Biographical Poetry posted June 16, 2024

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Live simply so others may simply live

Saint Mother Teresa

by Debbie D'Arcy

A floral bud, as name foretold, this child would bloom and grow
and, by the age of twelve years old, religious zeal would flow.
Enchanted by evangelists who spread the Cath'lic word,
commitment then would fortify devotion that was stirred.
At eighteen years she'd leave her kin, determined in her aim
to practise for the sisterhood, adopt her famous name.
And, after learning English for the path she'd just begun,
this novice proudly took her vows, united as a nun.
Her mother had inspired in her a life of piety,
to tend the poor, obey His will and live in chastity.
She'd teach Bengali children, seeking strength to be their light
to lead them to their Saviour then from earthly woes and plight.
Her final vows bestowed on her the title known today
of 'Mother,' recognition of the gift she would display.
And then a second calling, in a 'Call within a Call,'
a voice that would transform her life, for those in torment's thrall.
For she would soon relinquish her position in the school
to work with those of poorest caste, her gifted golden rule.
And, donning trademark blue and white, with weighty task to bear,
she parted for Calcutta and the slums that festered there.
But poverty at first would daunt and steal her peace of mind,
infusing doubt, temptation of the comforts left behind.
And, challenged in her weakest hour, she faltered but would still
stay bonded to the God she loved, attentive to His will.
She'd soon translate her calling into solid, concrete deeds,
accommodating learners and the dying in their needs.
She founded then an institute* to serve the destitute,
an order that would spread its wings, bear rich and global fruit.
Though work would be relentless, still her passion helped her cope
with lepers needing housing, orphaned children craving hope.
And health requiring urgent aid, a rightful civil claim,
was met by mobile clinics fighting prejudicial shame.
Her path would ever widen in her bravely fought pursuit
of brokering a ceasefire for the children of Beirut.
And helping in the war on AIDS, a world catastrophe,
she'd open then a hostel for the sick in NYC.
But faith was not a constancy, her light would often dim
in bouts of empty 'dryness' that would numb and underpin.
Her healing powers would strip her bare, expose her frailty;
revival then would free her soul, in trust she held the key.
This icon of great magnitude, impassioned by her creed,
worked tirelessly to help the meek and poor in direst need.
Her 'virtue was heroic,' her wonder recognised,*
this Mother of the world, revered, was duly canonised.



Dedicated to anyone currently feeling challenged or alone (please note stanza 10).

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (later Mother Teresa) 1910-1997.

Stanza 1-2: Gonxha means flower bud in Albanian.
Born in Skopje, the current capital of Macedonia, she was 8 years old when her father died. In the aftermath of his death she became extraordinarily close to her mother, a pious, compassionate woman, who instilled in her daughter a strong commitment to charity by opening up her household to the destitute.
After a pilgrimage at the age of 12 she first felt a calling to religious life and, six years later, she set off to join the Sisters of Loretto in Dublin with the aim of becoming a nun. It was there that the name of Teresa was born after Saint Therese of Lisieux.

Stanza 3: A year later, she travelled on to Darjeeling, India, for the novitiate period and 2 years later she made her First Profession of Vows and was assigned in Calcutta to teach at school the poorest Bengali families. She learned Bengali and Hindi and her aim was to lift the girls out of poverty through education.

Stanza 4-5: In 1946, she received a second calling, this time to extend her work to the slums of Calcutta. Given her vow of obedience, she was obliged to obtain permission from the Sisters first and this would take nearly 18 months of lobbying.

Stanza 6-7: After 6 months of basic medical training, she arrived at her destination with no more specific a goal than to aid "the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for."
Initially deterred by the magnitude of the task, her conviction returned and she began an open-air school and a home for the destitute dying, convincing the city government to donate to her cause.
*In 1950 she founded Missionaries of Charity, a religious community in the Catholic Church dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor.
In 1965 Pope Paul V1 bestowed the Decree of Praise upon the Missionaries of Charity which prompted Mother Teresa to start expanding internationally.

Stanza 8-9: As donations started pouring in from India and across the world, so her charitable activities expanded exponentially. She travelled extensively to the US, Lebanon and Europe, addressing issues of war, famine and deprivation. Her journey to Beirut involved her helping children of both faiths, Muslim and Christian. She also actively helped during the Chernobyl disaster as well as in earthquake zones.

Stanza 10: Though she found her strength and perseverance in prayer and the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, privately she experienced doubts and struggles in her religious beliefs that lasted nearly 50 years until her death. Such periods have been experienced by other saints including her namesake and have been described as 'spiritual dryness.' These doubts, numbing as they were for her, were considered typical and not an impediment to canonisation.

Stanza 11: Mother Teresa was canonised as a saint in 2016, a day before the 19th anniversary of her death. In order for this to be carried out it had to be proven that her 'virtue was heroic' and she had performed miracles of healing, this process is called *'beatification.' One such miracle was said to be the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumours.

Among her many achievements and accolades, in 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work "in bringing help to suffering humanity." She donated the $192,000 prize fund to the people of India.

At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries. These included hospices, homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and TB, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programmes, orphanages and schools. By the 1990s the Missionaries of Charity were aided by co-workers numbering over one million.

After several years of suffering from heart, lung and kidney problems, she died September 5 1997 at the age of 87.

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