Mother Teresa: biography
The Catholic nun Mother Teresa became a legendary woman of the 20th century. She devoted her life to the poor and set the goal of her life according to Jesus Christ’s teachings. Her example shows that it is possible to earn everybody’s love and international recognition without caring about it. At the same time, the actions of Saint Teresa of Calcutta are criticized sometimes.
Childhood and youth
Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born in 1910 in Skopje, which was located in the peninsula inhabited by Muslim Albanians. The future nun’s family was Catholic.
The father, Nikollë, was a successful entrepreneur, and the mother, Dranafile, worked as a sewer. The parents were religious and sympathetic people, who often helped strangers. Thus, their daughter witnessed love and mercy to everybody in their pure form; she began to find pleasure in helping others.
When the girl turned four, the First World War escalated; the home country suffered from domestic conflicts, and national liberation movements were growing strong. The Albanian father actively participated in those events. He died in 1919; poisoning was a probable cause of death.
The hard times came; Dranafile worked hard to support her family. Many children were orphaned in the post-war epoch, and the woman took six kids in her house.
Young Anjezë liked church services and spent much time praying and serving people. One day, she read about missionaries in India and rekindled dreams of becoming one. The young woman felt like becoming a nun, even though she knew nothing about it.
In 1928, she went to Paris and passed an interview to the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey; Anjezë said good-bye to her mother and other family members, to communicate via letters only. She headed to Ireland then and started studying the English language, necessary for the Indian assignment. On January 06, 1929, the young missionary arrived at Calcutta, which was a part of the British empire then; this place became a home for Mother Teresa for a long time.
Religion and charity
In 1931, Anjezë Gonxhe became a novice Mary Teresa. She learned the Bengalee and began to teach at a Loreto monastery school. The monastery looked like an island of abundance in comparison with the city poverty and homelessness; nuns worked with privileged children and lived their calm, reclusive lives. The life far from people’s pain disturbed Teresa: she came there to help those in need.
In 1937, the woman became a nun and took the name “Mother Teresa”; she began to teach History and Geography at St. Mary’s High School, working there for almost 20 years. When the Second World War broke out, Calcutta was starving. Mother Teresa and sisters did a lot to help people dying from starvation and poverty.
In 1946, the religious order gave the woman the right to do charity work on her own. She decided that she could help her neighbors only in the outskirts, beyond the safe walls of the convent. Mother Teresa shared everything with the unprivileged and the dying. She fed and washed them, treated their wounds and followed them to their graves.
The next two years, other sisters joined the missionary, and The Missionaries of Charity originated; the name was given in 1950. Each member gave a vow of poverty and worked without any material compensation; they had no right to accept any award for their activities. The movement was increasing; shelters, hospitals, and schools were built under Mother Teresa’s supervision.
The funds were composed of small donations from ordinary people and huge philanthropists’ offerings. Gradually, the charity activities of the order reached the international level; since 1965, its branches have been helping the poor all over the globe.
The nun’s work became widely recognized; she was a respected authority. At the age of 69, Mother Teresa gained the Nobel Peace Prize for her mercy and help to the suffering. In 2016, the Catholic church canonized the woman as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Criticism and disclosure
Saint Teresa was criticized in her lifetime – there were some ambiguous facts in her biography. For instance, she was accused of contacts with shady people related to the criminal world; frauds and dictators gave large sums of money to the nun’s fund, and how transparently this money was spent is still doubtful. However, it is unclear where the woman, wearing a simple sari for all her life, could take it.
Mother Teresa is also called unprofessional and negligent – the money her fund collected could be used in modern medical centers and clinics. In fact, her shelters and hospitals were notable for unsanitary conditions. The woman’s cult of poverty usually had a negative effect on patients’ health condition.
According to some foes, Teresa preferred expensive clinics for her own treatment; thus, she lived a double-morale life. There is also some information that unconscious non-Christians were baptized and converted to Catholicism. The 1994 documentary movie Hell’s Angel exposes some facts from the life and work of Teresa of Calcutta.
The young woman chose to be a “spouse of Christ”, so she did not think about marriage; she had no personal life in this respect.
Teresa devoted herself to treat every person equally and see the image of God in anyone. Still, she made some friends and stayed in touch with them: Indira Gandhi, Princess Diana, Michèle Bennett, Charles Keating, and others.
In the 1980s, the nun had heart issues; she went through two heart attacks and got a cardio stimulator. Cardiac disorders did not leave her until the last days; new diseases worsened the situation: Mother Teresa had malaria, pneumonia, and bone fracture.
Despite all these ordeals, the woman said she was not afraid of death – she was looking forward to seeing Jesus Christ and those whom she had helped. One can easily believe she felt that way – the old missionary’s face was peaceful.
As long as her health deteriorated, Saint Teresa stopped leading the order and went to a hospital in California. Still, her body was too worn-out by daily hard work and heart illnesses; the woman died on September 5, 1997. She was buried in Calcutta; the funeral ceremony was broadcast online worldwide.
Today, many people follow Mother Teresa’s path; her wise quotes help people believe in God and human kindness.
- 1962 - Padma Shri
- 1969 - Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding
- 1971 - Pope John XXIII Peace Prize
- 1973 - Templeton Prize
- 1975 - The Albert Schweitzer International Prize
- 1976 - The La Storta Medal for Human Service
- 1977 - The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
- 1979 - Nobel Peace Prize
- 1979 – Patron Medal
- 1980 – The Haitian Legion of Honor
- 1983 – Britain’s Order of Merit
- 1987 - Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee
- 1992 - The UNESCO Peace Education Prize
- 1996 – The Order of the Smile
- 1996 - The Golden Order Nation’s Honor
- 1997 - Congressional Gold Medal