Archive for the ‘Mother Teresa of Calcutta’ Tag

Feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta (September 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Gold Medal of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT TERESA OF CALCUTTA (AUGUST 26, 1910-SEPTEMBER 5, 1997)

Foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity

Also known as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Alternative feast day = October 19

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We can do no great things, only small things with great love.

–St. Teresa of Calcutta, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 393

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Reactions and responses to St. Teresa of Calcutta prove that, regardless of how good one is and how much one helps others, especially the poor and other marginalized persons, one will have vocal critics.  This is not surprising, especially if one considers Jesus of Nazareth, sinless, and the subject of intense criticism for nearly 2000 years.  One, such as St. Teresa, who makes no pretense of perfection while following Christ can expect criticism also.  The servant is not greater than the master.

Our saint was a native of Skopje, now the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, perhaps soon to become the Republic of North Macedonia.  On August 26, 1910, however, Skopje was a city in the Ottoman Empire.  St. Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, grew up in a series of countries for a few years without leaving the city; borders shifted around her.  In 1918, however, Skopje became part of the new country of Yugoslavia.   Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the youngest child of Nikollé Bojaxhiu and Dranafile Bernai, grew up in a devout family.  Her parents had her baptized when she was one day old.  Her father died when she was eight years old.  Our saint, having read accounts of missionaries in the Bengal region of India, decided at a young age to become a missionary and a nun.

St. Teresa became a religious when she was 18 years old.  Agnes joined the Sisters of Loreto and resided at the abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland.  She studied English there.  The following year she arrived in India, as a missionary.  At first Agnes, still a novice, learned the Bengali language and taught at St. Teresa’s School, Darjeeling, in the southern Himalaya region.  Agnes made her first religious vows on May 24, 1931, becoming Teresa, after St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  When Sister Teresa made her final vows on May 14, 1937, she was a teacher in Calcutta.  Our saint taught in that school until she became the headmistress in 1944.

St. Teresa began her work living among and helping the poor in Calcutta in 1948.  She did this in obedience to a divine vocation she received during a train ride on September 10, 1946.  Over the years our saint founded institutions and spin-off orders of her original order, the Missionaries of Charity, founded with thirteen members in 1950.  She also became an Indian citizen.  St. Teresa and those who worked with her ministered to the poor, the homeless, the dying, lepers, the addicted, and victims of epidemics of natural disasters.  They started work in Calcutta then expanded around the world.

Eventually St. Teresa became famous internationally.  She received many honors, perhaps most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.  She had a reputation as a living saint.  She lived up to it, venturing into war zones to rescue children and assisting victims of devastating earthquakes.  The staunch Roman Catholic, who opposed divorce, abortion, and artificial contraception, also attracted strong criticism from across the political spectrum.  Some critics were right-wing Hindu nationalist politicians.  Others were those sensitive to the global reputation of Calcutta, now renamed Kolkata.  There were also antitheists (to use Reza Aslan‘s term), such as Christopher Hitchens.  Criticism also came from other quarters.  St. Teresa’s death has not abated criticism of her and her orders.

The 87-year-old saint died in Calcutta on September 5, 1997.  The Indian Government gave her a state funeral, but not without controversy.  The Roman Catholic Church fast-tracked her path to full sainthood, declaring her a Venerable in 2002, a Blessed the following year, and a full saint in 2016.

St. Teresa is the patron of the Missionaries of Charity and, with St. Francis Xavier, a patron of the Diocese of Calcutta.

As for criticisms of St. Teresa, she was, like each of us, a flawed human being.  But would it be too much to ask that we, who have done far less good than she did, follow the advice of the novelist Alex Haley and “find the good and praise it”?

The orders St. Teresa founded continue to minister to vulnerable and marginalized people around the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORG WEISSEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA BERNARDINE DOROTHY HOPPE, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GOTTFRIED GEBHARD, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER JULIAN EYMARD, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, THE SERVANTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, AND THE PRIESTS’ EUCHARISTIC LEAGUE; AND THE ORGANIZER OF THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Helder Camara (February 7)   3 comments

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Above:  The Grave of Archbishop Camara

Image Source = Monster4711

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HELDER PESSOA CAMARA (FEBRUARY 7, 1909-AUGUST 27, 1999)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife

The “Red Bishop,” Advocate for the Poor, Defender of Human Rights, and Vocal Opponent of Brazil’s Military Dictatorship

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When I feed the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

–Helder Camara

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Helder Camara was not a Communist or even a Marxist.  No, he was a Socialist and an advocate of Liberation Theology.  He understood the reality of structural economic injustice and the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon the Church to condemn such inequality and to work for social justice, especially the poor.  This proved controversial in the Church and in Brazilian society.  It also eared him the official disapproval of Brazil’s repressive military dictatorship.

Camara, born at Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil, on February 7, 1909, decided at an early age to become a priest.  He, ordained in 1931, was a member of a fascist party for a few years.  (Fascism is conservative tyranny.  Communism is liberal tyranny.  The chief word is tyranny.)  Ministering among the poor of Rio de Janeiro changed our saint’s politics, starting his shift from the right to the left.  In 1952 Camara became the Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro.  He helped to form the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.  For a decade he, serving as the organization’s secretary-general, led the bishops to address issues of economic injustice, especially that related to the concentration of land ownership into the hands of a relative few.  Our saint also pressured his brother bishops to identify with the poor and the oppressed, not the rich and the powerful.  Camara also asked Pope John XXIII to donate the Vatican and its works of art to UNESCO and to live in a modest building instead.

From 1964 to 1985 Camara was the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, in a poor region of the country.  He refused to live in the Episcopal Palace and to wear expensive vestments and a golden cross.  Our saint, the “red bishop,” wore a scruffy cassock and a simple wooden cross, lived in a humble dwelling, and defended democracy of human rights at a time when a brutal military dictatorship governed Brazil.  He survived assassination attempts, although many people associated with him did not.  The government feared the archbishop.  From 1968 to 1977 that government blacklisted Camara, forbidding the press from reporting on him and barring him from speaking in public.

Camara, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times, was humble.  Once, during a meeting at the Episcopal Palace, invited a peasant to sit in the episcopal chair.  The archbishop also told Mother (now St.) Teresa of Calcutta that, when he struggled with his ego, he imagined himself as the donkey carrying Jesus during the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Camara did, however, pull rank to embarrass the police into releasing parishioners they had arrested unjustly.

Camara, aged 75 years, retired in 1985.  Pope John Paul II appointed a conservative successor, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, who opposed Liberation Theology, ended our saint’s human rights initiatives, and wore a golden cross and expensive vestments.  Camara was diplomatic in public, but he took the situation hard in private.

Our saint died at Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, on August 27, 1999.  He was 90 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DAWSON, ENGLISH BAPTIST AND UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA, 1970

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of St. Matteo Ricci (May 11)   2 comments

Image in the Public Domain

SAINT MATTEO RICCI (OCTOBER 7, 1552-MAY 11, 1610)

Roman Catholic Missionary to China

To say or write that we stand on the shoulders of giants has become cliched.  Yet often the sentiment is accurate.  Certainly it applies to many Chinese Christians and Christians of Chinese descent.  For, despite the best efforts of Chinese authorities from the 1700s forward to suppress Christianity, the faith has never died there.  And a giant of faith–St. Matteo Ricci–a saint on my Ecunemical Calendar–did much to establish the church there.

Ricci, born to Italian nobility in Macarata, studied law at Rome.  There, in 1571, our saint, against his father’s wishes, joined the Society of Jesus.  Ricci volunteered for missions in India in 1577.  He arrived in Goa the following year.

Ricci’s greatest work, however, was in China, where St. Francis Xavier had labored faithfully yet not successfully.  (As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.)  Yet, in 1583, Ricci arrived at Chowkingfu (near Canton), from where he worked as a missionary for about six years.  From 1589 to 1595 our saint served as a missionary based at Chaochow.  His next stations were Nan-changfu (until 1598) then Nanjing then Beijing (fro 1601).

Ricci’s life as a missionary in China was challenging, for how does one adapt properly to a different culture?  How to dress was a major issue.  Our saint learned to adopt the wardrobe of a Confucian scholar.  He and his fellow Jesuits in China adapted to Chinese culture, becoming fluent in Mandarin, mastering Chinese classics,and speaking with Chinese scholars–working from the top of society down.  The fact that Ricci had prisms, clocks, and geographical, astronomical, and musical knowledge impressed many Chinese elites greatly, opening doors for his mission.

So, despite challenges, Ricci and his fellow Jesuits were able to make inroads at Beijing, with the emperor and the imperial court.  Jesuit knowledge of astronomy made members of that order useful to the Son of Heaven, whose duties included maintaining an accurate calendar showing the locations of heavenly bodies.  They were more skilled at that difficult task than were the people attempting it.  And the emperor, coming under Christian influence, did not convert, but some courtiers and members of the imperial family did.

The Jesuit mission in China, by working within Chinese culture–a tactic appropriate in the Middle Kingdom–opened up China to Catholic missionaries.  And the Jesuit mission created a cultural exchange.  Not only did Jesuits learn much about China, but Chinese elites gained knowledge about the West, learning Euclidian geometry and seeing an clavichord, for example.  Ricci’s detailed volume about Chinese geography expanded knowledge about that subject in Western Europe also.

The saint died at Beijing on May 11, 1610.

Unfortunately, political pressures sabotaged the Jesuit mission in China.  Had the Jesuits accommodated to Chinese culture too much?   Some Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians thought so.  Their tactics of working among the common people instead alienated leading elements in China, making life more difficult for the Jesuits.  And Confucian opposition to Christianity, grounded in xenophobia, cultural misunderstanding, and doubts about major doctrines, encouraged the imperial suppression of Christianity which began in 1722.

I wonder what would have happened if more missionaries had done as Ricci did.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant Saint Matteo Ricci,

who made the good news known in China.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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