Recalling Mother Teresa’s Grace

    Mother Teresa sainthoodMother Teresa will be canonized on September 4. The world seems to be converging at the Vatican to witness the historic occasion. President Obama has announced the presidential delegation for the ceremony. India, too, is participating. India’s Foreign Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian government’s delegation to the sainthood ceremony of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, on September 4 in the Vatican. The official spokesman of the foreign ministry, Vikas Swarup made the announcement at a press conference. “In view of eh importance that we attach to this very significant event – the canonization of Mother Teresa – let me tell you, the government of India’s delegation will be led by the Honorable External Affairs Minister herself,” Swarup told journalists. He noted that the composition of the delegation is being finalized and its members will be announced in due time.

    Prof. Indrajit S Saluja leaving the dais after welcoming Mother Teresa, seen sitting (third from right). Bishop Symphorian Keeprath is to her right
    Prof. Indrajit S Saluja leaving the dais after welcoming Mother Teresa, seen sitting (third from right). Bishop Symphorian Keeprath is to her right

    Ashutosh, the spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which heads the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi said that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be travelling to the Vatican as he has accepted the invitation of Missionaries of Charity to attend the event. The Delhi chief minister met Mother Teresa in 1992, who asked him to work with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, now called Kolkata. He remained there for several months, before joining the Indian Revenue Service. Earlier in May, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state said she has accepted the invitation of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata to attend the ceremony in the Vatican.

    The whole world, as I said earlier is converging at the Vatican.

    My thoughts go back to January 27th, 1980. Mother Teresa had come to Ludhiana, Punjab where I was a college lecturer. She had visited the town to inaugurate Missionaries of Charity’s new home in Salem Tabri neighborhood on Jalandhar Byepass.

    A few days before she arrived, I received a call from Father Kurian Muttathupadam who was then Director Principal of the Sacred Heart Boys School, which was run under the Diocese of Jalandhar. Father Kurian told me about Mother Teresa’s coming visit and asked me to welcome her on behalf of the citizens of Ludhiana. I was overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of getting an opportunity to be in the gracious company of a wonderful soul. I kept counting the days. I kept rehearsing my speech which was to be brief. I was only to extend Mother a welcome and speak briefly about the noble work she and her organization -Missionaries of Charity -were doing. Even though I was trained to speak ex tempore on any subject under the Sun and for long periods, here I was framing, reframing my sentences.

    Mrs. Gurdarshan Kaur watches as her husband Prof. Saluja as he kisses the hands of Mother Teresa.
    Mrs. Gurdarshan Kaur watches as her husband Prof. Saluja as he kisses the hands of Mother Teresa.

    And then on the 27th January, 1980, Mother Teresa arrived at the venue to inaugurate the new house for Missionaries of Charity and the inmates which I faintly recall, would have been around 20. And I am told now there are a hundred inmates who include sisters, destitute women and children.

    It was a huge gathering, mainly of Catholic Christians who had come not only from Ludhiana but also from neighboring towns of Phillaur, Phagwara, Jalandhar, Nakodar, Kapurthala, Jagraon, Moga, Khanna, Chandigarh etc. to catch a glimpse of Mother Teresa.

    The Bishop of Diocese of Jalandhar Bishop Symphorian Keeprath and several priests were present, as was my dear friend Father Kurian who unfortunately died a year ago. I was invited to speak. In fact, I was the only person to speak, besides the Bishop and Mother Teresa herself. After I made a brief speech I came down from the dais and sat in the front row with my lovely wife Gurdarshan Kaur. The two of us listened to Mother’s message. She spoke of importance of compassion and love. Her message was simple and clear. God has created all in His own image and we all are His children. As such, we must love one another.

    Later, Mother went around meeting people. When Gurdarshan and I got our opportunity to be with her, I held her small, tender hands and kissed them, even as my wife looked on. I remember Mother uttering blessings and then she moved on.

    Little did I know then that Mother Teresa would one day be a Blessed one, that one day, she will be canonized. I feel so elated to think that I touched the tender, sift, loving small hands of a great soul. I feel her presence whenever I think of her. I rejoice in her canonization.

    Mother Teresa with orphans in Kolkata. She will become "St. Teresa of Calcutta" in a Sept. 4 canonization ceremony led by Pope Francis
    Mother Teresa with orphans in Kolkata. She will become “St. Teresa of Calcutta” in a Sept. 4 canonization ceremony led by Pope Francis

    Mother Teresa was widely known as a living saint as she ministered to the sick and the dying in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the world. Although some people criticized her for not also challenging the injustices that kept so many people so poor and abandoned, her simple service touched the hearts of millions of people of all faiths.

    Born to an ethnic Albanian family in Skopje, in what is now part of Macedonia, she went to India in 1929 as a Sister of Loreto and became an Indian citizen in 1947. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

    Shortly after she died in 1997, St. John Paul II waived the usual five-year waiting period and allowed the opening of the process to declare her sainthood. She was beatified in 2003.

    After her beatification, Missionary of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator of her sainthood cause, published a book of her letters, “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.” The letters illustrated how, for decades, she experienced what is described as a “dark night of the soul” in Christian spirituality; she felt that God had abandoned her. While the letters shocked some people, others saw them as proof of her steadfast faith in God, which was not based on feelings or signs that he was with her.

    The date chosen for her canonization is the eve of the 19th anniversary of her death and the date previously established at the Vatican for the conclusion of the Year of Mercy pilgrimage of people like her who are engaged in works of mercy.

    Affectionately known as the “saint of the gutter” for her unconditional love for the poor, abandoned and the marginalized, she earned several international honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

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