Mother Teresa Lighted Up the World
Like many folks, I recently wrote to Anthony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building, to ask if that monumental structure could be lighted up in honor of Mother Teresa's 100th birthday on August 26. In my letter, I noted Mother Teresa's tremendous impact on New York, especially her service to the poorest of the poor. She served people of all faiths and none. She reached out to those whom no one else was looking after. And in the process, she opened a lot of eyes and a lot of hearts to the plight of the poor. Her life made a huge impact not only on New York but on the world.
Mr. Malkin declined my request and the request of hundreds of others who wanted to see Mother Teresa so honored. Like many other people, I am disappointed by Mr. Malkin's decision. Whether he reverses it or not, however, it is heartwarming that she is being recognized by a U.S. Postal Commemorative Stamp. She is also being honored by the USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum and the New York City Council. Closer to home, the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven has a marvelous Mother Teresa display. Many other organizations too numerous to mention in this space are commemorating her as well.
I suspect Mother Teresa would not have minded these public displays of admiration and recognition any more than she minded receiving the Nobel Peace Prize or the Congressional Gold Medal. She always used those occasions not to turn the spotlight on herself but rather on the needs of poor and the unborn and the work of her beloved Missionaries of Charity.
Mother Teresa's favorite way of being remembered, I have no doubt, will be the many celebrations of the Eucharist that will take place all over the world. Since 2001, thanks to the generosity of benefactors, the Missionaries of Charity have been in the Diocese of Bridgeport - praying for us all, witnessing to Christ through lives of consecration and prayer, and serving the poor with faith, generosity, and respect. As you can read elsewhere in this edition of the Fairfield County Catholic, our diocesan Mass in honor of Mother Teresa will take place at St. Peter Parish, Bridgeport, on August 25 at 6:30 p.m. I hope you will make it a point to attend.
Whether or not the Empire State Building is lighted in honor of Mother Teresa, we know that she lighted up the world. I was privileged to meet Mother Teresa many times. She often came to Washington where I formerly served as a priest and auxiliary bishop. She came to see the Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, who were about to make their final vows and to visit her convents where the poor were (and are) being served. She was short of stature but stood tall in her faith which was tested as gold in a furnace. She stood tall in bearing witness to Christ and in founding and leading the Missionaries of Charity. When it came to opening a new house and beginning a new apostolate, she would not be deterred. She was fearless in the face of all obstacles. Once her Sisters were so concerned about her that they called Cardinal Hickey who arranged for Pope John Paul II to call her and ask her to get the medical care she needed. Only after the Pope called her in her hospital room did she relent, and then only for a little while.
What Mother Teresa and her Sisters have done in Washington and in Bridgeport is but the tip of the iceberg. The Missionaries of Charity are spread throughout the world and continue to serve the poorest of the poor. Her witness of love has brought countless people to faith in Christ and active membership in the Church. Her love for the poor and defenseless touched millions of homeless, hungry, and desperately ill people who otherwise would have left this world unloved. Mother Teresa understood not only their need for food but, indeed, their need for human friendship and for God's friendship, their hunger for the Word of God. Mother Teresa also taught her Sisters to see the link between the Body of Christ received at Mass and the body of Christ lying destitute on the streets. Every day Christ sends Mother Teresa's Sisters out to minister to his wounded body.
The real title for Mother Teresa is "Blessed Mother Teresa." We hope and pray that she will soon be recognized as a canonized saint for we have all felt the effects of her powerful and life-changing sanctity. Sanctity did not come easy to Mother Teresa. Perhaps her world-wide work of caring for the poor and needy was less difficult than her persevering in prayer, apparently with little or no consolation from the Lord. Hers was the prayer of sheer, determined faith. If you have family members or friends who have lost their faith or stopped going to Church, please pray to Mother Teresa. She believed even in the darkness and hoped against hope. I am sure that she will help these souls find their way back to Christ and the Church.
This is also an occasion for us to thank the Missionaries of Charity for ministering in our midst, helping us to address not only physical poverty but, indeed, spiritual poverty. Through the intercession of Blessed Mother Teresa, may the Lord bless these sisters with joy, peace, unity, an abundance of vocations, and apostolic fruitfulness.
Blessed Mother Teresa, pray for us!