“It is not how much we do,
but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving.”
– Mother Teresa
The attention of the whole world is once more turned to the eternal city, Rome. It is not about the election of a new Pope nor a “Third Vatican Council”. It is rather the canonization of a gentle but great soul; the Albanian nun Mother Teresa born as Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910.
Mother Teresa’s vocation to the religious life began when she was eighteen years; in the year 1928. Her father Nikola, a successful contractor and politician, had died when she was barely eight and her mum Dranafile took up the task of raising her and her siblings Aga her elder sister and Lazar her elder brother. Her home was a place where poor folks came to eat and the then little Agnes (Mother Teresa) was always empathetic with them and could only eat when they had eaten.
Mother Teresa’s missionary journey started with the Loreto Sisters in Dublin, Ireland who were dedicated to the education of young girls. She entered the novitiate in 1929 and by 1931 she took her first religious vow and chose the name Teresa in honour of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
After her first religious profession, Mother Teresa was sent to St. Mary’s High School Calcutta India to teach young girls. While in Calcutta Mother Teresa was able to see the other side of the city namely the slums where the poorest of the poor barely survived. The discovery of the slums and the pitiable inhabitants aptly set the tone for the second part of Mother Teresa’s vocation. In a statement, she said: ” I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor”.
With the permission of the Archbishop of Calcutta (after myriads of oppositions), Mother Teresa began to serve the poor openly on the streets of Calcutta. To be effective and to create a vivid connection and resonance with the poor people, she dropped her Loreto habit and started dressing like a modest India woman in plain white safari and sandals.
The active works of Mother Teresa are so numerous that only serialised publications can exhaustively detail them. Before her death on the 5th of September 1997, her works of charity and mercy got global attention and admiration with numerous awards from various institutions and organization. She also received the renowned Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. However, on this 4th day of September, the eve of the 19th anniversary of her death, the Church is giving her a rare award as a canonized saint.
This article does not pretend to give an exhaustive detail of the life and works of Mother Teresa of Calcutta whom the Church is honouring today with her canonization. However, a deep focus is given to an aspect of her piety that most active Catholics could find to be very encouraging and at the same instructive.
Mother Teresa constantly told his sisters about her emergency novena prayer. Normally we know that a typical novena prayer takes the known nine days from start to finish. However, Mother Teresa’s connection and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary brought about her pious relational attention to the traditional prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary known as the MEMORARE. She spoke of reciting the prayer ten times (not nine times) when faced with an urgent need. What follows here is a testimonial from an excerpt from the book “Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait”, by Monsignor Leo Maasburg:
Mother Teresa sat in the passenger seat, and together we prayed the fifteen decades of the Rosary and a Quick Novena. This Quick Novena was, so to speak, Mother Teresa’s spiritual rapid-fire weapon. It consisted of ten Memorares — not nine, as you might expect from the word novena. Novenas lasting nine days were quite common among the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity. But given the host of problems that were brought to Mother Teresa’s attention, not to mention the pace at which she traveled, it was often just not possible to allow nine days for an answer from Celestial Management. And so she invented the Quick Novena.
Mother Teresa used this prayer constantly: for petitions for the cure of a sick child, before important discussions or when passports went missing, to request heavenly aid when the fuel supply was running short on a night-time mission and the destination was still far away in the darkness. The Quick Novena had one thing in common with nine-day and even nine-month novenas: confident pleading for heavenly assistance, as the apostles did for nine days in the upper room “with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women” (Acts 1:14) while waiting for the promised help from the Holy Spirit.
The reason why Mother Teresa always prayed ten Memorares, though, is as follows: She took the collaboration of Heaven so much for granted that she always added a tenth Memorare immediately, in thanksgiving for the favor received. So it was on this occasion. We prayed the entire Rosary while we were waiting in the car. No sooner had we finished the Quick Novena than the Swiss guardsman knocked on the steamed-up windshield and said, “Mother Teresa, it’s time!” Mother Teresa and the Sister got out. To keep the guardsman from chasing me out of the beautiful courtyard, I called after Mother Teresa, “Mother, I’ll wait here for you until you come back down. Then I’ll take you home.” But it was to be otherwise.
For she turned around and called, “Quick, Father, you come with us!” Was it the Quick Novena that finally bring about this “Quick, Father…”? I had no time to reflect, for Mother Teresa was already on her way to the elevator; she swept aside the timid protest of the Swiss guardsman with a charming “Father is with us!” and a grateful twinkle of her eyes.
There are still so many testimonies of the amazing results of Mother Teresa’s emergency novena with the memorare. Without over-labouring the issue, we can establish here that as Mother Teresa is being canonized today we can go home with a reflection on her deep connection with our Blessed Mother Virgin Mary on the platform of the memorare. May we learn this simple but powerful devotion from her and definitely we shall have our own remarkable testimonies.
“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you, I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your clemency hear and answer me. Amen.”