My birthmate’s canonization

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

With the fascinating melody of the great song written by the I pooh star, Ricardo Foglio, Storie di Tutti giorni (Everyday stories), I revently approached the life of my birthmate who now the Church has officially canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Hers is a captivating story. It was not a story of those great hereos that history books speak about. She did not set sail toconquer entire peoples under compulsion. Thus, creating more poverty while enriching her pockets. No! Mother heard thepowerful cry of the dying Jesus on the Cross, “I thirst” (John 19:28). She responded with great generosity to that call.

In his canonization homily of Blessed Mother Teresa, on Sunday September 4, Pope Francis not only recognized this heroic generosity which impelled this newly canonized saint to give herself to the poorest of the poor but prayed that we might be changed by it! “May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion.”

This gratuitious love makes us more human because it reverts us back to our inherent calling of being God’s sons and daughters. Such a love, if it truly wants to bear abundant good fruit, needs to be soaked by joy! As the Apostle rigħtly reminds us: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).

Was Mother Teresa a cheerful giver? In practically every photo depicting her strong personality one can detect her infectious smile. It was a smile that came directly from the heart of the Merciful Jesus. It was a smile that filled our shattered world withthe revolutionary gentleness of God’s unfathomable mercy. Yes! I love to call my birthmate the Apostle of God’s smile!

Dwelling on this point the Holy Father said: “Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Then he exhorted us to be, like Mother Teresa, apostles of God’s smile, in a world where authentic smiles are becoming so rare especially in the riches parts of our globe. “Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.”

Personally speaking my birthmate is of great inspiration to me. I just recall the Nobel lecture she delivered on 11 December 1979. In that bold speech Mother Teresa did not mince her words. She blamed abortion as the breaker of peace, calling it “thegreatest destroyer of peace”. But why is this so? Thus explained Saint Teresa:

“Abortion, … is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child – I will not forget you – I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible – but even if she could forget – I will not forget you… And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child – what is left for me to kill you and you kill me – there is nothing between”.

You and I admire Mother Teresa’s indefatigable strenght to bear witness to that unending light which only theDivine Mercy can give to our suffering world. As Pope Francis said, she was “committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that ‘the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable’”.

If we really want to honour Saint Teresa of Calcucatta what are we doing to protect human life in all its stages? Are we sincerely protecting the unborn? Like my birthmate used to do?

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