ROME – 16 OCTOBER 2003

The sun shone majestically on St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning 16 October 2003 after the torrential rain of Saturday night. The dome of Michael Angelo and the colonnades of Berene were splendid in that soft clear sunlight for which October mornings in Rome are famous. At 4.00 am a student left the Irish College and, in true pilgrim fashion, walked the whole way to the Vatican to take his place among the hundreds of thousands of faithful from around the world who had gathered for that day.

The ceremony itself had been preceded by a number of days of preparation. On Friday night in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the Pope’s Cathedral, a huge crowd gathered to adore the Blessed Sacrament with, and for, priests. The ceremony consisted of readings from the works of Mother herself on the Eucharist and on the priesthood, and some recordings of her voice speaking about this same subject.

At the end of it I asked a young man from Africa whether he was a Missionary of Charity. He said he was. When I told him I was from Ireland he said that his Parish Priest was from Ireland and had asked him to greet the Pope on his behalf when he got to Rome. Before we parted he asked me to pray that he would be able to give his life to Jesus.

Going back to the ceremony itself, I met an old classmate from my student days who had come from India. I congratulated a bishop from Albania on this historic day for his nation. Earlier that morning I had celebrated Mass with two young priests from Slovakia who are studying at the Irish College and they too were rejoicing because a daughter of a Slav nation was being honoured.

While the crowd waited patiently for the appointed time of 10.00 am we were given a catechetics on the writings and prayers of Mother Teresa. There were at least three choirs- Sistine Choir, a choir composed of Missionaries of Charity, and a choir composed perhaps of co-workers. Punctually at 10.00 am the ceremony got under way.

One very important moment early on was when the Archbishop of Calcutta asked the Holy Father to include Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta among the ranks of the ‘blessed’. The Holy Father may have been rather broken in voice in recent days but he certainly mustered up enough strength and determination to say those all-important words.

Certainly I am sure many people were moved to tears when the curtain was pulled back and the portrait of Mother was revealed beaming down on the crowds from the façade of the great Basilica of St. Peter.
The Introduction to the booklet for the ceremony repeated again the four great lessons of her life:

1. The joy of loving;
2. The greatness and dignity of every human person;
3. The value of little things done faithfully, and
4. The supreme importance of friendship with God.

In his homily, which was read out for him by an Archbishop of the Curia, Pope John Paul spoke of Mother Teresa as being an icon of the Good Samaritan. We were reminded of what she said on the occasion of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, “Give me the children who are not wanted and I will give them love”.
The resume of her life, which was read out before the beatification, included a reference to her stay and her time of training in Ireland which was a proud moment for all those from Ireland who were present. Somewhere during those days we were reminded that, hidden from all eyes, her interior life was marked by an experience of deep pain and lasting feeling of being separated from God, even of being rejected by God.

I was particularly struck when I read in some of the literature how dozens of voluntary workers turned up at the doors of the dying offering their services. She was at once a mystic and an active person – a contemplative in action.

“I live one day at a time” she would say. “We must leave every project for the future in the hands of God”. She has defended life with courage; she has served every human person with respect. She has told people that it is not important what they do but how they do it – with love and patience and respect. “I am giving you the prospect of doing something beautiful for God” she told Malcolm Muggerage a long time ago.

She once said, “the people who write about me, know more about me than I know about myself. When a visitor said, “I could not do what you do if you gave me a million dollars”. She replied, “neither could we, we can only do for the love of Jesus”. It was pointed out that all she possessed were two saris, with blue borders, and the basin she used to wash them regularly.

Her life inspired in those who knew her or met her the hunger for God which, whether we want it or not, dwells in the heart of every human being. “Come be my light” was the theme of the preparation for that great, marvellous day which will bear much fruit of prayer and faith and love and service and peace.