A woman like no other, Mother Teresa was a selfless, caring and loving individual who dedicated her life in taking care of the ailing and sick. She led a simple life where each moment was spent in the upliftment of the people. She provided medical assistance, taught in schools, took them in when their own families abandoned them in fear of getting infected, provided them shelter and food.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was her real name. She was born to Nikola and Dranafle Bojaxhiu in Yakub, Ottoman. At an early age, she lost her father and was raised by her mother who instilled the need to serve the needy. She was very close with her mother and sister. Agnes attended Roman Catholic Church and when she turned 18, she joined Sisters of Loreto to become a missionary in India. This was a tough choice for her as she had to give up the chance of having a family and lead a simple life dedicated to others.
Mother Teresa arrived in India at Calcutta on January 6,1929. She took up teaching Geography and History at a convent school where later she became the principal of the school. She learnt Hindi, English and Bengali there. She continued working at the school for nine years after which she received what she called “A Call Within a Call”. She was traveling when she received a message from God to help the poor. She immediately put up her notice to leave school. It took her 2 years before she could finally leave and follow her inner call. She took only her white saree with blue lining which later came to be associated with her.
Mother Teresa then acquired basic medical knowledge from Medical Mission Sisters, Patna. She walked around the slums of Calcutta and taught girls with no class, no chalk or board, she taught them by drawing on dirt. She provided medical assistance to the living people in the slums. Soon the word of her work spread and people began donating to help. Her devoted pupils after receiving education joined back to help her with her tasks.
She founded Missionaries of Charity in 1950 which had more than 5000 sisters working and providing support, love and care to all.
That time India was suffering a lot from various diseases like leprosy and HIV/AIDS. She saw the pain and suffering all around her. She felt those people needed a home where they can be taken care of and so she opened Nirmal Hriday, a home for those who needed it.
Amidst this, leprosy had deeply rooted fear in the hearts of people. Those infected were abandoned and socially excluded. She was doing all that she could do but she realized so many more people required her help. She found Leprosy Fund and a Leprosy Day to educate the public about the disease so that the fear can be properly acknowledged.
She first opened a house in Calcutta, then across India and soon enough spread internationally.
PRIZES AND RECOGNITION
Mother Teresa was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She donated all the money she received in taking care of the sick. She was honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom and Golden Hour of the Nation.
She also received the Bharat Ratna in 1980 and then there was no looking back. From Padma Shri to Pope John XII Peace Prize to Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and many more honorary awards.
Many notable personalities like Princess Diana, the Gandhi family who invited her to work with Congress, also met her. Princess Diana visited her home as she was sick and was unable to attend their meeting scheduled somewhere else.
Became a SAINT
When Mother Teresa died, the process of her canonization began. A woman declared her tumor got cured after praying to Mother Teresa photo. This was declared as the first miracle. Pope gave Mother Teresa the title ‘Blessed’ after this. In order to be a saint, two miracles are required. A Brazilian man got cured just before he was about to undergo surgery. This was the second miracle and Mother Teresa was canonized and became a saint.
CRITICS ON MOTHER TERESA
- Mother Teresa discouraged abortion and the use of contraception
- Being a public figure, she received a lot of donations but people question where did that money go as the quality of living did not improve in her houses.
- Many volunteers who worked there and a physician, Arup Chatterjee voiced their criticism that the nuns used already used needles while injecting which was not even disinfected by warm water. The bedsheets, the washrooms were filthy and not apt environment for the ailing.
- Many Hindus and people of other faiths blame her for religious conversion as they believe if she truly wanted to help people she wouldn’t provide help to just people of her faith.
- Many critics believe she did all the helpings for the attention she received worldwide. They describe it similar to “an instagrammer who gives to the poor in front of a camera”
- She had questionably many rich friends who were convicted frauds in their respective countries.
- The New York Times published that some of Mother Teresa’s actions were like a cult leader (she made the nuns whip themselves with a rope or chain).
- When Indira Gandhi called for national emergency and suspension of fundamental rights in 1975, she supported it by saying people are getting more jobs and now have the means to pull themselves out from poverty. She was criticized a lot in the West and India for this.
- She was called a hypocrite when her letters emerged after her death where she admitted to feeling disconnected from God which was contradictory to her public image as ‘the enlightened one’. This letter was written 2 years after she got the “call”. She wrote “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God -tender, personal love,” she wrote to one adviser. “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”
- In 2018, All Child Care Homes run by Missionaries of Charity was inspected and was found to have sold 3 babies and a baby boy was going to be sold for £1325. This was much later than her death but it sparked controversies even more.
Her life has sparked many controversies over the years and many books on her have also been published. People have also questioned the miracles that were performed by her. Her motives to help have been questioned but at the end of the day she did help people and gave them love and support. It is undeniable how plenty of mankind got the help which no one else gave them. The awareness spread by her did uplift the society to a great extent. And how she dedicated her whole life for others will always make us remember for her kindness and truly as a “Selfless Soul”.