Mother Teresa

Will Mother Teresa be sainted?

As of the early 2000s Mother Teresa of Calcutta was on the road to sainthood. On October 19, 2003, she was beatified, a key step in the process that began just two years after her death. Her worldwide reputation of holiness prompted Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) to waive the customary five-year waiting period for the “cause of canonization” to begin.

Mother Teresa’s “heroic virtues,” a requirement for sainthood, were well known long before she died. The modern martyr spent nearly 70 years working as a missionary among the poor, the last 50 of them in outreach to society’s most downtrodden—the impoverished sick and dying. She lived modestly, dressed simply (usually in a plain white sari, which she felt identified her with the poor), and devoted herself wholly to helping those society had forgotten. The so-called “saint of the gutter” received worldwide recognition for her work. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel peace prize. Though she came into contact with some of the world’s most influential people, she was unchanged by the attention. When the pope gave her a Lincoln Continental for her own personal transportation, she auctioned it off to raise needed funds for her works of charity. Reportedly, when she visited Britain’s Princess Diana (1961–1997), the nun looked on the large rooms in the royal palace and uttered something to the effect of “just think how many people could live in these rooms …”

Another requirement of sainthood is involvement in miracles. In October 2002 it was reported that Pope John Paul’s office had attributed a miracle to Mother Teresa: A young Indian woman was cured of a stomach tumor after praying to her. The Vatican, however, found no scientific explanation for the woman’s recovery. On December 20, 2002, the pope approved “the decrees of her heroic virtues and miracles,” paving the way for Mother Teresa’s beatification in 2003. Her sainthood appeared to be imminent.

John Paul II, pictured waving to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square in 2002, had the third-longest papacy in history.

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