Saint Teresa of Calcutta
(August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997)
Founded of the Order of Missionaries of Charity 1950.
Canonized: September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis
Patron Saint: outcasts, World Youth Day and Archdiocese of Calcutta
On August 26, 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje, what is now Macedonia. In 1931, Agnes took her first vows, also taking the name Teresa, after the patron saint of missionaries Theresa of Lisieux. Saint Teresa of Calcutta is one of the modern canonized saints that many today have met or seen in news coverage.
The taking of a name when entering in a religious order is a practice designed to let go of who they were before taking holy vows, then formally entering into a religious community. It might be seen as unusual for anyone who is unfamiliar with such a community or process, but the letting go of who we are is one of the things Jesus asks of us (Luke 9:23) and Buddha suggests to let go of self to find nirvana. We we let go of Earthly things, we are able to see situations differently.
Later Saint Teresa of Calcutta, she let go of herself and her own needs to enter what was called the slums of Calcutta, India. In order to meet the needs of the community she saw in need, she also had to let go of the religious community she had become a part of. Saint Teresa of Calcutta found another community and did for her neighbor, by providing in for her neighbor by being one among the outcasts of that community. That is also something that Saint Damian of Molokai did, when he joined a colony of people removed from their communities in Hawaii, because they have Hanson’s Disease. The act for Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Damian of Molokai to let go of their identity in service for someone else, came from a place of love and devotion.
The day of September 5, in addition to being Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day, is also the International Day of Charity. Which is probably no coincidence given Saint Teresa of Calcutta founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity. The idea of feast days honoring canonized saints and holy people who walked before us, is so we can learn how to be like them and through their services and lived the word of God. In learning about them, we might find a piece of ourselves in their actions, a glimpse of similarity in the people they reach to someone in our community and while we see grace in action. If we look into our communities, we might see an outcast, in need of grace. The act of charity is not just in money, it is also action and being present for someone who feels separated from their community.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta also most known as Mother Teresa said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty”. If an act of charity is love and Jesus asked us to love our neighbor; where can that love be expanded? Where can we focus whatever attention we have to offer someone who a benefit with a connection into community?