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Mother Teresa -- Spiritual Genius

When we speak of a person who is deeply spiritual -- a person whose consciousness reaches past the boundaries of ordinary life -- in short, when we speak of a spiritual genius -- what do we really mean by that?

To explore this question, I will be looking here at Gonxhe Agnes Bojaxhiu, much better known as Mother Teresa, whose work with the poor in Calcutta made her a world-renowned icon of charity and pastoral love.

Mother Teresa has been celebrated and elevated to a status beyond that of flesh and blood human beings. This reverence was profound during her lifetime, especially after she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. This veneration has become more complete since her death, with the proposal for canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church, although she has been known as a saint throughout the world for many years.

A childhood friend of the future Mother Teresa recalls her saying in 1928, "I have decided to dedicate myself completely to God and to devote my life to going on missions and to serving souls." She was 18 years old. Soon thereafter, she joined the Irish Catholic order of nuns that operated missions in India. After spending some time in Ireland, she was sent to Calcutta, where she taught in a Catholic high school and later became the principal of the school. She also mastered several of the indigenous languages of India. In 1930, her order gave her the name Teresa, after St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish saint of the 16th century.

In 1946, she contracted tuberculosis. While traveling on a train to a hospital for treatment, she received what she described as a "call within a call." From then on, she decided to devote herself to the poorest of the poor, leaving the high school and working in the slums of Calcutta. Within a few years, she had founded her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, whose work she described as providing "free service to the poor and the unwanted, regardless of caste, creed, nationality or race." In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace." Upon being told of the honor, she replied, "I am unworthy."

At the time of her death, polls showed that Mother Teresa was the most respected woman in the world. Her name was and is synonymous with selfless dedication in the service of humanity. Mother Teresa was not only a spiritual genius, she was a spiritual giant. While it may seem difficult to see yourself in those terms, there is a lot to be learned from her -- a lot that can be applied in your own life, starting now.

Here's to more personal insight,


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Mother Teresa (1910-1997) Missionary of Charity

Mother Teresa found her work with the Missionaries of Charity (which she founded in 1950) understandably exhausting. "I know God won't give me anything I can't handle," she once remarked. "I just wish he didn't trust me so much!"