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Monday, September 5, 2016

Thank you for Mother Teresa's Canonization

At 10:00am this morning, in Saint Peter's Square, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin presided at the celebration of a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Homily of His Eminence, Pietro Parolin
for the Mass of Thanksgiving

Brother Cardinals,
Dear confreres in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Missionaries of Charity,
Pilgrims and devotees,
Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, we have returned to Saint Peter's Square, in great numbers and filled with joy, to thank the Lord for the gift of the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

How many are the reasons we have to be profoundly grateful to the Lord!  We thank Him for the heroic testimony of faith of the saints, through which he continues to make his Church fruitful, the gift which he gives to us, his children, a sure sign of his love (cf Preface of the Saints II).

We thank Him, in particular, for having given us Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who, with her unceasing prayer overflowed with great works of corporal and spiritual mercy and was a clear mirror of the love of God and an admirable example of service to others, especially the poor, the derelict, the abandoned: a mirror and an example from which we can draw precious guidance and inspiration in order to live as good disciples of the Lord, to be converted from our apathy and mediocrity, and to allow ourselves to be inflamed by the fire of Christ's love: Caritas Christi urget nos - the love of Christ compels us, the love of Christ compels us (2 Cor 5:14).

Mother Teresa loved to define herself as a pencil in the hands of the Lord.  What beautiful poems of charity, of compassion, of comfort and of joy this little pencil wrote!  Poems of love and of tenderness for the poorest of the poor, to whom she consecrated her entire existence!

In this way, she refers to a clear perception of her call within a call, which she received in September 1946, while travelling to her annual retreat: I opened my eyes to the suffering and understood deeply the essence of my vocation ... I felt that the Lord was calling me to renounce the quiet life I was living within my religious Congregation and to go out into the streets to serve the poor.  It was an order.  It was not a suggestion, an invitation or a proposal (cited in Renzo Allegri, Mother Teresa told me, Ancora Editions, Milan, 2010).

Mother Teresa opened her eyes to suffering, embraced it with a look of compassion, her entire being was affected and shaken by this encounter, which - in a certain sense - pierced her heart, according to the example of Jesus, who was also moved by the suffering of the human creature, incapable of recovering on its own.

How can we not read in the light of her closeness, the words that Pope Francis offered us in the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy, when he wrote: Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity (MV, 15).

But what is Mother Teresa's secret?  It is certainly no secret, since we have just proclaimed it aloud in the gospel: Truly I tell you - all that you have done to one of the least of my brothers, you have done it to me (Mt 25:40).

Mother Teresa discovered in the poor the face of Christ who made himself poor for us in order to enrich us with his poverty (cf 2 Cor 8:9) and responded to his endless love with a boundless love for the poor.  Caritas Christi urget nos, the love of Christ compels us, the love of Christ compels us (2 Cor 5:14).

She was able to be such an enlightened sign of mercy - For her, mercy was the salt that gave flavour to every one of her works and the light that lit up the darkness of all those who no longer had the tears to mourn for their poverty and suffering, said the Holy Father in his homily yesterday - for she allowed herself to be enlightened by Christ, adored, loved and praised in the Eucharist, as she herself explained: Our lives should continually be fed by the Eucharist, because if we were not able to see Christ under the appearance of bread, neither would we be able to discover him in the humble appearance of the badly battered bodies of the poor (cf Teresa of Calcutta, The love that quenches thirst, page 16).

She was also well aware that one of the most excruciating forms of poverty consists in knowing that we are unloved, unwanted, despised.  A kind of poverty that is also present in countries and in families which are less poor, even among persons who belong to social categories which have many means at their disposal, but who experience the interior emptiness of having lost the meaning and direction of their lives and violently suffer the desolation of broken ties, the difficulty of loneliness, the feeling of being forgotten by everyone or of not being useful to anyone.

This also led her to also identify unborn children whose existence is threatened as the poorest of the poor.  Each one of them depends, in fact more than any other human being, upon the love and care of a mother and the protection of society.  The one who is conceived has nothing of his own, every one of his hopes and needs is in the hands of others.  He carries within himself a plan for life and a future, and he asks to be welcomed and to be protected so that he can become that which he already is: one of us, of whom the Lord has already thought since the beginning of eternity, with a great mission to accomplish: the mission to love and to be loved, as Mother Teresa often repeated.

In this way, she courageously defended the lives of the unborn, with a clarity of speech and a linearity of action that is the most illuminating sign of the presence of the Prophets and the Saints, who do not kneel to anyone except the Almighty.  They are inwardly free because they are inwardly strong and they do not bow to the fashions and the idols of the time, but are reflected in the conscience illuminated by the light of the gospel.

In her, we discover the joyful and inseparable balance between the heroic exercise of charity and the clarity of the proclamation of truth, we see constant busyness, fuelled by the depth of contemplation, the mystery of good accomplished in humility and without fatigue, the fruit of so much love that it hurts.

She spoke about this in the famous speech she gave when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 11, 1979: It is very important for us to understand that love, in order to be true, should hurt.  It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him.  And she thanked her present and future benefactors by saying to them: I do not want you to give me what you have left over, I want you to give until it hurts.

To me, it seems that these words are like a threshold, beyond which we enter into the abyss that surrounded the life of this Saint, in the heights and in the depths that are difficult to explore because they retrace very closely the sufferings of Christ, his unconditional gift of love and the profound wounds that he had to suffer.

The unfathomable density of the cross, of God's doing good until it hurts, because of the friction that it causes in all those who resist, due to the limitations of creatures, the limitations of their sins and the death that is its sting.

And it is also - as evidenced by the many letters she sent to her Spiritual Director - the dark night of faith, in which she lived the burning love for the crucified Lord and for her brothers and sisters in need of care and of bread, a solid and pure faith is - at the same time - the tremendous sensation of being distanced from God and experiencing his silence.  Something similar to the cry of Christ on the cross: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Mt 27:46).

Another word, among the seven words spoken by Jesus during his agony on the cross, she wanted written in English in every house of her Congregation, beside the crucified Christ: I thirst, I thirst: thirst for fresh and calm water, thirst for souls to console and to redeem from their ugliness, to make them beautiful and pleasing in the eyes of God, thirst for God, for his essential and illuminating presence.  I thirst: this is the thirst that burned within Mother Teresa, her cross and exaltation, her torment and her glory.

In this life, in recognition for the good she had accomplished, she received the Nobel Peace Prize and many other recognitions, and she witnessed the flowering of her work, above all in the Congregation of the Sisters Missionaries of Charity and the Brothers Missionaries of Charity who she founded to continue this work.  Now, in Paradise, with Mary, the Mother of God and with all the Saints, she is receiving the highest prize prepared for her since the foundation of the world, the prize reserved for the just, the meek, the humble of heart, and those who in welcoming the poor have welcomed Christ.

When Mother Teresa passed from this earth into heaven, on September 5, 1997, for a few long moments, Calcutta remained entirely in darkness.  On this earth, she was a transparent sign that pointed to heaven.  On the day of her death, heaven wanted to set a seal upon her life and to communicate to us the fact that a new light was lit above us.  Now, after the official recognition of her holiness, it shines even more vividly.  May this light, which is the everlasting light of the gospel, continue to illuminate our earthly pilgrimage and the paths we must follow through this difficult world!

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
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