was said to have carried out after her death in 1998. This miracle became the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Born and raised in Calcutta and a resident of the city during the period of Mother Teresa’s activity there, Aroup Chatterjee, a physician working in England authored the book Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict.
In the book Chatterjee challenges the widespread regard of Mother Teresa as a symbol of philanthropy and selflessness, accuses her of unfairly damaging the city’s reputation, that she exaggerated the work she did among the poor, that she failed to use the very large amount of money donated to her on helping the poor, and claims that the medical care given to people in homes run by Missionaries of Charity was grossly inadequate.
Channel 4, a British television channel aired a documentary named “Hell’s Angel” inspired by Chatterjee’s criticism. Christopher Hitchens, an Anglo-American author, social critic, journalist, and a well-known critic of Mother Teresa wrote and co-produced it with Tariq Ali.
In 2003, Aroup Chatterjee and Christopher Hitchens testified as two official hostile witnesses against the late nun as a so-called devil’s advocate to Church procedures for the beatification of Mother Teresa.
The miracle of curing the Bengali tribal woman was the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The First Miracle
Monica Besra hails from a tribal community in Nakor village, in Dakshin Dinajpur district, 280 miles north of Kolkata in eastern India. Now she is 50 years old and a mother of five children.
About 15 to 17 years back she developed an abdominal tumour. She was taken to the nearby government hospital. The treatment for her ailment was expensive and her family had to mortgage their land. Even after undergoing a lengthy medication process she was so sick she could barely walk.
In 1998, when everything else failed, Monica’s sister took her to the then-recently-opened Missionaries of Charity centre near their village.
She was so ill she couldn’t eat anything. If she ate, she would immediately throw up.
The Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took her to a doctor in Siliguri who said that she might not regain consciousness if operated upon.
On September 4, 1998, a day before Mother Teresa’s first death anniversary, the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took Monica to a small church in the premises to pray. As Monica was too ill to move, two Sisters supported her. There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there.
When she entered the Church a blinding light that emanated from Mother’s photo enveloped her. She did not know what was happening. The sisters prayed. Manica was too ill to sit for long and was soon brought back to her bed.
That night one of the Sisters after saying a prayer to Mother Teresa to help Monica get well soon tied a medallion of Mother Teresa on Monica’s abdomen.
After that, Monica who had trouble sleeping due to pain, fell asleep immediately. At about 1 AM she woke up to go to the bathroom. She was surprised to see her stomach was flat and the tumour was gone. She did not feel any pain. She went to the bathroom without help from anyone. When she returned from the bathroom, she woke up the woman sleeping in the adjacent bed and told her what had happened to her tumour.
In the morning MonicaI told the Sisters. and they took her to a doctor for a checkup. The doctor confirmed that she was cured of the tumour.
Back in 1998, Monica Besra’s claim of the miraculous cure by the intercession of the late Mother Teresa was, however, not without its detractors. The ‘miracle’ was hotly contested by doctors and rationalists alike. The doctors who had attended to her at the district hospital claimed that Monica was in fact cured because her tumour was detected at an early stage and by the medicines they gave her
Kolkata-based Prabir Ghosh, president of the Science and Rationalist Association of India, also challenged the miracle claims and the Canonization. He said:
“If people want to revere Mother Teresa for her social work, I have no problem. But these miracles are unreasonable. I challenge the Pope to cure every poor person in India who cannot afford medical care, by praying to Mother.”
Nonetheless, Monica Besra, her family members, and many others in her community firmly believe in the miracle and attend the local church regularly.
A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle. After combing the records and interviewing the medical staff involved, the committee determined that the healing was medically inexplicable.
As a first step towards sainthood, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II approved the miraculous cancer cure that occurred on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, in a fast-tracked process on December 20, 2002, barely five years after Teresa’s death. About 300,000 pilgrims attended the beatification ceremony at St. Peter Square on October 19, 2003 (World Missions Day).
The Second Miracle
The second miracle that took place in December 2008 involves Marcilio Haddad Andrino, a now-42-year-old mechanical engineer from Santos, Brazil.
In 2008, the recently married 35-year-old Andrino was affected by a bacterial infection in the brain which caused severe brain abscesses and agonizing head pain.
A priest, a friend of his told Andrino and his wife, Fernanda Nascimento Rocha, to pray to Mother Teresa for help cure his ailment.
Andrino underwent medical treatment. When the treatments failed, he slipped into a coma. While Rocha prayed to Blessed Teresa, he was taken in for a last-ditch surgery.
When the surgeon entered the operating room, he found Andrino fully awake asking him what was going on.
Andrino made a full recovery. Now, the couple has two children. Even though it was deemed a near medical impossibility by doctors, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause, referred to their children as a second miracle.
In December 2015, in an interview with the press, Father Kolodiejchuk explained why there was a delay between 2008 and 2015 in reporting the second miracle.
According to Father Kolodiejchuk, the miracle happened in 2008, but he became aware of it only in 2013.
The neurosurgeon who attended on Andrino was not a Catholic. Somehow, after the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil, something prompted him to tell one of the priests of Santos. This news eventually made its way to Father Kolodiejchuk and the postulation office and started the chain of events.
A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle in Brazil. In September 2015, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints accepted the findings of the medical commission and presented the report to Pope Francis for his final approval. On December 17, 2015, the Holy Father officially recognized the second miracle that was needed for Mother Teresa to be canonized.
The Vatican scheduled September 4, 2016, the day before her 19th death anniversary, as the canonization date for Blessed Mother Teresa, who thereafter will be known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
“God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”
“Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly.”
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
“I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’
I begged her: ‘You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him.’
It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’
Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness.
She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand.”
“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”
“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
“A life not lived for others is not a life.”
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
“Live simply so others may simply live.”
“Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.”
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”
“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
“People are unrealistic, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.”
“Work without love is slavery.”
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
“Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God – the rest will be given.”
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.”
“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”
“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”
“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?’”
“God made the world for the delight of human beings– if we could see His goodness everywhere, His concern for us, His awareness of our needs: the phone call we’ve waited for, the ride we are offered, the letter in the mail, just the little things He does for us throughout the day. As we remember and notice His love for us, we just begin to fall in love with Him because He is so busy with us — you just can’t resist Him. I believe there’s no such thing as luck in life, it’s God’s love, it’s His.”
“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.”
“Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually means less.”
“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
“When you don’t have anything, then you have everything.”
“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed. “
“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.”
“Prayer in action is love, love in action is service.”
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
“If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.”
“There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
Jesus is my God,
Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life,
Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All;
Jesus is my Everything.”
“You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.”
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
“Peace begins with a smile..”
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
“The person who gives with a smile is the best giver because God loves a cheerful giver.”
“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is a household name in India and in many other countries for her good works. But many people don’t know much about her other than that she was “a nun who helped the poor.”
Here are some facts about this most humble servant of God.
Born on August 26, 1910, in Albania. She was baptized as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She considered 27 August, the day she was baptized, to be her “true birthday”.
When she was a little girl, her family lived in one of the two houses owned by her father. When she was 8 years old her father died, ending their family’s financial security.
Agnes was interested with missionaries from an early age. When she was 12, she was bent on committing herself to a religious vocation.
At the age of 18, she left home and joined the Sisters of Loretto in Rathfarnham, Ireland on May 23, 1929.
Although she lived to be 87 years old, she never saw her mother or sister again after the day she left for Ireland.
After learning English for an year in Ireland, she got transferred to the convent of Sisters of Loretto in Darjeeling, India.
She took her vows as a nun in 1931. She chose the name Teresa – to honour Saints Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila.
Agnes was allured by Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, as well as the patron saint of florists, AIDS sufferers and others.
Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of people in religious orders, lacemakers, Spain and more.
Teresa began teaching history and geography in Calcutta at St. Mary’s, a high school for the daughters of the wealthy. She remained there for 15 years and enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the poverty she saw all around her.
In 1946, Teresa traveled to Darjeeling for a retreat. It was on that journey that she realized what her true calling was:
“I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”
It took two years of preparation before she was able to begin doing the work she felt compelled to do. She needed permission from the Sisters of Loretto to leave the order – while retaining her vows – as well as permission from the Archbishop of Calcutta to live and work among the poor. She also prepared herself for the hard task by following a course in nursing.
In 1948, Teresa set aside her nun’s habit and adapted her clothing to a simple sari and sandals, as worn by the women she would be living among. To begin her work, she moved into a small rented hovel in the slums of Calcutta.
Having been used to a life of comparative comfort, Teresa’s first year in the slums was particularly hard. She had no income and had to beg for food and supplies. She was often tempted to return to her earlier life in the convent. But she was a determined soul and relied on her faith in God to get herself through all adversities.
One of her first projects was to teach the children of the poor. All that she had as a tool was her experience gained by teaching the children of the rich. To begin with she did not have any equipment, teaching aids or supplies. She taught the children of the poor to read using books, and to write by writing on the dirt with sticks.
In addition to promoting literacy, Teresa taught the children basic hygiene. She visited their families and inquired about their needs. Helped them with provisions when she could.
Soon, word began to spread about Teresa’s good works. She had other volunteers wanting to help.
By 1950, she was able to start the Mission of Charity – a congregation dedicated to caring for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people who had become a burden to the society and shunned by everyone.”
She opened a hospice for the poor, a home for sufferers of leprosy, and a home for orphans and homeless youth.
Mother Teresa was honoured with many awards throughout her life – from the Indian Padma Shri in 1962 to the inaugural Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971 to Albania’s Golden Honour of the Nation in 1994 and, most famously, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
She refused the traditional Nobel honour banquet, instead requested that the $192K funds be given to help the poor of India.
She continued her work with the poor for the rest of her life, leading the Missionaries of Charity until just months before her death on September 5, 1997.
Renowned English actress Olivia Hussey played the part of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a television series for Italian TV, produced by Lux Vide.
Olivia Hussey has spoken of her delight at being chosen to play Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
“I never met Mother Teresa, but I spoke to some of the sisters of her order: the light on their faces has impressed me greatly … For 20 years, I have dreamt of having this role, and I knew that Mother Teresa would not have been displeased,” said Ms Hussey.
Here’s my entry for Six Word Saturday: Pearls of Blessed [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta:
Life is a duty, complete it.
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