"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
What Would She Want? Monsignor Leo Maasburg | The Preface to Mother Teresa of Calcutta—A Personal Portrait: 50 Inspiring Stories Never Before Told
Mother Teresa is one of the truly great and influential personages of the twentieth century. She is, as even unbelievers and critics readily admit, an outstanding figure in the history of our times and in Church history. Above all, however, she was and remains a fascinating woman. I see this in the shining eyes of the many people who, as soon as they learn that I was privileged to work closely with Mother Teresa for several years, ask me to tell them something about her.
Why are modern people of the twenty-first century interested in a saintly woman of the twentieth century whom they themselves never met? In our hectic, fast-paced era that rushes from one fashion to the next, what can possibly be so interesting and inspiring about a religious Sister who, when a critic impertinently remarked that she was two hundred years behind in her theology, smiled and replied, "No, two thousand years!"
On the numerous trips on which I was able to accompany Mother Teresa during her later years, I experienced something of the radiance and fascination of her personality. For our media world, which craves celebrities of every sort, she was an extraordinary, irreplaceable, shining "star"—surrounded not by the rich and the beautiful but rather by the poorest of the poor, the deformed, the outcasts of society. She was a forceful, shrewd, charismatic and humble personality who did not try to dominate but wanted to serve, and she was an innovative character whose greatest visible success was the fact that, through her works and example, so many young women throughout the world cheerfully joined the ranks of Jesus' disciples and thereby found the meaning of their lives. Many men and women of all generations allowed themselves to be inspired by Mother Teresa's love for Jesus. She was a "star" who was a reluctant public figure yet used publicity quite effectively for her cause.
Mother Teresa never made herself the center of attention. But when she was put in the spotlight by others—after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979—that was practically a perpetual state. She used the opportunity to point attention away from herself and toward Christ. From various quarters there was, and still is, a tug-of-war—motivated more by nationalism than by Catholicism—over who could claim Mother Teresa as his own. She herself would certainly not have wanted that, though she never denied her roots. One of Mother Teresa's rare statements about herself was: "By birth I am Albanian. I am an Indian citizen. I am a Catholic nun. In what I do, I belong to the whole world, but my heart belongs entirely to Jesus." That makes her position unmistakably clear.
Doesn't all this argue against writing a book about Mother Teresa? A book, furthermore, which makes no claim to be either scholarly or biographical, but rather draws on the experiences, memories and notes of the author? Or, to put the question differently, what would Mother Teresa want me to write in this book?
I suspect that she would give me the same answer as she did on that beautiful autumn day in Vienna, when I was a newly ordained priest. Never before had I given a retreat for anyone, much less for religious Sisters. Then Mother Teresa surprised me with a question: "Father, could you give the Sisters a retreat?"
Honored and at the same time uncertain, I asked when it would be.
She said, "Tomorrow."
And I, even more uncertain, replied, "But, Mother, I have never given a retreat! What should I talk about?"
Her reply came as though shot from a pistol: "Speak about Jesus! What else?"
When people asked her about her life and biographical details, Mother Teresa usually declined: "I don't really like to talk about myself, because when people speak or write about me, then they speak or write less about Jesus."
And so, I hope that this book shows Mother Teresa's work and personality in the correct light, and especially how, in everything she did, she always pointed toward Christ. I hope it shows her ultimate aim: to lead everyone to Jesus Christ.
The following year —again at a morning Mass in the Pope's private chapel, although this time I was announced—I witnessed the reverence and deep respect that Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II had for each other, those two great leaders of the Church whom we now also regard as important historical figures. Even the way in which they greeted each other reflected their individual styles: Mother Teresa folded her hands on her breast; John Paul II put his arm around her affectionately. It struck me on that occasion—as it did again and again later on—that they exchanged only a few words. They came directly to the point rather than chatting about things that were not directly connected with the business at hand. As with people who are very close with one another, there was no irrelevant small talk and no unnecessary etiquette.
As soon as they had greeted each other warmly, Mother Teresa came to the point: "Holy Father, we need a saint for our lepers!" When the Pope asked whom Mother Teresa had in mind for this "job", she mentioned Father Damian de Veuster, a Belgian missionary born in 1840 who lived on the Hawaiian Islands among the lepers and cared for the sick until finally he himself died of the disease. Jef, as he was called in the world, was the seventh child of a peasant family and worked on his parents' farm until he entered the Order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Louvain at the age of twenty and took the religious name Damian (in French, Damien). In 1874 he had himself taken to the island of Moloka'i so that he could look after the lepers who were forced to live there in complete isolation and without any medical care. In 1885 he himself was diagnosed with leprosy. He died in 1889.
"Do you know him, Holy Father?" asked Mother Teresa.
The Pope nodded, and Mother Teresa thought that she had already achieved her aim: "Well then, why wait? When will you declare him a saint?"
But there was a major problem to resolve before they could schedule a canonization: Father Damian had not yet worked certified miracles, and these are required by canon law for a beatification or a canonization.
However, the Holy Father already knew Mother Teresa far too well to get into a lengthy discussion with her. Instead, he instructed her to discuss the matter personally with Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Mother Teresa did not need to be asked twice.
Cardinal Palazzini himself was even quicker; the Holy Father had obviously informed him. The very next day, at a quarter after six in the morning, Cardinal Palazzini knocked on the doors of San Gregorio, the Motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity, where Mother Teresa lived while she was in Rome. Cardinal Palazzini was very thin and just as short as Mother Teresa. His eyes revealed a sense of humor and a lively intelligence. He was known in the Vatican—and sometimes also feared—for his outstanding theological learning and his special knowledge of canon law. He had been the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints for years and was certainly a distinguished adviser to the Pope.
"Mother Teresa, the Holy Father has sent me to you. What can I do for you?" was the first thing he said, which I translated for him.
"Your Eminence, we need a saint for our lepers", Mother Teresa repeated her request for a new saint.
"And who might that be?" the Cardinal wanted to know.
"Father Damian de Veuster. Do you know him?"
"Yes, Mother Teresa. But as you know, there is a minor difficulty: He hasn't worked a miracle yet, and we need that for his canonization."
"That may be so," replied Mother Teresa, "but in Holy Scripture it says ...", and then she held a Bible, open at chapter 15, verse 13 of Saint John's Gospel, in front of the eyes of the startled Cardinal and read, " 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' And that's exactly what Father Damian did. Isn't he already canonized by the Bible; what are we waiting for?"
She had led off with her strongest argument and was now waiting to receive her "reward". But her plan did not go quite that smoothly.
Cardinal Palazzini took a deep breath and played his trump card: "You're right of course, Mother Teresa. But you know, for over four hundred years we have had a tradition within the Church that three certified miracles are required for a canonization. And Father Damian hasn't even worked one miracle yet!"
"Yes", she replied with great enthusiasm. "This would be a good opportunity to change that tradition!" Another goal! Success seemed within her grasp. "After all, the Bible takes precedence over canon law", she added, to put an end to the discussion.
But the Cardinal gave a smile that was both kindly and clever and said, "Mother Teresa, you're quite right. But don't you think it would be much simpler for you to ask the Good Lord for these miracles than for us to change our four-hundred-year-old tradition?"
That was the only time that I ever saw Mother Teresa speechless and without an answer.