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A Pope and a Saint: John Paul II and Mother Teresa

Tuesday, 05 April 2005 12:00 AM

In 1950 she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a new order devoted to helping the sick and poor; the order grew to include branches in more than 100 cities around the world, and Mother Teresa became a worldwide symbol of charity, meeting with Princess Diana and many other public figures. In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, and in 1985 she was awarded the Medal of Freedom from the United States.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003, placing her one step from sainthood in the Catholic faith; after beatification she became known as the Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata... Though her parents were ethnic Albanians, Mother Teresa was born in what is now Macedonia and what was then part of the Ottoman Empire. Some sources give her date of birth as August 26th, not August 27th.

She urged everyone who sought her advice on how to live a good and holy life to "do something beautiful for Jesus every day."

In his encyclical Veritas Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) John Paul wrote "the man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly — and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being — must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with all his own self; he must 'appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deeper wonder at himself."

Both were vehement foes of the abhorrent practice of abortion and both proclaimed their opposition publicly and often.

In the presence of then-President Clinton and his pro-abortion wife, Mother Teresa told a prayer breakfast: "America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts - a child - as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience."

The Pope recalled her boldness in proclaiming her pro-life values among those who favored abortion: "Every now and then she would come and tell me about her experiences in her service to the Gospel values," he said. "I remember, for example, her pro-life and anti-abortion interventions, even when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace (Oslo, December 10, 1979). She often used to say: "If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God's love."

In Communist Cuba in January 1998, John Paul II declared: "Motherhood is sometimes presented as something backward or as a limitation of a woman's freedom, thus distorting its true nature and dignity. Children are presented not as what they are — a great gift of God — but rather as something to be defended against."

Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, wrote about the similarities between the two in an article published in the Oct. 22, 2003 issue of the weekly edition in English of L'Osservatore Romano:

"Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are ordinary people to whom God bestowed extraordinary gifts and talents, above all the gifts of invincible love, ardent charity and unshakable faith. In order to understand these two outstanding personalities of our time, it is good to see their background and many other things that pertain to their lives and future missions; the similarities are astounding.

"Their countries of origin, at one time or another, was under Communist rule. In fact, Albania had the worst form of Communism. By law, they were forbidden even to mention the name of God.

"Both lost one parent at the age of 9: Karol lost his mother on April 13, 1929; Agnes lost her father in 1919.

"For both, 1946 was a grace-filled year. On November 1st of that year, Pope John Paul II was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Krakow, Poland. And it was on September 10 of the same year that Teresa had her second call, which she called "a call within a call."

"Both the Holy Father and Mother Teresa are so devoted to Our Lady, especially to Our Lady of Fatima, that is, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For both the Rosary has been one of the strongest weapons to attack the evil of atheistic regimes that destroyed peace and unity in the world. In fact, the Missionary Sisters of Charity of Calcutta was founded on October 7, 1950, the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

"I could go on with many more striking similarities between the two prophets of our time whom God used and continues to use to show the world He still loves it as He loved it once in Jesus Christ. Let us hope and pray that the jubilee celebration of our beloved Pope John Paul II and the beatification of our dearest Mother Teresa of Calcutta may bring all people of good will more closer to God, to the Church, and most specially to the poor of the world."

The two met often. Mother Teresa was a frequent visitor to the Vatican, and on February 3, 1986 the Pope visited her 'house of the pure heart' in Calcutta where Mother Teresa took in the dying," and said he was "deeply moved" by what he had seen there.

"I have a high regard for him when I have seen him in Third World countries, giving hope to the poor," said the Rev. Kim Henning of Grace Congregational United Church of Christ in Two Rivers.

"We saw him and Mother Teresa together. It was hard to know who was looking up to whom," Henning said. "He had such a high regard for her and she, being a close adherent of the Roman Catholic faith, certainly admired him."

Both are now together with the Lord they served so well by devoting their lives to doing something beautiful for Jesus every day of their lives.

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