Saint Teresa of Calcutta: what you need to know about the heroic Catholic nun, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Saint Teresa of Calcutta: what you need to know about the heroic Catholic nun, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize


Saint Teresa of Calcutta, or “Mother Teresa”, is often presented as a symbol of selflessness and extreme dedication to charity. As the founder of the Missionaries of Charity and recipient of numerous awards, she is perhaps one of the most emblematic figures of the twentieth century.

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, she experienced tragedy at a young age with the death of her father. According to Biography.com, Bojaxhiu’s mother, Drana, invited the town’s destitute to dinner with their families.

She is said to have said to her daughter, “My child, never eat a single bite unless you share it with others.”

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November 1960: Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997), the Albanian nun who dedicated her life to the poor, destitute and sick of Calcutta, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 (Photo by Keystone Features / Getty Images)

November 1960: Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997), the Albanian nun who dedicated her life to the poor, destitute and sick of Calcutta, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 (Photo by Keystone Features / Getty Images)
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The future saint first felt a call to religious life at the age of 12, when her congregation made a pilgrimage to the Church of the Black Madonna in Letnice. At 18, she went to Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin and took the name “Teresa” after the 19th century Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

After a brief stay, she traveled to Darjeeling, India and eventually to Calcutta, where she taught at a girls’ school. Her time as an educator included the post of principal of this school starting in 1944. But soon after, on a train ride in 1946, she felt what she described as a “calling in.” a call”.

“The message was pretty clear – it was an order,” she reportedly said. “He wanted me to be poor and to love him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.”

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Devotion to the poor

Saint Teresa spent decades working to uplift the poor and received many awards for her efforts, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Known as the “Saint of the Gutters,” she started a religious order that went become thousands of members. more than 100 countries. She also founded the Missionary Brothers of Charity, the Missionary Fathers of Charity, the Contemplative Brothers and a contemplative branch for the sisters.

Missionaries of Charity served the poor, lepers, people living with HIV / AIDS, abandoned children and others in need. Teresa’s humanitarian work earned her the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 1980. The iconic figure was subsequently awarded honorary US citizenship in 1996.

VATICAN CITY - OCTOBER 19: A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa framed by statues in St. Peter's Colonnade during the beatification ceremony led by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 2003 in Vatican City, Italy.  Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for all of her charitable work.  She died in 1997. (Photo by Franco Origlia / Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY – OCTOBER 19: A tapestry depicting Mother Teresa framed by statues in St. Peter’s Colonnade during the beatification ceremony led by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 2003 in Vatican City, Italy. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for all of her charitable work. She died in 1997. (Photo by Franco Origlia / Getty Images)
(2003 Getty Images)

Facing growing health concerns, St. Teresa offered to step down as head of the organization, but was re-elected with only one dissenting vote – her own – and withdrew her resignation request. She eventually retired due to worsening heart disease, with her command choosing her replacement in 1997.

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Beatification and holiness

Mother Teresa’s path to holiness began earlier than expected in 1999 – two years after her death. Traditionally, there is a minimum waiting period of five years after the death of a person before the application can be submitted. Pope John Paul II cut three years from the waiting period for Mother Teresa – the first time this has been done in the modern papal era.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, in 2003 she underwent a beatification – an in-depth investigation into the life of a potential saint that includes a proven miracle attributed to the saint’s potential intercession.

Pope Francis in 2015 authorized her for canonization – the last step in declaring a saint. To reach this stage, a second miracle, attributed to the prayers made to the candidate after his beatification, must be performed. In Mother Teresa’s case, a Brazilian had been cured of a viral brain infection years earlier after his wife prayed for Mother Teresa’s intercession.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta: what you need to know about the heroic Catholic nun, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Tens of thousands of people attended her canonization in Italy on September 4, 2016. “Mother Teresa,” said Pope Francis at the time, “in all aspects of her life was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making himself available to everyone through it. welcoming and defending human life, those who are not yet born and those who are abandoned and rejected. “

Position on abortion

As a Catholic nun, she has come under heavy criticism for supporting the Church’s teaching on abortion. Only a few years after the landmark Roe v. Wade, Mother Teresa said that abortion is the “greatest destroyer of peace today”.

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“Because if a mother can murder her own child in her own womb, what is left for you and me to kill each other?” she asked in her 1979 Nobel acceptance speech.

She also denounced the practice in a breathtaking speech to former President Bill Clinton and then Fiirst Lady Hillary Clinton in 1994.

During the national prayer breakfast, she said: “Through abortion the mother does not learn to love, but even kills her own child to solve her problems … abortion simply leads to more death. ‘abortion. Any country that accepts abortion does not teach its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. “

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His stance on this issue has been criticized by famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, who suggested that he slow down efforts to fight poverty.

“She has spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and their emancipation from an animal version of compulsory breeding,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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