|Profiles in Courage is the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies written by US President John F. Kennedy. The book describes acts of bravery and integrity by eight US Senators. As part of the Year of Faith, Veritas is proud to present Profiles in Faith, a series of essays on the life and work of twelve Christian men and women who lived their lives as ‘faith in action’. We encourage you to read the accounts, and to reflect on them over the course of the month. Additional biographical sources are also suggested, should you wish to find out more.
Profile Two: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia, a small country in Eastern Europe, in 1910. As a young girl Agnes became interested in the work of missionaries and, when she was eighteen, she responded to the call of the Holy Spirit to become a missionary nun. She joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India.
After a few months’ training in Dublin, she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931 she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa—as she came to be known—taught geography and theology at St. Mary’s High School, Calcutta, India, but she soon realised that the Holy Spirit was calling her to serve the Church in a different way.
She obtained permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor. Together with a group of her former pupils, she started an open-air school in the slums of Calcutta. There she found people living in absolute destitution, with no healthcare facilities, many of whom were often left to die on the street.
Mother Teresa and her companions were compelled to action by both the grace for making good and wise judgments and the grace for implementing them. They began ‘Homes for the Dying’ and committed themselves to caring for people whom nobody else was prepared to look after.
More and more women came to join them in their efforts and, in 1950, the Church officially established them as a religious congregation, to be known as the Missionaries of Charity. By the time of Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, there were over four thousand sisters in the Missionaries of Charity.
Today, the Missionaries of Charity comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in more than one hundred countries, caring for the poor, people with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, and running schools, orphanages and soup kitchens. During her lifetime, Mother Teresa was awarded numerous accolades for her work, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, and is now known as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
- What do you find most inspiring for your own life from the story of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta?
- Do you ever see situations of injustice around you? Do you ever feel moved by the Spirit to act on these issues? Explain.
Quotes from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
“You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.”
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
Previous Profiles in Faith
October: Thomas Merton