Some time during the year 2014, I got an opportunity to visit the Mother House in Kolkata. It was early morning. The name plate at the main entrance showed that Mother Theresa MC is still in. The Chapel was almost empty after the morning mass. There were a few sisters and lay people immersed in silent prayer. I stood for a while near the simple tomb of Mother Theresa. For anyone who belong to my generation and had a Catholic upbringing, Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa were two prominent saintly figures we had been asked to looked up to. They were great friends and now enjoy sainthood together in the Church.
After returning from Kolkata, I reread the book ‘Mother Theresa’, which is her official autobiography written by Navin Chawla, a former Election Commissioner of India. It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not, this book often makes your eyes wet as it talks how God makes simple human beings His instruments.
I like Mother for two reasons. One is the respect she had given to human dignity. For those who lived in conditions unworthy of human dignity, she ensured a place at least to die in dignity. There are accusations that her missionaries converted all those dying souls into Christianity. Those who did not care for their brethren when they were alive, became concerned about their souls once they were no more. It is difficult to believe that Mother had such motives. Her compassion encompassed all religious persuasions and the irreligious and disbelievers as well. She once said, ‘I do convert, I convert you to a better Hindu, a better Christian and a better Muslim or Jain or Buddhist.
The second reason for me to respect Mother is her absolute trust in Divine Providence. She is someone who lived like a lily in the field or a bird in the air without sowing or reaping or gathering into barns. Still, all that she needed for her mission had been provided. When it comes to the vow of poverty and a life of simplicity, she was not so far from St. Francis of Assisi who is considered as the epitome of poverty in the history of the Church. The only thing she had in abundance was faith, faith in her mission.
Mother had been instrumental in widening and deepening man’s knowledge and love of god and the hallmark of her work was respect for the individual and the individual’s worth and glory.
(Mother Theresa is going to be canonized as a saint today by the Roman Catholic Church)