The Road to
The beatification of Mother Teresa was conducted Oct. 19,
2003 by Pope John Paul II. Many believe Blessed Mother Teresa will be named a saint of the Catholic Church
someday, and her beatification is the latest step in that path to sainthood.
by John Bookser
and Julie Zimmerman
On Oct. 19, 2003, Pope John Paul II
beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997. The beatification of the
Macedonia-born nun took place in Rome, and her popularity has remained strong in the months since.
leading up to the beatification has been the shortest in modern
history. In early 1999less than two years after Mother Teresa's
deathPope John Paul waived the normal five-year waiting
period and allowed the immediate opening of her canonization cause.
In 2002, the
Holy Father recognized the healing of an Indian woman as the miracle
needed to beatify Mother Teresa of Calcutta. That healing occurred
on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's death. It involved
a non-Christian woman in India who had a huge abdominal tumor
and woke up to find the tumor gone. Members of the Missionaries
of Charity prayed for their founder's intervention to help the
life of loving service to the poor has inspired many to follow
the same path. Her witness and message are cherished by those
of every religion as a sign that 'God still loves the world today,"
members of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she
founded, said in a statement after Mother Teresa's beatification
death, they said, "people have sought her help and have experienced
God's love for them through her prayers. Every day, pilgrims from
India and around the world come to pray at her tomb, and many
more follow her example of humble service of love to the most
needy, beginning in their own families."
In 2001, on
the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, officials closed the diocesan
inquiry into Mother Teresa's sanctity. The yearlong gathering
of testimony from those who knew Mother Teresa was the first major
step in a typically long process. A year earlier, at an August
26, 2000, celebration in Calcutta marking Mother Teresa's birth
anniversary, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim admirers joined in common
prayers for her speedy canonization.
beatification, the recognition of another miracle will be required
If Mother Teresa
of Calcutta had lived in earlier centuries, the Church might have
gathered at her funeral to declare her a saint. Thats the
way things worked in ancient Christianity. Now achieving official
sainthood is more complicatedand not without its own brand
of politics and other human imperfections. But just as this "Saint
of the Gutters" seemed above politics in her life, her utter
and simple devotion to the poor will transcend bureaucratic obstacles
between her and official sainthood.
is already revered as a modern-day saint by Christians from all
corners and denominations. In July Catholic News Service reported
Archbishop Henry D'Souza of Calcutta as saying that Mother Teresa's
tomb "remains a shrine where people are praying and from
which many are receiving grace and strength."
Why the formal
process of canonization? Why the delay? It has been observed that
the Catholic Church thinks in centuries, not in years. It is good
for the Church to test the enthusiasm of the day, to wait awhile,
to discern whether one seen as a saint today will stand the test
of time. As Archbishop D'Souza said last year, the Church "must
be sure that someone who is declared to be a saint is truly such."
The formal investigation will document details of Mother Teresa's
life that may have gone unnoticed, and thus provide a wealth of
information for generations to come.
a longtime friend of Mother Teresa's, expressed little doubt that
"God would provide the miracles" to prove her cause.
It was Teresas single-mindedness, her simplicity and consistency
that captured the worlds imagination. One can only recall
the beatitude of Jesus, How happy are the pure of heart.
That pureness of heart is a simple, single-minded commitment to
the ways of God. We computer-dependent citizens of the 20th-century
long for simplicity; Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived it.
In a 1981
interview, Mother Teresa spoke about another champion of the
poor: St. Francis of Assisi. In a famous story of a turning point
in Francis life, he encounters a leper by the side of the
road and passes him by. Then he realizes that if he is going to
devote his life to the poor he must embrace the leperhe
must welcome him into his life as a brother. Francis then runs
to the lepers aid. Mother Teresa commented, "The encounter
with the leper made St. Francis." So, too, it is Mother
Teresas selfless encounter with the dying that made Mother
It is the calling
of Christians to serve the poor, to make room at the table for
everyone. Francis came to see that. He reveled in the foolishness
of God who has special love for those whom most of us would rather
avoid. Teresa learned that, too, during mid-life. She will be
named a saint because she cleared away lifes clutter and
allowed God to work through her in a powerful way. We should imitate
Feister is editor of AmericanCatholic.org
Julie Zimmerman is managing editor of AmericanCatholic.org.
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