A news which has gladdened many hearts in recent days is the fact that Pope Francis has recognised a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, clearing the path for her elevation to sainthood next year. The Albanian nun, who lived most of her life in Kolkata and died in 1997, is expected to be canonised on September 4, 2016 – to coincide with the anniversary of her death, and during Pope Francis' Holy Year of Mercy.
The nun who cared for the poorest of the poor was bestowed one of the Catholic Church's highest honours just two decades after her death, which is another honour in itself.
The news was greeted with prayers at the Missionaries of Charity (MC), the humanitarian organisation Mother Teresa founded in Kolkata.
The second miracle involved the inexplicable healing of a Brazilian suffering from multiple brain tumors. The first miracle to be recognised was the healing of a tribal woman from West Bengal's South Dinajpur district who was suffering from abdominal tumor. Pope John Paul II had recognised the first miracle in 2002.
Pope John Paul II, one of Mother Teresa's greatest champions, waived the normal five-year waiting period for her beatification process to begin (she had died in 1997) and launched it a year after she died, convinced of her saintliness and apparently intent on at least beatifying her in his lifetime.
A report carried in Italian Catholic journal, Avverine stated that a panel of experts convened by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on December 15 attributed the Brazilian man's healing to Mother Teresa.
Pope Francis, whose papacy has been dedicated to ministering to the poor just as Mother Teresa did, is a known fan too. He has recounted meeting Mother Teresa when they attended a 1994 bishop synod at the Vatican together. At the time, he was an archbishop.
The best Christmas gift
The news of her imminent sainthood spread cheer in Kolkata, where she had spent half a century caring for the poor and dying. "During her life, Mother was often referred to as a Living Saint. The official anointment by the Vatican will be confirmation of the belief that people of Kolkata and millions worldwide already had," said Sunita Kumar, Mother Teresa's long-time associate and spokesperson of MC.
Kumar, who joined Mother Teresa's work in 1966, said the diminutive woman in a simple sari had always had a saintly disposition. "Working for the poor was her service to God. She just carried on and was always at peace with herself. Her smile was extremely charming. For me and others who were fortunate to work with her, the three decades association was a miracle," she said.
Bible Society of India secretary, Sajal Sarkar said the news made him proud, both as a citizen of Kolkata and as a follower of Christ. "Mother Teresa had wide acceptance and was considered a saint. The official sainthood will bring huge mileage to the city of Kolkata. There will be renewed interest among Christians to visit the city and offer prayers. Perhaps, Kolkata will name a church after her," he remarked.
A life of sacrifices
Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in Macedonia on April 27, 1910 in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
She arrived in India in 1929, and began her training in Darjeeling and taught at St Teresa's School. She took the first religious vows as a nun on May 24, 1931. She had initially wanted to be named after Therese de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, but because a nun in the convent had already chosen that name, Agnes opted for Teresa.
She took her solemn vows on May 14, 1937 while teaching at Loreto Convent School in Entally, Kolkata. She founded MC in 1950 after being struck by the poverty on the streets of the city that had immensely suffered during the Bengal famine in 1943 and ethnic riots in 1946, which quickly spread throughout the world. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
"The poor give us much more than we give them," Mother Teresa said in 1977. "They're such strong people, living day to day with no food. And they never curse, never complain."
She died on September 5, 1997, aged 87. At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity order was served by more than 4,000 nuns and ran roughly 600 orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics around the world. The order has since grown bigger.
The diminutive nun was known as the "saint of the gutters" for giving new lives to the ones whom nobody cared for, be it the diseased, the dying or the poor.
Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Kolkata has said that the news from Rome was "the best Christmas gift," adding: "Her entire life and work was for the poor. Now it is in a way officially recognised. We are grateful to God."
With excerpts from The Times of India, Reuters and Mashable India