By blood she was Albanian.
By law she was Indian.
By faith she was Catholic.
By calling she belonged to the world.
But her heart belonged entirely to Jesus.
Early in the 20th century, “Agnes” was christened. Such a happy day, but that happy chapter of her family life was not to last. Her father died when she was only eight, and by the age of twelve she heard God calling her. At 18, she left home to be a teacher. She never saw her mother and sister again.
Eighteen years later, on a train ride to the mountains, her life took an altogether different turn. “I thirst,” Jesus told her. “I thirst for souls.” So she offered up her life as a teacher and invited God to use her, however he chose, wherever he wanted.
And she became the face of Jesus to the world. Love to those who never knew love. Jesus molded and shaped his beloved, until she was the very manifestation of his own hands and feet:
That the hungry might be fed.
The downtrodden encouraged.
The orphan protected.
The afflicted relieved.
The dying comforted.
Challenges of Faith
Just as Christ left the privilege of His glory to be born among us, so did this humble sister forsake comfort, seeking God’s face and finding Him amidst the poor, the oppressed, and the forgotten of the world.
Admirers say that as “Mother Teresa,” this young Albanian girl became a leader of thousands. Humanitarians called her “mother to millions.” Dignitaries praised her as an inspiration to nations.
She was not without struggle or doubt, though.
“If ever I am a saint, I shall be a saint of darkness,” she told her sisters. She even felt overwhelmed by the enormity of her calling from time to time. But, just as her Beloved pressed on, even in his darkest hour, so, too, did St. Teresa. The very reflection of the Heart of Christ, St. Teresa counted her troubles as nothing compared to the needs of the world. She willingly poured herself out for the sake of strangers, whom she adopted as family.
Her faith sometimes worked miracles. Here and there, a child was saved, a soul was ennobled, or God provided what was most needed, at precisely the moment it was needed. And yet, far too often, the miracle did not come, and the only possible answer was to surrender to the mystery. Out of 36,000 souls pulled from the gutters of Calcutta, 18,000 died. Yet she and her sisters did not give up. Every morning they began the day as they had so many others, praying the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Whenever St. Teresa came face-to-face with the Father’s love, she responded as King David did, saying, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
An Enduring Faith
And for 70 years she sought the face of the Lord, not in comfort or success or even among her own family, but in the squalor of poverty, the homes of the dying, and the needy eyes of the orphan. She had known both pain and passion, love and loss, faith and doubt.
But still she persevered. She labored. She loved.
Not on her own strength, but by leaning hard on her Savior. Day by day, she made His life, her own.
In Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, we read this gentle tribute to the "saint of the slums”: "She died almost one hundred years to the day after her patron Therese, the little flower of Lisieux. And their lives form spiritual brackets around the twentieth century. Therese, too, experienced a 'night of nothingness'—on her deathbed she heard demonic voices telling her that heaven was just a figment of her imagination. ... Mother Teresa too sought the Holy Face of the Crucified in the crushed and the dying, walked the path of spiritual childhood in the small, ordinary realities of her days, and lived her life one little act of love at a time."