Mother Teresa is a Roman Catholic nun known for her work in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), a city in India. Pope Francis recently announced that the Catholic nun will be declared a saint on September 4 for her work in helping the poor. Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, the city that is now the capital of Macedonia (FYROM), but at that time, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Teresa was born as a child to Albanian parents, and was known as Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu until she took the name Mother Teresa. The nun died in 1997 at the age of 87.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that Mother Teresa managed to achieve during her lifetime. She received the calling to join the Catholic nun order when she was 18 years old. At that point, Gonxha left home and took the name Mother Teresa.
- Mother Teresa founded the “Missionaries of Charity”, an order that began with just 12 members, but has now grown to 4,000 nuns working around the world
- Her sisterhood runs 19 homes, includes more than 400 brothers and 3,000 nuns working in 87 countries and 160 cities
- Teresa opened her first “home for the dying” in 1952. These homes served as medical centers for poor people to get treatment and care. People were also brought there to die with dignity. All who were brought there were given the last ceremony according to the religion they followed
- Mother Teresa has won the Nobel Prize for Peace. When she find out, she asked the gala dinner that is customary for such occasions to be canceled, and all the money to be given to the poor people of Kolkata
- In 1982, the Catholic nun rescued 37 children trapped in a hospital in Beirut. It was just one small sample of children she saved during numerous wars. With the help of Red Cross, Teresa helped the children escape the war zone and got them to safety.
Often, it takes decades for people to reach sainthood. But Mother Teresa was not an ordinary person, and just five years after her death, Pope John Paul II acknowledged her first miracle and started the beatification process. Pope Francis acknowledged her second miracle, rushing the process to end end before the Holy Year of Mercy that runs through November 2016.
Her first miracle, acknowledged by Pope John Paul was the curing of a Bengali tribal woman from an abdominal tumor. The woman was cured by a photo of Mother Teresa placed on her stomach
The second miracle, acknowledged by Pope Francis in 2015 involved the healing of a Brazilian man. The man, suffering from brain tumor, received healing in 2008, and was cured when his priest prayed for Teresa’s intervention.
Mother Teresa started her sisterhood in 1950, but it was not until the 1970s that her work gained worldwide recognition. Teresa was in Kolkata from 1946, but it took several years for her to attract attention from journalists from around the world.
In 1970, the ultra-conservative nun was the subject of a film made by Malcolm Muggeridge, a journalist that revealed the story to the Western world. The journalist was inspired by Teresa to convert to Catholicism. In the movie, he said that words “cannot convey how beholden I am to her”.
Her only possessions were two saris and a bucket, making her a symbol for person loving the unloved and caring for the unwanted.
Despite being symbol for caring for the unwanted and loving the unloved, Mother Teresa was also a subject of several controversies. Feminist movements disliked her because of her stance on abortion. The nun was opposed to contraception and abortion, saying that “she would never allow a child entrusted to her care to be adopted by a woman who had an abortion or used contraceptives. Such woman cannot love. Her stance on abortion, caused Germaine Greer to call her “religious imperialist”.
Christopher Hitchens, a best-selling author, was another one to criticize Mother Teresa. In his book “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice”, the author says that the nun was not friend of the poor.
Once excerpt of the book states “Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go?
Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of Mother Teresa: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions”.
Hitchens describes Teresa as a “religious fundamentalist, a political operative, a primitive and an accomplice of worldly secular powers”.
People attack Hitchens in a “shoot the messenger” way, but few of them have the courage to go through his work and see the other side of Mother Teresa.
But he was not the only one with courage of attacking an icon. The Huffington Post also published an article in 2013, citing a study that “Mother Teresa was a product of hype, a myth”. The research showed that many of the patients in her hospitals and homes were not cared for properly, many were left to die, and ask the question “where the millions of dollars for the poorest have gone”?
Every individual in history is criticized by some, and loved by others. Such is the case with Mother Teresa as well. There are two sides to every story. And while many will applaud and deify her, there will always be people that think she was not a saint as many believe. People are left with their own beliefs, but it is always good to look at the both sides of the story.
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