St. Teresa of Calcutta

Founder, Missionaries of Charity (1910–1997)
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Oil Painting of St. Teresa of Calcutta by Rajesekharan Parameswaran. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Mother Teresa, an Albanian-born nun, spent twenty years as a Loreto Sister in her order’s schools in India. One day, in 1946, while traveling by train in the Himalayas, she suddenly sensed that God “wanted me to be poor with the poor, and love him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” This “call within a call” inspired her to leave her convent and set out for the byways of Calcutta. Others joined her in what became the Missionaries of Charity. While their work spread around the globe, Mother Teresa remained most identified with her original home for the dying in Calcutta. There, destitute and dying men and women who had lived like “animals in the gutter” were able to “die like angels”—knowing they were valued and loved as children of God. 

Long after Mother Teresa’s death, the publication of her private diaries revealed that after her original call, she had spent most of her life in a state of spiritual darkness—even doubting the existence of God. While some were shocked to discover that such a holy woman could suffer such spiritual anguish, others were moved and inspired to consider how faithfully she had pursued her vocation, despite the lack of spiritual consolation. Evidently Mother Teresa came to see this darkness as part of her vocation—an opportunity to share “a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.” 

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997. By that time she had long been acclaimed as a living saint. She was canonized by Pope Francis in 2016. 

“If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” —St. Teresa of Calcutta 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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