Mother Teresa: "Life is an adventure"

© RIA Novosti . R. Mangasarian / Go to the mediabankMother Teresa
Mother Teresa - Sputnik International
The biography of larger-than-life characters, such as Mother Teresa, always contain seemingly insignificant facts that give us a clue as to what makes them exceptional. But often these clues are hard to notice.

The biography of larger-than-life characters, such as Mother Teresa, always contain seemingly insignificant facts that give us a clue as to what makes them exceptional. But often these clues are hard to notice.

What made her different? How did she manage to do things others never dared? Her biography has little of the glitz and glamour of showbiz celebrities. A Carmelite nun, she spent more than a decade teaching at a convent school in Calcutta, but then suddenly left the well-structured monastic life to devote herself to charity. She began by taking a woman from the slums into her home. Her body was badly bitten by rats and ants, and she stood little chance of survival. But Mother Teresa did all she could to ease the suffering of the poor Indian woman.

Taking care of the needy became Mother Teresa's mission for the rest of her life (1948-1997), and she pursued that mission in Calcutta, a city where poverty is so rife that it takes courage to just walk down the street.

Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910, and as we celebrate the centenary of her birth, we reflect not just on the facts of her biography, but also on her legacy. The monastic order she set up in Calcutta, The Missionaries of Charity, now has about 400 branches in 120 countries across the globe, with 300,000 affiliated volunteers helping the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa never sought to make a career for herself; she served a mission; and thanks to her efforts, our world has become more humane.

But how could this frail little woman make such a difference? To be able to do something outstanding, a person needs to possess special qualities most of us do not have. It is no secret that people with mixed ancestries, born to parents of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, often have an unconventional approach to life and achieve more. U.S. President Barack Obama is just one example.

Mother Teresa had that asset, too. Mother Teresa's real name is Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was born to an Albanian Catholic family in the city of Skopje, Macedonia.

Another important fact of her biography is that she wanted to become an author and a journalist. She went to India to work as a correspondent. She had taken her monastic vows by then, and was going to work on an assignment from Zagreb's Catholic Mission newspaper. She had an obvious literary flair, and she had a message to tell the world.

Let me quote here her best known saying: "Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is bliss, taste it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it."

Mother Teresa took her inspiration from Kent Keith's Paradoxical Commandments, which she had engraved on the walls of her school in Calcutta. One line from it reads, "What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway."

As we read these verses, we cannot help but be amazed by Mother Teresa's enormous drive and vitality, something we rarely expect from a humble ascetic.

She was canonized by the Vatican almost immediately after her death - an extremely rare thing for the Holy See, where the beatification and canonization process usually takes years. Her religiosity, however peculiar, does not conflict with the essence of Catholicism. But it does not correspond to some common stereotypes about hermits.

Mother Teresa was full of passion and energy, and she lived her life without fear and achieved the impossible. Most of her patients in Calcutta were Hindu, yet she never tried to convert them to Christianity, telling them instead that they should learn to be better Hindus. Ill-wishers reported this fact to authorities, adding that they had heard Mother Teresa "allege" the Muslims and the Jews worship the same God as the Christians.

In Mother Teresa's life, there were times when she had serious doubts about the very existence of God (this never made her suspend her humanitarian mission, though). We know from history that many of the saints that came before her suffered from the same kind of doubts. But a layman fearful of any deviation from norms and standards may find this fact hard to accept.

The world's religions are constantly changing. Driven people like Mother Teresa either renounce an established doctrine to create their own (in India, this happens routinely), or they move their religion forward, trying to breathe new life into it. Mother Teresa's Catholicism is modern, ecumenical, open-minded. And very humane.

RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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