The life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Her works of charity and her dedication to spreading the Catholic religion brought her a multitude of awards and some criticism.

Her real name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and at the early age of 18 she left home to begin her religious life. She traveled to Ireland where, upon entering the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she adopted the alias by which she would be known throughout the world: Sister Mary Teresa. During the following years she devoted himself to teaching in India, but on September 10, 1946, during a trip to the city of Darjeeling, her life changed suddenly. According to her own words, at that moment she received the "inspiration" or "call within the call" and in the following months she experienced several revelations in which Jesus himself asked her to start the Missionaries of Charity.

Since then, Sister Mary Teresa began humanitarian work to which she would devote the rest of her life. What began modestly with the creation of a home for the dying in Calcutta soon became a wave of health centers in different parts of India. Her work would extend to the international level and, in the 1970s and 1980s, would extend its efforts to Communist, Latin American and African countries.

The Missionaries of Charity had become a non-governmental organization (NGO) present all over the world. In the nineties they were already operating 517 missions in a hundred countries and several states recognized the great work of Teresa of Calcutta: in India she received the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, a prize given to other people such as Nelson Mandela. In the United States, she was granted Honorary Citizenship and in the United Kingdom, the Order of Merit. The list of prizes increased over the years until, in 1979, she was awarded the most outstanding award: the Nobel Peace Prize "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace”.

Praise and criticism for Mother Teresa

Not everything was a praise for Mother Teresa. Christopher Hitchens, a British journalist who died in 2011, was one of her biggest critics. He made the documentary 'The Angel of Hell' with the BBC, in which he attacked the nun’s humanitarian mission and called her interested. A year later, he continued with his criticisms in the book 'The Missionary’s Position'. The attacks came from several fronts: Medical organisations and specialist journals criticised the quality of the health services of Teresa of Calcutta’s organisation, and even the British daily The Guardian criticised the state of its orphanages.

Mother Teresa’s health began to suffer in the 1980s. She spent her last months with ailments of all kinds: pneumonia, malaria, heart problems, etc. She died on 5 September 1997. Her funeral was attended by 12,000 people and a mass was celebrated in which a leper, a disabled child and a female prisoner brought water, bread and wine to celebrate the Eucharist.

It is a rule of the Church that the process of beatification can only begin five years after the death of the candidate. However, Pope John Paul II broke the rules, which allowed Teresa of Calcutta was beatified on 19 October 2003. On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis I canonized Mother Teresa in St Peter’s Square of the Vatican, in front of more than 100,000 people of faith and during a ceremony that wanted to remember the important work of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu for the disadvantaged.

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