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I thirst

Mother Teresa of Kolkata is scheduled to be canonised in Rome on September 4, which will give the liturgical calendar three saints with similar names, the others being two Carmelites, St. Teresa of Ávila, later declared a doctor of the Church, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Mother Teresa was the founder of the Missionaries of Charity and lived an active life of both prayer and service in the world. She not only mixed it in secular society, but also stayed with the weakest, poorest, most ignored and despised elements of society.

In the social structure of Indian society, they are the abandoned and discriminated against.

Popularly known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, she was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 to ethnic Albanian parents during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

She arrived in India in 1929 as a novice with the Loreto Sisters and after her final profession was appointed principal of an elite high school. But her glimpses of the social reality outside the campus awoke in her another dream and she left her ivory tower in the late 1940s to found the Missionaries of Charity in response to what she termed a call within a call to walk into the hell inhabited by the poor of India’s sprawling slums.

In February 1948, she wrote to the superior of the Sisters of Loreto seeking permission to leave so she could serve the poor. Her request was approved by Pope Pius XII in August and in December of the same year she started a school in Moti Jihl, a fetid slum where the work of her new congregation began.

Mother Teresa’s entire life was devoted to helping the poor and the weak, including victims of AIDS, people with Hansen’s Disease and those dying on the streets. She lived among them, which took a lot of courage and persistence, but she saw it as her response to God’s call.

Her love of Jesus Christ was her strength. She could only see the suffering Jesus on the cross and it was his words spoken in his death agony, I thirst, that kept her faithful to her way of life.

When she heard the poor cry, “I thirst!” her response was to Jesus’ love, whose face she saw in the poorest and most vulnerable.

The recipient of many awards from various quarters the world over, she sought honour not for herself, but for those whom she served and gratefully accepted all prize monies to help finance her work.

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state in the United States of America, and now Democrat nominee in the presidential election, once commented that she was not worthy to untie Mother Teresa’s shoelace.

A reporter, who saw Mother Teresa cleaning the wounds of a person with Hansen’s Disease in the street, said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars,” to which Mother Teresa replied, “Neither would I.”

So why did she do it? It was love inspired by the words of Jesus on the cross, “I thirst.”

She died in Kolkata on 5 September 1997. May the thirst of Jesus inspire more people to follow in her footsteps. SE