There is going to be a lot written about this saint on this day. Much will be scholarship, or personal reflections. I do admit I remember stories of her work in Calcutta, and her stories of that poverty influenced many people’s perception of both that city and that country. Was that in a good way, I am conflicted. In the good way it brought attention to the issue of world poverty. For the bad it stigmatized and stereotyped a city and nation and its people in an unflattering light. It highlighted their sorrows and did not mention their joy.
I also recall her mission, to be with those that were suffering and dying alone. Her mission was simple, it was to bring people dignity when others would not. In that mission she represented Christ the healer. She did not heal people of their medical maladies, but she did heal them spiritually. She gave charity not in the meaning many think of, she did not give anything of monetary value. She gave charity in its true meaning, she gave love. “Love one another as I have loved you”
I also recall her distinctive habit, and have read that she adopted it after discarding the habit of her old order of the Loreto Sisters (IBVM). From the old Loreto Sisters to the new Missionaries of Charity.She adopted a new habit that fit her situation, and it was one that blended into the culture where she worked. Her original design only had one blue stripe, but later adopted the three striped design by Salesian Bishop Louis Morrow. The first part of her habit that I notice is the blue stripes and in them is the devotion to Mary. The second is that they take the form of the Sari, the traditional dress of the country she worked in. Her habit is adapted or adopted to those people, it gives homage to their culture and becomes part of it. I wonder how many Missionaries of Charity come from Calcutta?
It also is significant because many of the orders of Nuns will begin to change their habits too. Some for better and others for worse. For one I find hers for the better. It gives recognition to a religious order (MC), and also to a culture (India), and to a mission (Charity). I see many nuns habits become secular clothing. I think of Franciscians, a hoodie and jeans, a tau cross, a rosary, and a three knotted cord. I can also ponder the habit and colors of an inner-city gang.Her association with the Salesian is noteworthy because they often cared for young street children. They the young, she the old. She also spoke out against abortion, she had a love for the full spectrum of life. Something to remember.
I also remember several years ago reading of the despair the Saint suffered, and it was recorded in her own writing. It can be read here. Who is surprised of the despair, her dark hours given what she had seen and endured. Her mission challenged her faith and yet she continued. In that darkness I also recall how she insisted that her sisters always keep up with their daily readings and prayers. Even if they missed one of the hours, or all of them, Mother Teresa insisted they be prayed at the earliest opportunity. She knew the importance of prayer. I also must view that darkness in the light of the Pieta, Mary holding her Son after He is removed from the Cross.
Today is the first celebration of the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.