Editor's note: David Van Biema, the chief religion writer at Time Magazine for ten years, is author of the illustrated biography "Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint," now being reissued and made available in Spanish as "La Madre Teresa: La Vida y las obras de una santa moderna."
By David Van Biema, Special to CNN
Fifteen years may be less than an instant in celestial time, but here on earth it's a lot of news cycles.
Mother Teresa departed this Earth on September 5, 1997. What more can we say about the woman who became synonymous with love for the "poorest of the poor," picking up a Nobel and tweaking the conscience of millions? What do we know about her now that we didn't know then?
A lot, it turns out.
Here's a quick Blessed Mother Teresa primer, emphasizing the stuff that you probably don’t know, some of which we only learned recently.
1. She was born a rich girl.
Born in 1910, Mother Teresa came from money – at least by the standards of her native Skopje, Macedonia. Her parents were so well-off that there was a local saying "as generous as the Bojaxhius." (Her last name was Bojaxhiu; her given first name was Agnes.)
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Agnes was cultured and well-educated: She wrote poetry and played the mandolin. Her family took in orphans and she tagged along as her mother went out to tend to the destitute. All of this challenges the notion of pre-saints as nasty, or no better than average, until God flicks a switch (think Paul, pre-Damascus).
In Agnes’ case, if God flicked a switch, he had clearly laid the circuitry carefully beforehand.
2. For a long time, it was hardly obvious that Teresa would end up who she became.
She emigrated to India to become a nun at age 18, but worked as a teacher another 17 years before receiving a series of startling visions and locutions (verbal communications) from Jesus. The experience, wrote her confessor at the time, was "continual, deep and violent."
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She later recalled it as a dramatic dialogue taking up pages: Jesus calls her "my little one" and demands that she "carry Me into the holes of the poor. I want Indian nuns … who would be my fire of love among the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children." She hesitates. He asks impatiently, "Is your generosity gone cold?"
It had not. After two years spent convincing her local bishop, she was released from her previous vows and founded her Missionaries of Charity.
3. She changed our view of the poor.
"There are plenty of nuns to look after the rich and well-to-do people, but for my very poor, there are absolutely none," Teresa wrote, describing communication she got from Jesus.
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That seems a bit exaggerated. But Teresa redefined the concept of "working with the poor" in the modern age. For poor she substituted "poorest of the poor," a new category with a corresponding moral imperative. She understood the word "with" as obliterating the line between benefactor and beneficiary, plunging her nuns deeply into the world of the slums.
As for "working," Teresa combined case-by-case spontaneity with an organizational genius. In Calcutta she developed institutions – schools for poor children, homes for pregnant homeless women, orphans and lepers, and hostels for the dying – that became a template for her ministries the world over.
4. She was a marketing guru.
"Billions know about her compassion," says evangelical megapastor Rick Warren. "But what is not so well known (were) leadership skills, evident in the multiplication of what she did to other parts of the planet."
Teresa instinctively leveraged her growing renown, cultivating a United Nations of world leaders and donors and paving the way for the Missionaries. Four decades after her solo start in India, her order was in over 100 countries, making her one of the church's truly great founders. "If there are poor on the moon, we will go there, too," she joked – sort of.
5. She cultivated her celebrity.
Teresa was famous first in India, then worldwide, partly through the efforts of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and partly due to another gift. "The way she spoke to journalists showed her to be as deft a manipulator as any high-powered American public relations expert,” noted Irish rocker/philanthropist Bob Geldof.
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That that gift seemed to be unconscious did not make it any less effective. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she became part of a Mt. Rushmore of greatest-generation religious icons – including Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and the (relatively youthful) Dalai Lama – that has no successor generation.
Of them, Teresa attained the purest pop-culture status, capped by her touching friendship with then-Princess Diana of England. When the two died within a week of one another (Diana in a car wreck, Teresa by heart attack), a T-shirt immediately popped up showing both with halos.
6. Teresa had a long, dark night of the soul.
In 2007, a cache of newly released private letters introduced a startling unknown side to Teresa: a 39-year period, coinciding almost exactly with her Missionaries career, during which Jesus, previously so present, seemed utterly absent to her, in prayer and even in the Eucharist.
"The silence and the emptiness is so great," she wrote, "that I look and do not see– the tongue moves (in prayer) but does not speak."
Critics like the late Christopher Hitchens said the correspondence proved Teresa was just a "confused old lady." But the letters were issued by her postulator, the Vatican-appointed advocate for her sainthood.
Her church regarded her perseverance in the absence of a sense of divine response as perhaps her most heroic act of faith. Both her torment and underlying faith were evident in another letter: "If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of 'darkness,'" she wrote. "I will continually be absent from Heaven – to (light) the light of those in darkness on earth."
7. She’s not a saint yet – not officially.
Not as recognized by her own Roman Catholicism, where validation of sanctity is a multi-step process.
A year after Teresa's death, the Vatican waived a five-year-delay to allow her "cause" to begin early. In 2002, it announced her "heroic virtue," and in the same year credited her with the disappearance of a tumor affecting an Indian woman who had prayed to her.
This first miracle led to her beatification, for which 250,000 people flocked to Rome. But canonization awaits a second miracle. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, her advocate, says reports of her "supernatural favors" to believers currently total 4,200. He is currently investigating a case in Colombia.
Of course, the church freely admits that saints are saints before it recognizes them, and many Catholics fervently believe Teresa is one. So do others, including Rick Warren, who defines a saint as "a true hero" who "sacrifice(s) for the benefit of others." Suzie van Houte, left in infancy with Mother Teresa and now an Episcopalian living in Washington state, says simply: "A saint is a person who's gone out of her way."
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Van Biema.
THE REALL LAND OF LEGENDS SAINTS AND MOST PURE LAND IN THE WORLD ... HINDUSTAN AND I AM GLAD TO BE CONVERTED FROM MUSLIM TO SIKH :)
Only by hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, ignorant from hindered gutter of hinduism, racism called india, Pile of hind filth is a heaven for a hindu parasite, and your hinduism, assertion is no different than a hindu, parasite, hindu' filthy, your cow mama dung. for more please visit limitisthetruth.com/blog.html nd click on word choice to open filr.
People who build companies that provide employment and people who facilitate medical cures and disease prevention are the real heroes. I would rather have the help that Bill Gates gave to India. I have more respect for charities like Doctors without Borders.
hinduism, absurdity of a hindu ID thief, way of hindu's criminals, for more visit limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file
ISLAM SOURCE OF ISLAMFILTHYSTUPIDITY!
sorry I didn't mean to say that. It was an accidental post.
There's plenty of evidence on mother teresa's fraudulent and negligent charity. See the ongoing investigation: http://www.facebook.com/missionariesofcharity
Wish of hindu's denires of truth absolute from hindered gutter of hinduism, racism india, Many non hindu's denires of truth absolute were killed by hindu's criminals in hind gutter of hinduism, racism by hindu's racist for treating human like human, they considered as hindu, untouchable. for more visit limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file.
SLAM SOURCE OF ISLAMFILTHYSTUPIDITY!
Only for the new members of this blog:
A great lady and deserving of "sainthood" but as with much of the global population, she was afflicted with the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in religion, in her case Christianity. Was Christianity a "necessary accessory" in her Noble Prize winning work with the poor? Debatable as secular groups like Doctors Without Borders are equally committed to helping those less fortunate thereby also making the doctors of this group, "saints". Said group also received the Noble Prize.
Atheist in a religious forum – you think your going to achieve some goal or is ti just the high of posting how you think bleievers are so dumb and you are so smart?
What really amazes me is how the religious tend to be so belligerent and so smug. But, then again, they are the ones who are "chosen:" and going to heaven, right?
It is nice to know that I can bring you some relief, you can be angry at me, it's ok. I'm not offended, in fact I take great pride in being attacked by so called Christians. It always comes back to a personal attack, once the religious lose the high ground.
So basically she had a psychotic break and started "hearing" "voices" from good old Jesus himself. Right... And I was abducted by aliens and they still communicate with my once a year.
YOU TOO? I keep getting messages from my butt... LOL
Sure, but did Scott Baio give you pinkeye?
At least she went out and cared for neglected people/poor people to show her compassion. How about u? Still do nothing but depend on charity from the government or worse? What a loser!!!!
No one was saved.
She made alot of fame for herself, but no one was saved.
They all still suffered horroible agonies, while the curch used them.
Some things never change.
I agree totally. The Church was responsible for some two billion deaths during the Dark Ages, and continue to be responsible for untold deaths in the poorest nations on earth, India, the African continent, even the US.
Tep, the rhetoric of atheistic hopelessness – in never changes and will never have any hope or logic to change things. Faith and prayer do that. Atheists in a religious forum – boggles the mind sometimes.
The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)
The Muslim Conquest of India
"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "
Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*
1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")
2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)
3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)
4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)
5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)
6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)
7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)
8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)
9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)
11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)
12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)
13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C
14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C
16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)
17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)
18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)
19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)
20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C
*:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?
A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."
Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.
A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.
In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."
So interesting college guy how you come up with your own history. First define the period of the Dark ages, once you do – look what was happening by who – you will find its athiest nordes who plundered civliazation during the dark ages. Man – learn some history.
I tend to disagree with you there Will.. But that tends from the question "what does 'saved'" mean.. if a man who goes hungry for two days gets a morsel of food, he considers himself saved. But a person who feasted the day before and was given the same morsel, thinks he was pushed into suffering.
while I am not a christian, Mother Teresa is one of the few of RCC I respect completely for the work she did in – at least to an extent – alieviate the sufferings of the poor in Calcutta. I don't know about her godly ness or sainthood, but as a human being, I think she is a model to follow.
I have got the world's biggest hard-on for atheists. I can't stop talking about them.
@TC, I think perhaps your mind is easy to boggle. Atheists in a religious forum is perfectly reasonable, and if those of faith are unable to defend their faith, then perhaps they should reconsider said faith. I personally, seek those who have opposing views to mine, it is how I am able to strengthen my position. There are sites that only allow Christians to post, perhaps you would be happier on one of them?
You should really take a closer look into her actions and her beliefs. Theresa was a horrid hypocrite.
@college – you are not here to discuss opposing views – you are one of these – a cowardly atheist must come on here because they can't deal with it in the real world. Also, lots of haters out there – they need to tear down people that actually do something so they can feel validated in their pathetic non-contributing lives
"@college – you are not here to discuss opposing views – you are one of these – a cowardly atheist must come on here because they can't deal with it in the real world. Also, lots of haters out there – they need to tear down people that actually do something so they can feel validated in their pathetic non-contributing lives"
pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.
I had to post that at least twice to make sure my point was made.
@TC.. Feel better now?
"I had to post that at least twice to make sure my point was made."
That log in your eye must be huge!
Also, @TC – You know NOTHING about me and your so called analogy is quite wrong. I am an open atheist both here and in public. At least I don't go to church on Sunday and then forget everything I "learned" while there the moment I walk out. You say I have a "pathetic" life, I suppose you have some evidence to that claim? Just curious, because you seem to be so angry at Atheists, are you sure that you aren't a closet atheist who is fighting his own demons?
She liked to lick niqqer buttholes.
You must have been there with her and enjoying it, Poop Lover. Such a moron.
If it was not hinduism criminality of pot head hindu santans, filthy goons, world would have seen nothing but peace, Islam among humanity, hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, God in hinduism, self center ism, secularism, a hind, crime against truth absolute God and "HIS" humanity. for more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html to learn hinduism, criminality of hindu's, criminals.
WHAT? WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT ABOUT YOUR MOM??
I am warning you hinud to stay away from my mama.
Those who know me know very well that I am no Catholic. Nevertheless, when I first heard of her and saw her on TV ministering to one of her human props, I thought she was admirable. Later, following a bit of research including reading the book "The Missionary Position," (I highly recommend that book), I realized that she actually was a sort of political conglomerate whose primary motivation was a fanatical fight against any form of contraception – not the Vatican roulette – the kind that works. Also, that she never met a dictator she did not like. Of course, she just loved the poor. The poor have always been a perfect tool of political manipulation, the bread and butter and caviar of the Catholic Church. Look at where they are being brought in droves from all parts of the world by the Calculated Charities of Calcutta and Elsewhere. That is called "refugee re-settlement." Those are "the last" that will be imposed upon "the first" if the likes of her have their way. With a healthy dose of humiliation for the guilty ones – the WEST – that have the audacity to do their own thinking. scabellum pedum tuorum." And now, please don't justify your refusal to print this by saying that I have already said it elsewhere. It is not true of the whole text. Besides it badly needs to be said again and again. And she virtually plagiarized the other Sainte Thérèse who said that she planned to spend her heaven doing good things on earth. "Je veux passer mon Ciel à faire du bien sur la Terre."
Very interesting post and looks like a lot of research behind it. It makes me want to ask you if there are others that you do believe are saints, such as the other teresa you mentioned, or perhaps peace pilgrim the american saint?
MOTHER TERESA AND OTHER SAINTS ONLY CAME TO LAND OF PURE INDIA
India, land of pure? no one beats hindered gutter of hinduism racism around the globe, hindu's criminals of hindered gutter of hinduism, racism are example of their own hinduism, racism. for more visit limitisthetruth.com/blog.html
WHAT ABOUT THE HINDS, TELL US MORE ABOUT HINDS.
ON THE SECOND THOUGHT, MUSLIMS AND MANY OTHER SUFFI SAINTS ALSO CAME TO LAND OF PURE INDIA.
For a better understanding of the life and works of Mother There, what spirit she served (Luke 9:55; 2 Cor. 11:13-15) and by what authority she was claimed a ‘Saint’, we invite you to read the articles ‘Sainthood by the Pope’, ‘The Mystery Babylon’ and ‘Popes and the Princes of This World’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
This poster is a TROLL on this sight and is only here to sell their book and cult. Don't bother clicking the link. Plus they are in violation of their own web hosting site for spamming so report them!
They are also well know liars.
Hey! Does anyone pray to Frodo or Gandolf, yet? You know, after they set sail to the elf world. Is it too soon to start believing in that fantasy as a religion? I know it's 22+ years for something to be funny. Does anyone know the time frame to turn fantasy into reality...err...I mean religion?
Surprise surprise – another hateful atheist troll.
@ jones: great point, Jones. 20 years is too soon for a fantasy or myth to be taken seriously. you can check the facts...
which is exactly what Paul's point was about the resurrection in 1 Cor.15:1-3 – written within 20 years of Jesus' death.
where is the hate, TC?
Where is this Paul guy being referenced?
20 years is too soon for a myth/legend to take hold? Just one example here - George Washington was not dead for a month before they started circulating (and some of them still make the rounds, even after having been debunked):
Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory
@ Russ – Facts? Where are these facts? I don't know what the term is for someone who presents facts for the purpose of furthering their own agenda. Do you?
sorry, the complete name of the book is (the link got flubbed):
Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory by Edward G. Lengel
@ jones: you were pointing out that fantasy/fiction/fable could become a religion – but it takes longer than 20 years for the real facts to be lost. it's a good point.
but – considering your thought had a slight edge toward all religions – it is worth pointing out that Paul used the same point to *prove* the fact of the resurrection. he was writing 1 Corinthians within 20 years of the events – and inviting people to check the eyewitnesses. He even says the risen Jesus appeared to as many as 500 people at once. even 20 years after the fact, a lot of those 500 would still be alive & certainly could be asked: did this really happen? otherwise, Christianity never gets off the ground – just like a Gandalf-based religion would not be taken seriously today. (and I say that as a huge Tolkien fan.)
@ What IF:
you're proving my point. the myths/legends around George Washington were debunked by the facts – precisely because they were fictional & too close to the time of the actual events.
As I said, some of them are still circulating, 200 years after their conception, even with debunking... and we have much better debunking skills and communication than they did in the ancient Middle East/Mediterranean area.
As an english major, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I'm not quite sure I follow the witness account of your response. I've read it multiple times and assume I'm missing a nuance as to what 'Paul' was up to. Either way, you have helped me expand my thoughts on the chances of us worshiping one or more rings as deity in the near future. With today's technology, it will take a lot longer for people to be fooled into believing something that doesn't quite hold itself up in reality.
@ What IF:
we do have greater resources – even though we are much further from the facts. but it's that exacting scholarship that actually upholds the most scrutinized eyewitness accounts in history. a few examples:
CS Lewis (as a lifelong Cambridge scholar in mythology) on this exact point, wrote an essay called "Fern Seeds & Elephants"
and here are two scholarly resources on the reliability of the texts:
Daniel B Wallace (brief article overview)
for a more thorough & recent example of scholarship:
Richard Bauckham, "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"
let me see if I can state it succinctly then:
you rightly point out that 20 years is not long enough to forget the facts.
eyewitnesses would still be alive to say "Gandalf wasn't real"
the inverse is also true: factual events could be substantiated
that's exactly what Paul is saying in 1 Cor.15:1-3 – only about 15 years after Jesus' resurrection
he claims Christ appeared to more than 500 people at once. within the Pax Romana, not only communication but travel allowed anyone who wanted to take him up on that invitation to check his facts. and considering the tight knit nature of the broader Hellenized Jewish community, certainly an "upstart" sect like this would be challenged. It would have been as simple as writing your extended family back in Jerusalem: "are there people there who claim they saw this happen?" or the next time they went to visit the temple (prior to AD 70 when it was destroyed) – checking it for themselves.
there's much more here. i'd invite you to check into some of the resources I listed @ "What IF" above.
" considering the tight knit nature of the broader Hellenized Jewish community, certainly an "upstart" sect like this would be challenged."
It was. Those are the folks who remained Jewish (and Roman/Greek god worshippers).
Paul was a very powerful influencer - a forceful writer and PR expert. There is simply no verified evidence for his tales of the supernatural.
I am still slogging through that C.S. Lewis piece - ay, that man is ponderous!
Regarding the newly discovered samples of NT script – interesting, but there is no doubt that these stories were written back then.
Hypatia, I salute that name so deserving of recognition and praise. I wish you would tell her story to this forum.
I may not agree with everything Mother Teresa said or did, but many of the poor in Calcutta would have been left to die a miserable death if it was not for her. I wonder how many people she helped live a full life, I am sure it would be many. How many people have we helped to make this world a better place for all?
But Franco – you gotta have either atheist trolls or hate filled people to minimize a saint's contributions – how do you expect these folks to feel good about themselves by allowing themselves to believe she actually tried to help the marginalized – that would make them feel bad – and we don;t want that.
Franco, they did die a horrible death. Cancer patients got asprin for their pain... asprin! seriously, asprin..
@TC... tell me does it make you feel better about your religion when you put your head up your A...?
ahhh – are we making life hard for you atheist cowards? sounds like a personal problem
She was a no good agent of darkness.
She insisted on treating polio victims by prayer and eschewed medicine. She made it worse.
God, atheists are hot.
The Missionary Position says it all. She was a horrible c.unt.
SO the delusional mo ron above is a prime example of hateful people in the world that contribute nothing.
"rational libertarian" , yeah right. another oxymoron
Interesting that you believe Christians are trying to prove or convince you. Here it is officially – Christians are not interested in convincing you, You either believe and strive to learn more or you don't – your choice.
Few things that Author didn't mentioned is that she came from Albanian family, her parents came from town Prizren (Kosovo) and they moved to Shkup(Skopje), she played to Albanian country guitar named Mandolin. During Kosovo occupied by Serbia she always prayed for her own people, she was one of the nice people that ever known. Main street in capital of Kosova is named Mother Theresa.. god bless her heart.
Atheist critics: Christoper Hitchens – made worst critics then you.
death will bring the truth: –
God exists (believer win non believer lose)
God does not exists (no one lose)
Only a Bad bad bad god (believer & non believer doom)
non – Catholic
John 6: 52 – 67 (Replace Jew with Protestant)
Pascal's Wager again? This is tiresome.
- What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.
- What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?
- What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?
Non believer loses because of his own free will to reject his creator.
Hind's filthy with hinduism, criminality out to dis credit a honest person to justify their hinduism racism from hindered filth of hinduism, illegality called india, for more please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html
so what exactly did a Hindu to to you that mad you so mad? is this about Gandhi racism
Why the hell would anyone want more of your nonsensical ranting?You can't even construct a sentence.
She was a no good agent of darkness
Or watch my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uwOL4rB-go to learn causes of mayhem you see in your countries.
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