This is the image and reality of the Catholic Church that Pope Francis wants to present to the world. It could be none other, it would seem to Francis, than the very Works of Mercy embodied, personified, in one modern-day Catholic.
That stooped, workworn little figure in her poor woman’s cotton sari was Mother Teresa, the first Missionary of Charity. Today there are some four and a half thousand sisters living just as Mother Teresa did, and as she taught them.
Place before yourself a list of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy and the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. Read them one by one and realise that Mother Teresa practised each and every one.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, of course, Pope Francis is asking us to challenge ourselves as to how much and how freely we practise those Works of Mercy.
Divine Providence was ever-present in Mother Teresa’s life and work. No less so in her canonization! The miracle that was approved for her sainthood took place in Brazil in December 2008.
A young man’s life hung in the balance as he lay in a coma in hospital. His wife, with some friends and their parish priest, went to the local church to beg for Mother Teresa’s intercession. The man was completely healed, and he and his wife are living normally and now have a young family.
The doctor who cared for him in that hospital just happened to be the very same doctor who less than five years later was the physician in attendance to Pope Francis during the papal visit to Brazil! Thus the Pontiff heard the story from a direct eye-witness.
In a Consistory last year, 2015, the pope gave solemn approval of the miracle and it was announced that he would canonise Mother Teresa of Calcutta during this Year of Mercy. More specifically the ceremony would take place during the Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy.
And so, nineteen years after her death, the young Albanian nun who became India’s most famous citizen and simply “Mother” to one and all, is raised to the altar as her name is entered into the Canon of the Catholic Mass.
When I took Mother Teresa to visit the first house she would open in Scotland, on the eve of the large pro-life rally that she would address the next day at my invitation, she gave me the prayer card you can see in the picture. This prayer composed by Cardinal Newman was very dear to her heart. She and her sisters prayed it every morning before setting out on their daily works of charity and mercy.
Perhaps we can all accept it as a gift from Mother on this momentous occasion.
Dear Lord,…. flood my soul with Thy spirit and life….
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
Jim Gallagher is the author of CTS biography on Mother Teresa