Little woman, giant spirit

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta enters sainthood

Aaron Lambert

The woman stood at a mere five foot zero, but her mountainous faith towered high above those she encountered.

“She was diminutive in physical stature, she was a giant in her firmness and her vision of life,” Cardinal J. Francis Stafford recalled.

Cardinal Stafford served as archbishop of Denver during Mother Teresa’s historic visit to Denver in 1989, when she announced that her Missionaries of Charity would bless the Mile High City with their presence.

Following her presentation at McNichols Arena, Mother Teresa, Cardinal Stafford and several others ate lunch together prior to going to look at possible convents for the Missionaries of Charity.

She was diminutive in physical stature, she was a giant in her firmness and her vision of life.”

“After lunch, we were moving from the table, and we had to pass across a crucifix. [Mother Teresa] was ahead of me as she was leaving, and she stopped and looked at the cross with the body of Christ upon it,” Cardinal Stafford recounted. “She gazed at it for several minutes in silence. We waited with her, respected her desire to contemplate the cross of Christ, and suddenly she said in Latin, ‘sitio’ — ‘I thirst.’ And she just left.”

This is the kind of woman Mother Teresa was. She was one with Christ in her own thirst for holiness; a thirst that will declare this beloved woman a saint on Sept. 4.

Ablaze in the dark

In her autobiography, Mother Teresa spoke of darkness. She was consumed by a darkness that permeated her mind and her heart. “I feel so much pain and torture that I cannot explain,” she wrote. Having spent her life serving the poor, sick and dying in Calcutta, it’s not difficult for one to imagine the sorrow Mother Teresa must have felt.

“In some way, I think the sitio is an explanation of that darkness,” Cardinal Stafford said. “It was not only the thirst of Christ, it was her oneness with the thirst of Christ in the midst of his suffering on Calvary. She became one with that abandonment that Christ spoke of.”

MotherTeresa_CardinalStafford_CROP

Blessed Mother Teresa and Cardinal Stafford at McNichols Arena, May 20, 1989. (File photo by James Baca)

Despite the darkness she herself lived in, Mother Teresa was an intense ray of light in a world that so desperately needed it. It was her holy simplicity that set her apart, her raw courage that enabled her to do what she did, and her utter dependence on God that gave her the strength to do so.

“In Mother Teresa’s life, we see this complexity that emerges from this holy simplicity,” Cardinal Stafford said. “She was absolutely dependent on God, even in the midst of this terrible darkness that could have been enervating to her, but wasn’t. It was energizing, rather than enervating.”

Saint Teresa of Calcutta

And now, at last, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will become Saint Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 4. As with the many saints who have come before her, she serves as an example of holiness for the faithful to follow, not only as someone who experienced the absence of God in her life, but found joy in the midst of it.

Mother Teresa has told us that he absence of God is really God’s presence to us. The absence of God indicates his presence to us, and Mother Teresa understood that in spades.”

“For contemporary men and women who sense the absence of God in their life, it’s very important for us to reflect upon the immense courage and the unfolding of the meaning of faith in the life of a human being as it was described by Blessed Teresa,” Cardinal Stafford commented. “Mother Teresa has told us that the absence of God is really God’s presence to us. The absence of God indicates his presence to us, and Mother Teresa understood that in spades.

“Mother Church has given us Teresa of Calcutta now. A woman who lived in darkness, but lived in that darkness with the light of faith — that dark ray of light that suddenly illumines the darkness with a wisdom and knowledge that only those who have faith understand and see. She’s model for us, not simply for the darkness, but for the joy.”

The Holy Communion of Saints warmly welcomes Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Saint Teresa, pray for us.

COMING UP: WATCH: Mother Teresa brings gift of love during 1989 visit to Denver

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Mother Teresa is being canonized a saint Sept. 4. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Cardinal J. Francis Stafford reflect upon Mother Teresa’s legacy, the significance of her becoming a saint, and the impact she and her Missionaries of Charity have had on the Archdiocese of Denver.

Celebrate with the local community of the Missionaries of Charity at one of their events leading up to and following the canonization. Learn more here.