THURSDAY, AUGUST 26: Today we honor a Nobel Peace Prize winner, beatified Catholic nun and a woman who, through actions and deeds, reached across nations and faiths—Mother Teresa. Arguably among the most humble and influential people of our time, Mother Teresa’s 100th birth anniversary is being celebrated today. (Wikipedia has details on her life, as does American Catholic.) In addition to her life’s works, Mother Teresa is known by millions for her wise and universally-applicable quotes, one in particular being on her take on holiness:
“Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone’s duty: yours and mine.”
Apparently, this woman believed in everyone.
Officially a Catholic nun, Mother Teresa was born Aug. 26, 1910, in Yugoslavia, of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship. (Mother Teresa is being honored in several Indian newspapers today, including The Hindu.) By the time she was 40, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in India, and she serviced the downtrodden in society—the ill, poor and orphaned—for more than 45 years of her life. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (the Nobel Prize website holds her biography); one year later, India honored her with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. When Mother Teresa died in 1997, her charity was active in 123 countries; after her death, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. Mother Teresa needs just one more proven miracle before she can earn canonization in the Catholic Church. (USA Today features an article that questions her possible sainthood.)
Like many faith leaders, Mother Teresa was born into a family of few needs—it wasn’t until her father’s untimely death that the family initially began to see difficult times. A few years later, at 18, Mother Teresa began considering a life in service to God, as her fascination with missions grew. With a great desire to serve like those she read about, Mother Teresa began her own mission. In contrast to many saints of the Church, however, Mother Teresa was known for having spiritual doubts when she saw lepers, starving orphans, death and less-than-humane living conditions during her missions. Some argue that her perseverance through doubt makes Mother Teresa an even greater figure; others question her faith.
Arguments over Mother Teresa’s influence will heat up today and tonight in New York, as protesters rally against the decision to not light the Empire State Building in honor of the nun’s centennial. (The New York Times has an article.) It’s expected that several thousand protesters will line 34th Street between 6 and 7:30 p.m.; William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religions Rights, has been organizing the protest since June. If granted their wish, protesters will see the building lit in blue and white tonight.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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