By Alessandro Gisotti
A life totally dedicated to serving the poor amongst the poorest. The example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta never stops attracting people all over the world, believers and non-believers alike.
One tangible sign of this “transversal” strength of the “Saint of the Neediest” is the fact that Saturday, the anniversary of her death on 5 September 1997 and the liturgical memorial in her honor, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Charity.
The resolution adopted on 17 December 2012 by the UN General Assembly which established the Day expressly mentions Mother Teresa as a model of love for those in need.
Charity builds peace
“Recognizing that charity builds social cohesion and peace,” observes Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in a reflection shared with the Vatican media, “the United Nations intends to sensitize and mobilize people and organizations to help others through philanthropic activities.”
He also underlines how “significant” it is for the Church that the UN chose 5 September to hold the International Day of Charity.
It marks the date of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta – a woman known throughout the world who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but whose only mission was to serve the Lord through the poor.
For the good of others
Cardinal Tagle recalls that Mother Teresa is among the patron saints of Caritas Internationalis, of which he is President. He also points out that “through the religious order that she established in 1950, the Missionaries of Charity, her service of charity has reached the poor in many parts of the world.”
“For St. Mother Teresa,” the Filipino Cardinal reflects, “charity consists in little acts done for the good of other people. But true acts of charity could come only from a person of charity. The ultimate source of charity is God, our living personal God. ‘God is love’, according to the first letter of John 4,8. Love is the name of God. God gives life, forgives sinners, protects the weak, nurtures the earth, suffers with the poor, accompanies the abandoned. In Jesus, God’s love defeated death.”
Every human person, he recalls, “is created in God’s image to be the face of His love on earth. Mother Teresa allowed God who is Love to transform her very person into an instrument of God´s charity for the poor.”
Authentic charity in action
The President of Caritas Internationalis and Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples then dwells on how the spirit and example of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity can help us in these trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic, which sets the tone for the International Day of Charity in 2020.
“Everyone is called to do acts of charity to alleviate poverty and to foster stability and peace,” exhorts Cardinal Tagle. “But in the spirit of St. Mother Teresa, I believe this year’s celebration poses deeper questions: what kind of person are you? What kind of persons are we forming in our youth? Do we respect the persons who differ from us? Has the pandemic awakened the instinct of love in us or has it made us impersonal? More than ever, we need today authentic charity from authentic persons!”