The Vatican has recognised a second miracle attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata, and Pope Francis has authorised her canonisation in September, during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Mother Teresa won world renown for her work for the poor. The order she established, the Missionaries of Charity, now works throughout the world, giving practical witness to Christ’s commandment to love your neighbour.
Mother Teresa’s heroic work first received international recognition when the British journalist and commentator, Malcolm Muggeridge, produced a documentary and best-selling book about the Albanian nun, who was running The House of the Dying, a hospice in Kolkata (then known by its colonial-era name, Calcutta), in India.
The film and book were called Something Beautiful for God.
Something Beautiful for God interpreted her life through the eyes of a modern-day sceptic who became literally transformed in her presence, describing her as “a light which could never be extinguished.”
Mother Teresa came from a strongly Catholic family in predominantly Muslim Albania. As a young woman, she joined the Loreto Sisters and studied in Ireland before being transferred to the sisters’ mission in India.
It was after 20 years teaching in India that she responded to what she called, “The call within a call”, and formed the Missionaries of Charity to care for the dying and destitute on the streets of Kolkata.
At the time she came to prominence, Albania was run by an extremely repressive Stalinist regime.
In the early 1970s, she visited Australia and spoke at the International Eucharistic Congress on the same platform as Mr BA Santamaria.
By the time of her death in 1997, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters, and an associated brotherhood of 300 members, operating 610 missions in 123 countries.
These included hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programs, personal helpers, orphanages, and schools. The Missionaries of Charity were also aided by Co-Workers, who numbered over a million by the 1990s.
The date of canonisation is almost exactly 19 years after her death in the Indian city where she began her heroic work.
A statement released by the Vatican last December said: “The Holy Father Francis received in private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“At the hearing the Holy Father authorised the Congregation to promulgate the decree regarding the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.”
The Archbishop of Kolkata said that Pope Francis has confirmed that the second miracle, the curing of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumours in 2008, had been attributed to the miraculous intercession of Mother Teresa.
According to the Italian Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, Mother Teresa is expected to be canonised on Sunday 4 September, as part of the Pope’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said: “I was informed by Rome that Pope Francis has recognised a second miracle to Mother Teresa.”
A panel of experts, convened last December by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, concluded that the healing attributed to Mother Teresa was miraculous.
Mother Teresa was beatified by St John Paul II in 2003, in a ceremony attended by some 300,000 pilgrims.
Speaking with the National Catholic Register last December, the promoter of Mother Teresa’s cause, Father Kolodiejchuk, recalled the miracle that led to Mother Teresa’s beatification: a woman named Monica Besra in West Bengal had a huge abdominal tumour.
Her family brought her to the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. The sisters first took her to their doctors, who did not have a medical solution.
Then, on 5 September 1998, the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, the superior took a Miraculous Medal that had been touched to Mother Teresa’s body during her funeral and prayed a simple prayer. Father Kolodiejchuk recalled it as: “Mother, today is your day. You love the poor. Please do something for Monica.” It was simple and direct.
At 1 o’clock the following morning, Monica got up and found that her stomach was normal. She could not stand upright before, but that Sunday morning, Monica was standing up straight. People in church were asking, “What happened? Monica’s normal.”
The 2008 miracle just approved for Mother Teresa’s canonisation was also indisputably dramatic. Father Kolodiejchuk told how, in Santos, Brazil, the man who was cured, now 42 years old, had a bacterial infection that led to multiple abscesses of the brain.
“By the 9th of December 2008, he was dying,” Father Kolodiejchuk said. Doctors had tried different medicines and treatments. By 2am, the man was in extreme pain and went into a coma, near death.
“At 6:10pm, he was being taken to the operating room. His main doctor, a neurosurgeon, wanted to try a last-ditch surgery, but it was not doable, as the anaesthesiologist couldn’t perform a necessary procedure on him first.
“However, since that March, the patient’s wife continuously asked for Mother Teresa’s intercession for her husband. Her relatives, friends and the parish priest were also praying for a miraculous cure through the blessed nun’s intercession.
“Meanwhile, that December day, the wife went to their parish precisely from 6:10 to 6:40pm for very intense prayer, along with the pastor, Father Elmiram Ferreira, seeking the intercession of Mother Teresa for the cure of her dying husband.
The surgeon came back to the operating room at 6:40pm. The man was inexplicably awake, in no pain, and asked, “What am I doing here?”
“Not one of the doctors could explain that medically,” said Father Kolodiejchuk, who travelled to Santos with a priest from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints to investigate the miracle.
In Rome last September, the medical commission studying the case for the canonisation unanimously found a perfect cause and effect: “a direct causal connection between this inexplicable cure and the intercession of Mother Teresa,” said the priest-postulator.
Now, the once-afflicted man is back at work, with no physical limitations.
Last October, the theological commission voted unanimously for approval, and on 15 December, the final approval of the miracle went to the Holy Father from the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Two days later, Pope Francis approved.
There is even another miracle connected to the Brazilian man’s inexplicable cure that was not part of the cause’s official presentation. Father Kolodiejchuk explained that all the doctors said that because of the treatment the man received, he would not be able to father a child, so he and his wife would never have children.
“But they have two healthy children — one born in 2010 and one in 2012,” Father Kolodiejchuk said.
This, too, should not surprise those with devotion to Mother Teresa.
“During her lifetime, young couples would come to ask Mother to pray for them,” said Father Kolodiejchuk, referring to the saint simply as “Mother,” as the Missionaries of Charity often do. “She would take a Miraculous Medal, kiss it — always her practice — and give it and say, ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, give us a child.’”
And a year later, the husband and wife would come back to show her their baby. And at times, noted Father Kolodiejchuk, she could be even more direct: “Mother would say, ‘You will have a child.’”
“She had a very simple, direct expression,” he affirmed. “She chose to be that way.”
A Mercy Saint for the Jubilee
The Year of Mercy seems like the perfect time for canonising Blessed Mother Teresa because of her major works of mercy. According to the calendar for this Jubilee of Mercy, 4 September is the “Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy.”
Father Kolodiejchuk sees the timing as a work of divine Providence. If someone had told him about the 2008 miracle years earlier, Mother Teresa might have already been canonised, “but Divine Providence wants that canonisation for the Year of Mercy because the actual apostolate [of Mother Teresa] was the works of mercy from Matthew 25,” he observed.