Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart . . . Mother Teresa
The 20th Century will in many ways be remembered as the century of images. Of utmost importance in this day and age is the image one projects to the world. Politicians obscure self-serving motives behind dazzling smiles and expensive haircuts. Super models hide anorexic bodies behind layers of makeup. Hollywood makes heroes out of decidedly un-heroic narcissists. One person, however, lived a life that was identical to the image the world had of her. This person was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who was celebrated worldwide as a saint and who lived a life that wholly justified this renown.
Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in war-wracked Albania to Catholic refugees. At the age of 19, she went to India to join the Sisters of Loreto, a missionary order of nuns. She served with the Sisters as a teacher for 20 years. At the age of 38, while traveling by train in India, she had a striking realization that her life's mission was to minister to the poorest of the poor. With the Pope's blessing, Mother Teresa descended into the slums of Calcutta, undoubtedly one of the poorest cities on the planet, and began the Sisters of Charity.
Under her direction, the Sisters of Charity ministered to the sick and hungry of Calcutta. Showering love and food on all who came to the mission's doorstep, Mother Teresa soon became a local celebrity. In 1969, a documentary chronicling her work in Calcutta was released. Overnight, Mother Teresa gained international prominence as a modern day saint.
With a rare combination of goodness and media savvy, Mother Teresa took advantage of her new-found recognition. She began giving speeches worldwide, helping to bring attention to the plight of the poor everywhere. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and her position as the world's greatest champion of the downtrodden was firmly established.
Towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa was a friend of kings and presidents worldwide. But it was with the poor that she chose to spend most of her time, traveling to war-torn areas such as Beirut and drought-stricken nations such as Ethiopia in her ongoing quest to find new persons in need of love and support.
Today, Mother Teresa's work is being carried on by the 3,000 + members of the Sisters of Charity. With missions worldwide, the Sisters of Charity minister to the poor on six continents, continuing the selfless legacy that Mother Teresa spent her long life establishing.
K. McGrath from Roanoke, Virginia wrote:
Mother Teresa is my hero because she represented all that is good and holy in a world filled with pain and suffering. She replaced violence and disregard for human life with patience, kindness and stewardship. She was more than just a woman of great virtue and vision. She was truly a modern day saint whose holiness touched an entire world.
Rose from Cranberry writes that AGNES GONXHA BOJAXHIU (Mother Teresa) is her hero.
My hero is Mother Teresa because she always helped people and she never gave up. She never judged people or cared whether a person was hungry, homeless or had a disease. She would always find the time to help them. She would stop in the street to help a hungry or homeless person because she always wanted the best for everyone. What counted was what was inside a person, and she always saw the goodness there.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, but she said that the day of her baptism was her real birthday. She was the youngest of three children and her father was an Albanian builder. When she was 18, she took the name Sister Teresa, in memory of Saint Teresa of Lisieux.
Mother Teresa was an honest and giving person. She would always give her time and love to someone who would need it the most. She would comfort the person during their hardest times.
I want to try to be like Mother Teresa. I want to help people and I want people to respect me and look up to me. I want to be the type of person she was, an Angel, a living Saint.
A hero can be many different things to different people. Some people even confuse celebrities with heroes. Mother Teresa is a hero through and through. She is a cultural icon who means a lot to many people in the world. Mother Teresa was a citizen hero whose mission in life was to help others in need.
Mother Teresa had grown popularity all over the world before her death. Everyone has heard of her and of the great work she did. There are many stories of Mother Teresa nursing the almost dead back to life and rescuing babies from death and hardship. The world has also heard of how she gave up every belonging, except for the clothing on her back, to help others and to serve God. According to the book A Simple Path, Mother Teresa practiced what she preached (XVII). This meant she did no wrong because she preached purity and peace.
Mother Teresa found new ways to help others as time went on and the world changed. In January 1971 she and ten other nuns set out to help the more than four thousand women who were raped by Pakistani troops (Sebba 92). She wanted to help the women find homes for the children that came as a result of rape (Sebba 93). Another thing she did at another time was help bring the vocations up to four thousand world wide. They had slowly been dying for the previous forty years (Teresa XIX). Her most recent projects that clearly go with more recent times were hospices for AIDS victims (Mother Teresa - Peacemaker, Pioneer, Legend). She didn't just represent one era, she represented many. If she was alive today she would probably help with the people affected by the war in Iraq. She found people in need and helped them regardless of their reasoning for needing help. She adapted to the times she lived through.
Many people were touched by Mother Teresa, enough so that people still refer to her words for better living. The book A Simple Path, is full of her quotes and prayers. There is one prayer in particular that I've heard before. It reads,
As the truth - to be told;
As the life - to be lived;
As the light - to be lighted;
As the love - to be loved;
As the way - to be walked;
As the joy - to be given;
As the peace - to be spread;
As the sacrifice - to be offered,
In our families and within our neighborhood (44).
This prayer suggests the way she wanted to live her life. It shows the way she wanted to help others and it also gives us a look at her relationship with God and the message she wanted to spread. I also know of a quote she said that really explains how humble she was. The quote is featured in the book Come and See, "Love until it hurts... What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful" (44). This quote also tells of the love she had for everyone and the hope she carried for the world.
Many people claim to want to make a difference by helping others. I wouldn't say that all of these people idolize Mother Teresa, but I would say that the more religious people do. Mother Teresa's life work was to get closer to God by making the earth a better place. Every true Christian wants the same things. Christians definitely represent values that were embodied in the hero. She sent out the message of faith and even did certain charities for religious reasons. She spoke out about abortion and said, "Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Give the child to me" (Mother Teresa - Peacemaker, Pioneer, Legend). Her reason to be against abortion was religious and the Christians that idolize her have the same beliefs. Just looking at the group that idolizes her most, you can see that she was a pure and decent soul. If she did act in a selfless way and truly try to help others, the religious people would not idolize her the way they do. Not all the people who look up to her are Christians. I don't know of a single person who doesn't believe that she did good work for the world. Many people inspire to be more like her simply on the bases of her good nature and volunteer work.
Mother Teresa was represented visually as a weak, sickly, old woman most of the time. Her photos were often depicting her as humped over, red eyed, or frail. I think that these photos are more powerful than a youthful Mother Teresa. I believe this because it means more for an elderly sick nun to go out of her way to help others than a young nun. Her usual depictions show a woman who dedicated her life to God and others and isn't ready to give up the fight for a better world. If you refer to the book Come and See, you can see photos of the way she was normally seen. One picture in particular shows her looking extra frail (44).
There are some important icons associated with the hero that Mother Teresa is. One such icon is her nun attire. She was always seen with her robe and head cover on. These clothing items show that she was a woman of God who gave up worldly possessions to serve him. The Bible is also associated with Mother Teresa. The Bible tells the same story as the nun clothing but also means more to the common person. Anyone can read the Bible, you don't have to be a saint or give up anything to learn the word of God. The Bible really shows that she was trying to teach others of Christianity.