Known for her dedicated work among those in direst poverty in the massive Indian city, she is a person close to the Pope’s own heart. She was ruthlessly dedicated to serving her beloved people who flocked to be near her and to receive help from her.
She founded a sisterhood that administered 19 homes and, in the doing, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910 to Albanian parents and grew up in the city now known as the Macedonian capital, Skopje. In 1920, the city was on the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire.
When she was 19 years old, she joined the Irish order of Loreto and, in 1929, was sent to India, where she taught at a school in Darjeeling under the name of Theresa.
In 1946, she moved to Kolkata to help the poorest of the poor and, after a decade, set up a hospice and a home for abandoned children. Four years later, she established the Missionaries of Charity. That order now numbers over 4,500 nuns worldwide.
Her work in the Kolkata slums won her global recognition and fame. She was often called “the saint of the gutter.” That may be the only true kind of saint there can be any longer.
Her critics bemoaned her hard-line Catholicism and accused her of mixing with dictators and accepting donations from them. As for her supporters, and I am one of them, what better way to use the money of dictators than to help people that those same dictators have crushed underfoot.
Indeed, who cares whence comes the money? The only consideration should be where the money goes and who does it help, agreed?
Mother Theresa died in 1997 at the age of 87. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 2003, her first step to sainthood. It was only five years after Mother Theresa’s death when John Paul II declared that a Bengali woman named Monica Besra was healed from an abdominal tumor as a result of Mother Theresa’s miraculous intervention.
A Vatican commission pronounced that the healing of Monica Besra has been achieved when a photo of Mother Theresa had been placed on the Bengali woman’s stomach and she experienced recovery.
In December of 2015, Pope Francis paved her path to sainthood when he officially recognized a second miracle attributed to her. This time, it was the healing of a Brazilian man—whose name has never been identified—from several brain tumors in 2008. The man is said to have been cured when the priest called for the intervention of Mother Theresa.
"The Holy Father has authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to proclaim the decree concerning the miracle attributed to the intercession of blessed Mother Teresa," the Vatican reported.
Sometimes it takes decades, sometimes even centuries, after their deaths for Catholic believers to attain sainthood. But no time has been lost with the beatification and sainthood of Mother Theresa of Kolkata. Pope John Paul II was quick to begin it all and Pope Francis seems keen to conclude it all, especially in this Holy Year of Mercy.
Maybe it is unrelated and maybe it is not, but Pope Francis introduced new financial rules which affect the process of attaining sainthood. This was in answer to allegations by some that some candidates for sainthood may have their causes sped along by wealthy donors.
Under the new guidelines, an administrator is named for each candidate and is required to maintain “scrupulous respect” in the process as the Congregation of the Causes of Saints analyzes and vets the proposed possible saint.
This is not intended to slow down the process but to enable a rigor in the process. However, nothing, it seems, is going to speed up or slow down Francis’ will to add yet another saint during his pontificate.
Whether it is his intent or not, Pope Francis has and is and will reshape the modern face of Roman Catholicism through an expansion of moderate and liberal bishops and cardinals as well as expanding the bullpen of saints upon whom he can collectively call in this new era of openhearted, open-mindedness.