St. Teresa of Calcutta

September 4, 2016: certainly a day I will remember, as will so many others. A day for the record books. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a humble nun dedicated to reaching those in the slums of India, would be canonized to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. Some would argue they already believed she was a saint, as did my ten year-old daughter. It’s not often you are lucky enough to witness the life of a living Saint and ultimately live to see them officially canonized. I’m blessed enough to say I’m one of the lucky ones.

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Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

Influence, as defined by Wikipedia, is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. Looking into Mother Teresa’s, or Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu’s, upbringing, I can only imagine how her own mother must have sparked the flame of influence, which eventually spread to Mother Teresa’s strong following.

In a book about Mother Teresa’s life, Beyond the Image, Anne Sebba makes several references to how pious and compassionate her mother, Dranafile, was. Dranafile was no stranger to the community, as she frequently invited neighbors from all walks of life to share a meal in their home. She would tell her daughter, “My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others,” and when Agnes would inquire if their dinner guests were family relatives she would simply state, “Some of them are our relations, but all of them are our people.” Often times when her father would travel he left enough money behind so the family could feed whoever came to their door. Agnes would accompany her mother to deliver parcels of food and small, but still generous funds to the poor in their community.

Although not many more details are well known about Mother Teresa’s early life, there is still enough information to connect us with the missionary’s underlying principles. Perhaps a little mystery behind her background was her way of focusing the world on her efforts rather than on themes that may undermine her core message. Even so, I have always been intrigued by her life, particularly the many years of sacrifice and humility she experienced. At the ripe age of 18, Agnes embarked on the journey of self discovery, as many of us only wish we could try, and later transformed into the Mother Teresa we know today. Witnessing the life and work of Mother Teresa has never failed to amaze me. I admire her steady hand undoubtedly guided by an unyielding sense faith.

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Photo courtesy of the Be Love Movement

September 4, 2016: as I watched the proceedings in Rome, I stared at the crowd that gathered to affirm Mother Teresa a Saint. My thoughts immediately roamed to Dranafile and how she must have instilled a sense of belief in her, a sense of purpose that drove her daughter’s conviction. I am reminded how we can be influenced by our parents and how we can similarly influence our children; how our children resemble us and we resemble our parents; and how we should throw logic out the window and begin to think from the heart. Dranafile certainly did not anticipate sainthood for her young Agnes, but she succeeded in setting the foundation for Mother Teresa’s life of simplicity, selflessness and, as always, humility.

Words from Cristina Alfonso