Happy birthday to the woman who gave her life to God and her love in service to the poor and needy of the world, Mother Teresa! Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia (formerYugoslavia) to Nikollë and Drane Bojkaxhiu.
Gonxha, or “little flower” in Albanian, was the youngest of three children who sought a holy life as early as her teenage years when she joined Sodality, a youth group in her local parish. This involvement sparked interest in missionary work, whereby she joined the Sisters of Loretto, an Irish Catholic missionary devoted to working in India—what she referred to as her first “calling”—and changed her name to Teresa (after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux).
Among her many roles inIndia, Mother Teresa (Sister Teresa at that time) taught geography and catechism at St. Mary’s High School inCalcutta. She later became principal of St. Mary’s, but in 1944 had to give up teaching due to tuberculosis. During a train ride toDarjeelingfor her yearly retreat (this time in order to rest), Teresa was blessed with her second calling in life, her self-described “call within a call”: to live and work among the poor. She left the Sisters of Loretto in 1948 and pursued her new calling.
Continuing her educational work, Teresa learned basic medicine and treated the sick in their homes. Not long after, former students of hers followed hew work and treated men, women, and children who had been rejected by area hospitals. As the needs of the sick and poor grew and more help was needed, Mother Teresa founded several organizations devoted to the cause:
- Missionaries of Charity in 1950
- The Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963
- The contemplative branch of the sisters in 1976
- The contemplative branch of the brothers in 1979
- The Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984
The Co-Workers of Mother Teresa and Sick & Suffering Co-Workers were also established for those of many faiths who shared her mission. She also formed the Lay Missionaries of Charity and the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests in 1981.
Mother Teresa’s beacon of light was not without its share of extreme darkness, however. From as far back as when her work among the poor and needy began, she confessed to experiencing an undeniable inner feeling of separation, even rejection, from God. She called it “the darkness”. Yet it was this very feeling that helped establish an even greater sense of communion with God. By experiencing this intense sense of despair, she was able to help those who felt it even more.
Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, and was recognized both at the time of her death and years later by Pope John Paul II for her holy work and devoted service. A woman of unwavering commitment, her life presented more than an example, but rather a model of compassion, charity, and love to all of whom she touched, healed, and loved.
If you share Mother Teresa’s birthday, have a blessed and happy birthday!
Sources: motherteresa.org and ewtn.com