St. Teresa of Kolkata has been called a saint for decades, but now it’s official. Her name has been added to the canon of saints, people whose lives on earth exemplified faith and love. Our church recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit within St. Teresa, which in turn inspires us as companions on a journey of faith. St.
Teresa’s sainthood is a way for our church to thank her for being a good and faithful servant and to
encourage the rest of us to be good and faithful servants in our own way.
Yes, her title is now “St. Teresa,” but for those of us who have followed her steadfast dedication to the poorest of the poor, she will always be “Mother Teresa.” The images of her cradling dying men or women or cuddling a baby evoke the essence of a loving mother. She is a mother who took away an outcast’s pain, who conveyed to each person she encountered that they are valued, beloved children of God.
Even 19 years after her death, universal admiration for St. Teresa remains strong. She had a preferential option for the poor, an option not confined by things that set people apart. A few critics questioned why she didn’t work for systemic change to eradicate poverty. St. Teresa believed she was responding to what God called her to do. She also believed that if we share our talents and skills on behalf of the least among us, we will change the world for the better.
Her canonization on Sept. 4 affirmed St. Teresa’s response to God’s call, to the message of the Gospel. The public celebration in St. Peter’s Square captured the world’s attention and served as a reminder that we are a community of believers, called together in prayer, which in turn should lead to action.
Admiration of St. Teresa of Kolkata takes its most fitting form in prayer and action. She asked us to show our love for God by putting it in action. We can’t love God without getting to know God through prayer and participation in the liturgy. How we act on prayer depends on our means and abilities.
Here are some examples of and suggestions for putting our admiration into action:
• Prayer intentions. St. Ann Parish in Long Grove has created prayer cards for September that feature intentions related to the work of St. Teresa. Consider writing your own prayer intentions.
• Donation of essential, non-food items. St. Ann’s is also conducting a “diapers and formula drive” with those items to be donated to the North Scott Food Pantry and the Women’s Choice Center. Plenty of food pantries and shelters in our diocese desperately need these supplies.
• Take action to alleviate hunger. September is Hunger Action Month. Volunteer at a food pantry or food bank in your community or contribute food or money if you can’t physically participate. River Bend Foodbank in Davenport needs volunteers to sort food, pack backpacks and perform a variety of other duties. Contact Belinda by email if you can help: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit these websites for more information: riverbend
foodbank.org or HungerActionMonth.org.
• Get informed about poverty and social justice. Some resources: the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action newsletter. Go to the website: www.davenportdiocese.org/social-action. Another is the Iowa Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops. Go to the website: iowacatholicconference.org. The Iowa Policy Project is also a good resource that provides research and analysis to engage Iowans in state policy decisions. Visit the IPP’s website: www.iowapolicyproject.org. For a national perspective, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offers information on faith-based issues. Visit the website at www.usccb.org.
• Join a parish committee engaged in social action, family life, church life or liturgy.
• Participate in a Bible study or prayer group. Organize one if your parish doesn’t have a group.
Like the rest of us, Mother Teresa was not perfect. She struggled with spiritual dryness, a long dark night of the soul, but persevered in her God-given calling. We honor her by persevering in our calling.