A Life Worth Living
"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to
you without leaving happier."
      ― Saint Teresa
Once upon a time in Albania – August 26, 1910 to be exact – a baby girl by the
name of Agnes Bohazhiu was born. She lived most of her adult life in India as
Mother Teresa, and she now resides in heaven as Saint Teresa of Calcutta; a name
bestowed upon her as a result of a life of dutiful service to God, a commitment to a
religious existence, and a self-sacrificing dedication to the poorest of the poor.
That simplistic summation of the life of Mother Teresa is compelling even
without the details, but the long-version of her life-story is nothing less than
mesmerizing. One day, 17-year-old Agnes was praying at a shrine to the
Black Madonna when she says she was divinely inspired to commit her life
to serving God; she decided to become a nun. When religious women first
become nuns, it is customary that they take the name of a Saint with whom
they can identify. Young Agnes felt a connection to
Saint Therese of Lisieux
— the Patron Saint of missionaries. Agnes Bojaxhiu thus became
Sister Teresa and began her life of service to God as a teacher at a girls’
high school in
Calcutta, India. While teaching in Calcutta, Sister Teresa
witnessed abject poverty both in her classroom and in the streets of the city
she now called home. The compassion that she felt in her heart and spirit
for her impoverished neighbors, made it obvious to her what it was that God
had in store for her life.
“I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to
serve Him among the poorest of the poor.”
   ― Saint Teresa
Sister Teresa started Missionaries of Charity in 1950. Initially, it was just
her and 12 other compassionate companions doing whatever they could to
help the poor and the severely sick in the vicinity of Calcutta. By the time of
her death, however, her organization had grown to over 5,000 members
with over 600 missions operating in 123 countries. Missionaries of Charity’s
service to the poor was boundless. They ran hospices for people dying of
the most wicked illnesses; they fed the hungry, dispensed medicine to the
poor, operated schools and orphanages, and provided almost any other
humanitarian service you can think of. The
Kalighat Home for the Dying was
one of Mother Teresa’s crowning contributions. It was her first hospice and
it was highly esteemed at the time for the love and care that was given to
dying people in accordance with whatever religion they belonged to. In
'An
Authorized Biography' written in 1997, Kathryn Spink tells us that Muslim
patients were read the Quran and treated in manners that were in
accordance with Islam; Hindus were served according to their own religious
customs; and Catholics were treated in accordance with their traditions.
Religious affiliation did not matter to Mother Teresa, and neither did race,
nationality, tribal background, height nor body weight. She was known to
love individuals for who they were, no matter what they were. In order to be
of best possible service to the people she came into contact with, Mother
Teresa took the time to learn basic medicine and healthcare, and she also
learned to speak five different languages. In addition to her extensions of
love and kindness, she also served as an intermediary in multiple efforts to
broker peace between hostile groups and governments. Her actions in that
arena earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Saint Teresa suffered her first heart attack when she was 72-years-old.
Her health continued to decline after that episode. She became so sick at
one point that she wanted to step down as head of Missionaries of Charity.
However, no one voted her out except herself, so she kept on going despite
her diminishing health. At multiple points during her ailing years, St. Teresa
was sure that her life was at an end. She once told
Prince Michael
of Greece that she had a dream she was at the gates of heaven and St.
Peter told her,
“Go back to Earth. There are no slums up here.”
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that
when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not
ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather
he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?”

                                                        
 ― Saint Teresa