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Oct 7 - Mother Teresa founds her order


Today in 1950, Mother Teresa founded the religious order the Missionaries of Charity. Today she received permission from the Holy See to canonically found the order, originally as a diocesan congregation, whose work would be restricted to the diocese under the authority of the local bishop. Their primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.




Teresa was her religious name, that she had taken when she joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. She was born Agnes in Macedonia, and her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt called to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and after a short spell training in Dublin she was sent to India, where she taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta. The school was relatively prestigious and live behind the convent walls was simple, comfortable and safe. But the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made a deep impression on her that she experienced what she later described as "the call within the call" when she travelled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith." She received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.


She replaced her traditional Loreto habit with a simple, white cotton sari with a blue border. Teresa adopted Indian citizenship and spent several months in Patna to receive basic medical training at the Holy Family Hospital and ventured into the slums. She founded a school and was joined in her effort by a group of young women, writing in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulty. With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months. On 7 October 1950, Teresa received Vatican permission for what was first to be a diocesan congregation, which would later become the worldwide Missionaries of Charity. In her words, it would care for "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone". Two years later she opened her first hospice with help from Calcutta officials. She converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, free for the poor, and renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart Those brought to the home received medical attention and the opportunity to die with dignity in accordance with their faith: Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received extreme unction. "A beautiful death", Teresa said, "is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted."


Today the order has grown to tens of thousands and comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in many countries. As the order has grown it has also branched out, so after the initial Active branch of the Sisters, later a Contemplative branch of the Sisters and the Active branch of the Brothers was founded. Later a contemplative branch of the Brothers was added, and then a Priest branch was established. These five branches of the order are fed by contemplation and devotion to the 5 wounds of Christ on the cross. The two wounds in the Hands, are linked to the Active Sisters & Brothers - Serving with active love the Poor. The two wounds in the Feet, are linked to the contemplative brothers and sisters going in search of souls by their Word, prayer & penance. Mother Teresa once said “I have asked Our Lady to keep the Society hidden in the five wounds of Jesus.” This devotion the sacred wounds of Christ is an ancient devotion in the church which grew into the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in France in the 18th century . The spirituality that has developed to accompany these branches is around quenching the thirst of Jesus – by living with and serving the poor. On the simple chapels in their houses it has Christ on the Cross, by the Altar with the words ‘I Thirst’. The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the abandoned elderly shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers. They are assisted by lay Co-Workers who by the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries.

By the early 1970s, Teresa was an international celebrity helped by the English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge's 1969 documentary, Something Beautiful for God . During filming, footage shot in poor lighting (particularly at the Home for the Dying) was thought unlikely to be usable by the crew. In England, the footage was found to be extremely well-lit and Muggeridge called it a miracle of "divine light" that seemed to emanate from Teresa herself and Muggeridge later converted to Catholicism. During her lifetime, Teresa was among the top 10 women in the annual Gallup's most admired man and woman poll 18 times, finishing first several times in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1979, Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace ". She refused the conventional ceremonial banquet for laureates, asking that its $192,000 cost be given to the poor in India and saying that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her to help the world's needy. When Teresa received the prize she was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" She answered, "Go home and love your family." She was also awarded the inaugural Templeton Prize which was financially linked to the Nobel Prize to assure that it would always award slightly more money to the prize winner as John Templeton (see pod July 8 ) felt that the Nobel Prizes ignored spirituality.


In 1999 she headed Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, out-polling all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was first in all major demographic categories except the very young. When she died in 1997 the U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world”. Back in Kolkata, she is worshipped as a deity by some Hindus.

In her private diaries, released after her death, Teresa experienced doubts and struggle in her religious beliefs which lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life. Teresa expressed grave doubts about God's existence and pain over her lack of faith: Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. ... If there be God – please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Scholars have pointed out similar spiritual struggles among other saints (including Teresa's namesake Thérèse of Lisieux, who called it a "night of nothingness") had similar experiences of spiritual dryness. St John of the Cross called it a Dark Night of the Soul in his famous canticle.


One of Teresa's most outspoken critics was English journalist, and antitheist Christopher Hitchens, host of the documentary Hell's Angel (1994) and author of the essay The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995) He said Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. During her process of beatification, the Vatican called him in as a what used to be called the "devil's advocate", as well as another fierce critic, the Calcutta physician, Aroup Chatterjee (author of Mother Teresa: The Untold Story) to present evidence opposing Teresa's beatification and canonisation. They both spoke to a tribunal and their allegations were investigated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who found no obstacle to Teresa's canonisation, and issued its nihil obstat in 1999. Because of both the adulation and prizes and the ferocity of the attacks on her, some Catholic writers called her a sign of contradiction. She was declared a saint by Pope Francis who canonised her in 2016 in the presence of 1,500 homeless people from across Italy