Mother Teresa's Message: Calcutta Is Everywhere

Blessed Teresa's successor, the postulator for her cause, and a Brazilian man miraculously healed on account of Mother Teresa's intercession give briefing to journalists ahead of Sunday's canonization.

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Mother Teresa’s successor has said the overall vision of the soon-to-be-canonized founder of the Missionaries of Charity was that everyone is “infinitely loved by God and all are created to love and be loved”, but unless one finds that “deep energy and essential existence in our own heart, we will not be at peace.”

At a briefing with reporters at the Vatican this afternoon, Sister Mary Prema Pierick said so much of Blessed Teresa was simple: her poverty was just about “sharing what the sisters have” and “not wanting anything special or extra,” she said.

Likewise her work for the poorest of the poor was “very understandable”. The current superior general of the Missionaries of Charity said it demonstrated an “overflow of her cleaving to Jesus, to her vow of chastity, her true love of God, and her poverty, sharing the pain and suffering with those around her.”

Sister Prema said Blessed Teresa was “for us mother and teacher”, a person who “lived religious life with so much joy and enthusiasm that we all wanted to be close to her.”

German-born Sister Prema recalled how when Mother Teresa came to Rome, she would on occasion share the same dormitory as the other sisters, although normally she’d stay in a small room for the night. “She always had meals with us,” Sister Prema said, and was always there to “encourage us, accept and love us just as we are.”

Reflecting on whether she feels Mother Teresa’s closeness at this time, she said her predecessor brought her and her sisters “close to Jesus and Our Lady, and she continues to do this with me now.” She never did “anything to tie people to herself, but always guided others to Jesus and to Mary and especially the Eucharistic Lord.”

“She inspired people to trust in Our Lady’s intercession for all the needs they have,” Sister Prema said.

Mother Teresa began her day with early morning prayer at 5 a.m. and “even in old age tried to be the first one in the chapel to tell Jesus how much she loves Him,” said the congregation’s superior general.  After Mass, she said Mother Teresa was “ready to give herself to every need and encourage and send out the sisters.”

“She guided us how to live in a practical way,” Sister Prema said, “in loving trust and total surrender, and always with a smile.” Her smile, she said, was a “gift to Jesus and to the world because people have enough sadness in their own hearts and we don’t need to add to that.”

Sister Prema said she recently saw a video of life in Calcutta between 1961 and 1971 and said living conditions there have “improved a lot” since then, when the city was in “great misery.” Mother Teresa, she said, “didn’t try to solve problems” in the city but rather “to love the individual sufferer and make a difference to that person’s life”.

In his presentation, postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa, Missionary of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, said Mother Teresa was “the perfect Saint for the Year of Mercy”. He said she was “so aware of her need for mercy before God” and “very much at home with her own poverty.”

“The Year of Mercy is first of all a reminder to all of us that before God we all stand in need of mercy; so in this we are all poor; we stand as a beggar in need of his love, of his forgiveness – of his mercy,” Father Kolodiejchuk said.

And he added that this is Mother Teresa's message: “Calcutta is everywhere.”

This reality of our interior poverty she would call the “Calcutta of the heart”, and indeed, the “Calcutta of my own heart!” 

The Canadian priest also stressed Blessed Teresa “was always ready to show mercy and forgiveness to others” and that we need “lots of love to forgive and we need lots of humility to forget, because it is not complete forgiveness unless we forget also. And not forgetting, very often we say we have forgiven but we cannot forget. And as long as we cannot forget, we really have not forgiven fully.”

Mother Teresa used to go to confession once a week but “it was not a matter of habit or routine,” rather of encountering the “mercy and love of God each time anew.”

And to show God’s love for sinners, Father Kolodiejchuk quoted a famous quote of hers in which she said: “The devil hates God. And that hatred in action is destroying us. Making us commit sin, making us share in that evil. … So that we too share in that hatred and [this] cuts us off from God. But there is where the wonderful mercy of God comes. … And this is what the devil hates in God, that tenderness and love of God for the sinner”.

Recalling the “dark night” of the soul that Mother Teresa experienced, he said that among other things it points to, it “explains why Mother Teresa had such a great capacity for mercy. The experience of darkness compelled her to depend continuously on the mercy of the Lord, and therefore to be always ready to show mercy to others.”

Mother Teresa said 'yes' to the darkness, which was a terrible way to suffer for someone who loved God so deeply,” Father Kolodiejchuk said, and recalled a quote of hers on the matter: “I have come to love the darkness – for I believe now that it is a part a very, very small part of Jesus darkness and pain on earth. [You have taught me to accept it [as] a “spiritual side of ‘your work’ as you wrote -] Today really I felt a deep joy – that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony - but that He wants to go through it in me. More than ever I surrender myself to Him - Yes - more than ever I will be at His disposal.”

“In this 'yes' of Mother Teresa there is all her holiness and all of our Christian faith: all of what is asked of us to do and all of what we can do. Jesus does the rest,” he said.

He closed by saying that Mother Teresa is a saint for everyone” precisely because she was “able to share the suffering of Jesus, she understood that she was loved in a special way by God.”

“Mother Teresa is a saint for everyone, for the poor and the rich, and for our time, devastated by so much violence and aridity of heart, because she has shown that the evil,misery that we all carry within us, can be forgiven and that, grasping the merciful and secure hand that Jesus extends to us, our darknesses can be overcome,” Father Kolodiejchuk said.

Sister Prema said Mother Teresa did not speak to the sisters about her darkness and they were unaware of it, but she said she wasn’t surprised “because in the love and profundity of her surrender to God, He could do with her what He wanted and how He wanted and when He wanted, and where He wanted.”

“So her total surrender and abandonment to God, it does not surprise me that He was able to give her more than he usually gives,” Sister Prema added.

Asked by a Jordanian journalist about what Mother Teresa would say about the conflict in the Middle East, she said “you are brothers, love each other take care of each other, help each other because we’re all children of the same Heavenly Father. We are brothers and sisters, and we are created to love and to be loved and the hurt we’re giving in conflicts to each other is not going to be a prophet for anyone but God wants everyone to be united in the hearts of Jesus.”

Sister Prema also said she didn’t know if four Missionaries of Charity sisters martyred in Yemen would be canonized, saying it was the responsibility of the local bishop.  

Also present at today's briefing along with his wide Fernanda was Marcilio Haddad Andrino, a Brazilian who was miraculously healed of multiple brain abscesses due to Mother Teresa's intercession. He said he was grateful to God and Mother Teresa for the miracle. Fernanda had prayed to Mother Teresa in a chapel and immediately after he was inexplicably healed of the deadly disease. He also said that although doctors had said it was impossible for him to have children after illness, both Marcilio and Fernanda have had the joy of parenthood.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said 100,000 tickets have been distributed so far, 600 journalists are accredited for Sunday’s canonization, and that 15 or more official delegations from governments have been announced.

To represent the United States, President Obama will be sending Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, as head of the U.S. delegation. Other members will include Kenneth Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Suzy George, deputy assistant to the President and executive secretary and chief of staff of the National Security Council, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, and Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.