Born in Serbia of Albanian parents on August 26th 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became a nun, at first in Ireland and then at Darjeeling in north-east India, where she adopted the name Teresa. She longed for permission to move outside the convent walls to work with the poorest of the poor in India. She received permission to teach in Calcutta (now Kolkata), and began to work among the slums of the city in 1948. In 1950 she established the Missionaries of Charity along with twelve other sisters; it grew to include over 4,000 sisters.
She became universally known as Mother Teresa, and in later years she received great recognition and various ‘peace prizes’. At the same time she challenged all kinds of people to compassion and discipleship through her media exposure. ‘Do you know and love the poor,’ she asked. ‘If you do not know them, how can you love them?’ She remained radiant throughout, and commented pragmatically, ‘The surest way to preach Christianity to the pagan is by our cheerfulness, our happiness. What would our life be if the Sisters were unhappy? We would do the work, but we would attract nobody.’ She went to her reward in heaven on September 5th 1997.
Teach me, Lord, what You require of me with regard to the poor and needy of this world. Fill my heart with Your compassion and keep me steadfast in following Jesus. Give me Your gift of happiness in all I do, that Your life in me may be attractive to those I meet. Amen.