Catholics prepare to celebrate Mother Teresa's sainthood
Her work with the poor and dying of Calcutta, India gained the world's attention. This Sunday, Mother Teresa will officially become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The leader of the Diocese of Buffalo reflected on her life's work and its impact.
Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa in St. Peter's Square. Born in Macedonia to Albania parents, she is best known for her life and work in India, where she founded the Missionaries of Charity and worked hands-on with the people of Calcutta.
What gained the world's attention, say her admirers, was her willingness to go directly to Calcutta's most downtrodden and give them a rare moment of dignity.
"She was looking at these people dying in the streets, with no one to care for them, no one to love them, and that was her calling, very clearly from God, to be very present to those people," said Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. "She used to say 'not only to give them a home but to give them a heart.' In other words, to share one's own heart with these folks so they knew they were loved."
Bishop Malone says Mother Teresa was able to gain the attention and respect of people worldwide who might not otherwise have had interest in the Catholic Church. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Four times, an annual Gallup Poll ranked her as the woman most admired by Americans.
But Mother Teresa also had her critics. Some suggested that her approach to working with the poor was a "band-aid" approach, as Bishop Malone described it, when perhaps she should instead have used her stature to push for more systemic social change.
"All of us are called to do different things," Bishop Malone replied. "And I'm not that everyone who would shout loudly about systemic change would be willing to go out every day in the streets and pick up the dying poor."
It was revealed after Mother Teresa's death that she questioned her own faith and admitted doubts. This alarmed some, but Bishop Malone says this actually common among many great Catholic saints.
"I think most of the time, even for people of profound faith, there were moments of doubt. There were struggles," he said. "I think it's great that Mother Teresa was able to admit that about herself. She felt really that she had experiences, from what I have read, is she lost a feeling of God's closeness in her life, but never stopped believing and never stopped acting in Christ's name."
Bishop Malone noted that Mother Teresa remained a vocal advocate for many of the Catholic Church's positions, including its opposition to abortion.