Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Today's is the feast day of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who was beatified by John Paul II in 2003. On the day of her liturgical remembrance, which is also the anniversary of her death in 1997, Mgr Thomas D'Souza, archbishop of Kolkata, talks about her and her work of love and charity. He also stresses the importance of prayer and silence, active moments in one's faith to give oneself totally to others. Here is the reflection Mgr D'Souza gave AsiaNews on Mother Teresa's legacy in the Year of Faith and for the 'new evangelisation'.
As we celebrate the feast day of Mother Teresa, we focus on her legacy of love and her legacy of service, respect, and human dignity for every human being, irrespective of caste, creed, and colour. We also focus on what the missionaries of charity are doing in the Church to continue to continue this legacy.
Mother Teresa, "a humble missionary of love," was a person of faith, rooted in prayer, who proclaimed the Gospel, living her life as a total gift to the poorest of the poor. She always said that the constant prayer was a part of her way of life, that the fruit of silence is prayer, that the fruit of prayer is faith. In this Year of faith, her legacy of prayer and silence will lead people to a deeper faith. In her own words, "We must know Jesus in prayer before we can see him in the broken bodies of the poor. [. . .] Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift to Himself."
In this Year of Faith, we Catholics are urged to emulate Mother Teresa and her faith in Jesus Christ. She always insisted on the primacy of a God-centred faith as the explanation of her work. The way in which Mother lived her life, her way of life faith, leads to love, and love leads to action, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.
Therefore, faith for Mother was not only a static thing; it was very dynamic, a sort of energy that came from Jesus. Faith in him had to be lived in action, which she lived to the full. In this Year of Faith, we must keep her in mind and keep our Lord Jesus in front of us. We continue to live her faith in the various activities that will be held in different parishes and different dioceses as Christians and witnesses to our faith
The new evangelisation is about a new way to live our faith with renewed zeal and a new sharing of faith with one another. For example, Mother Teresa reminds everyone that the evangelising mission of the Church passes through charity, nourished by prayer, listening to God's word. For the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, God is not asking us to be successful; he is asking us to faithful to his command.
Our beloved John Paul II gave new emphasis to the call for evangelisation, making us more aware of the urgency of our times and exhorting us to a new zeal to unveil the love of Christ towards all people. He called us to a new commitment to "sow Christian hope in hearts thirsting for the living God and this is precisely the legacy of Mother, satiating the thirst of Christ, the new evangelisation."
Mother Teresa, as a unifying Charism, is symbolic of the unity that Christ announces. Here in India, Mother is worship and honoured by tens of thousands of people, cutting across all religious and cultural denominations. The love for Mother is universal, so it is in the global society.
At Mother's funeral in 1997, where I was present, we had the impression that Mother Teresa had brought the whole of India and the whole world together. Because of her, the force of charity and love surpasses all other considerations and concentrates only on what is good for the other. That is what Mother saw. She saw what was good for others; not what divides but rather what unites. I felt the effects and the results of her love for people and that came through her love of God and her experience of God's love for her.
I am a witness to daily miracles in the houses of Mother Teresa. Miracles happen in the lives of so many, every day. When I visit, I can see the joy in the lives of the simple ones I meet, and that in itself is a miracle. When I recently visited Nirmal Hriday ('Pure Heart'), Mother's first house, I found a newly renovated house. In all those people, one can see joy on their faces filled with hope and peace.
That is true for so many. The very fact that we get inspiration and energy to live in spite of so many challenges is itself a miracle. I, myself, feel her humility. I remember meeting her as a young priest, after her Nobel Prize, in Ranchi. I had not met her before because I had studied in Ranchi, not in Kolkata. I had read only her books.
After I told our bishop that I wanted to meet her, he brought her unannounced to the school where I was working as a young priest. She was so simple, exuding joy.
As she was leaving, in my admiration and enthusiasm, I kissed her hand. Spontaneously, she said, "No. I kiss the anointed hands of a priest."
Mother had love and devotion to priests. In fact, the Missionaries of Charity have adopted each a priest for whom they intercede. In a speech at the worldwide retreat for Priests in October 1984, Mother Teresa said, "When the priest is there, then can we have our altar and our tabernacle and our Jesus. Only the priest puts Jesus there for us. [. . .] Jesus wants to go there, but we cannot bring him unless you first give him to us. This is why I love priests so much. We could never be what we are and do the things we do without you priests who first bring Jesus to us."
*Archbishop of Kolkata
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)