A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

St. Teresa of Kolkata

St Teresa of Calcutta (St Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa MC, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu) (1910-97). Feast Day commemorating the death of the Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary born in Kosovo Vilayet (present-day  Skopje). At 18, she left home for Ireland and joined the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Dublin, where she learned English to travel to Calcutta in 1929. She became a girls’ school teacher in Darjeeling in 1931 and lived in India for most of her life. She made her Final Profession of Vows in Calcutta in 1937 and in 1946, on a train from Calcutta to Darjeeling, Jesus asked her to establish a religious community. In 1948, she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor in Calcutta and at 40 she founded and later became the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity (Missionariarum a Caritate, MC), a Latin Church religious congregation now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. In the early 1960s, she sent her Sisters to other parts of India and then opened a house in Venezuela with the Pope’s encouragement. Foundations in Rome, Tanzania, Austria, on every other continent, and in almost all of the Communist countries followed. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963, in 1976 a contemplative branch of the Sisters, in 1979 the Contemplative Brothers, in 1981 the Corpus Christi movement for Priests, and in 1984 the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, which she co-founded. In 1982, during the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa personally rescued 37 children trapped in a hospital. By 1997, there were nearly 4,000 Sisters and 300 Brothers in 610 foundations in both contemplative and active branches in 123 countries. Members of the congregation must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and profess a fourth vow to give a wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. Missionaries care for refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people dying of HIV/AIDS or TB, the aged and the convalescent. Schools are run by volunteers to teach abandoned street children and there are soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes and orphanages, according to community needs. These services are provided without charge to people regardless of their religion or social status. Mother Teresa founded the Kalighat Home for the Dying and received a number of honours, including: the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize; the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize; the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India); and the international Order of the Smile (Order Uśmiechu). Mother Teresa’s earthly life came to an end in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) on 5 September 1997 and she was laid to rest on 13 September in the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity there. A controversial figure during her lifetime and after her death, she was admired by many for her charitable work and praised and criticised on various counts, such as for her views on abortion and contraception and the poor conditions in her houses for the dying. Venerated in Roman Catholic Church. Major shrine Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity, Kolkata. Since 2017, co-patron with St Francis Xavier of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta. Patron of World Youth Day, Missionaries of Charity. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.

Prayer Jesus, You made Saint Teresa an inspiring example of firm faith and burning charity, an extraordinary witness to the way of spiritual childhood, and a great and esteemed teacher of the value and dignity of every human life. We pray that You hear the requests of all those who now seek her intercession. Amen

Holy Prophet Zachariah and Righteous Elizabeth, parents of Saint John the  Baptist - Orthodox Church in America

St Elizabeth. (Elisabeth, אֱלִישֶׁבַע , My God has sworn, Ἐλισάβετ). Eastern Orthodox, Anglican Feast Day with her husband Zacharias the priest of Aaron and Lutheran Commemoration of the Righteous First-Century BCE matriarch who died in the First Century CE and was the mother of John the Baptist. She was at least 60 and well past child-bearing age when she gave birth to John after Zacharias had prayed for a child and was visited by the angel Gabriel. Zacharias did not believe Gabriel when he was told that Elizabeth would bear the child and so was struck deaf-mute until the prophecy was fulfilled. The angel Gabriel was then sent to Nazareth in Galilee to Elizabeth’s niece Mary, a virgin betrothed to a man called Joseph, to inform her that she would conceive by the Holy Ghost and bring forth a son to be called Jesus. Mary was also informed that Elizabeth had begun her sixth month of pregnancy and so Mary travelled to the hill country of Judah to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. When Elizabeth gave birth, the boy was to be named after his father but Elizabeth said: “No! He is to be called John.” Zacharias could not hear this but when he asked for a writing tablet he wrote: “His name is John,” and his tongue set free to praise God. Elizabeth was then only mentioned again in several books of the Apocrypha but the prophecy of Zacharias (the Benedictus) is recorded, ending with the note that John: “Grew and became strong in spirit and was in the deserts,” until his ministry to Israel began. Since Medieval times, Elizabeth’s greeting: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” has formed the second sentence of the Hail Mary prayer. In Islam, Elizabeth (أليصابات‎) the wife of Zakaria and mother of Yahya, is an honoured woman but, although Zachariah is frequently mentioned by name in the Qur’an, she is not named. She is revered by Muslims as a wise, pious and believing person who, like Mary, was exalted by God to a high station and lived in the household of Imran, the husband of Mary’s mother Hannah. In Shi’a hadith, she is named Hananah, a sister of Mary’s mother Hannah, the wife of Imran. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Churches, Islam. A traditional tomb of Elizabeth is shown in the Franciscan Monastery of Saint John in the Wilderness south of Jerusalem. Roman Catholic, Lutheran Feast Day 5 November. Patron of pregnant women. Image: oca.org.

Our Lady of the Woods (Madonna di Galloro, Madonna delle Grazie). The small image of the Virgin and Child painted on a wall by a monk of Grottaferrata south of Rome was found in 1621 in woodland at Galloro on the site of an old church built there in her honour and long since ruined, probably during one of the periodic invasions of foreign troops. The image was re-discovered by the orphan shepherd boy Santi Bevilacqua, who lived with his uncle 15 km away at L’Ariccia, and soon his friends were going with him to see the Madonna. When a pile of wood fell on Santi, he cried out to the Madonna of the Woods to save him. His uncle found him buried but unhurt and so in 1624 rebuilt the church, for it to be placed under the feudal control of Vallombrosian Benedictine monks in 1633. They built a 1634 monastery and Santi lived and served Mass at the shrine, where fifteen Masses were said daily for droves of pilgrims. The picture was moved from the old stone wall and a painting of the Madonna and Child believed to have been commissioned by Bernini, who reconstructed the church façade, was placed on the main altar in a frame of gilded metal rays. In 1656, an annual 6 December procession of the Signorina (Virgin) was started to celebrate the end of a plague epidemic that bypassed Galloro as people prayed at the shrine of Our Lady. The Vallombrosian monks left during the Napoleonic occupation and the monastery passed to the Jesuit order from 1816 until 1896, benefitted from some decades of Vallombrosian restoration and then again became the property of the Jesuits who use it today for religious retreats. Miracles endeared Our Lady of the Woods to the people and so Galloro is still a place of pilgrimage. Image: tellercatholic.org.