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The road to Sainthood

by E. Weerapperuma

Mother Teresa of Calcuttato be beatified in Rome

Mother Teresa, whom Pope John Paul II called the "Greatest heroine of the 20th Century" and cited as "a model of holiness in action", will move one step towards Sainthood, when the Pope elevates this "Humble Maid Servant of God", to the Beatified status in Rome on Sunday, October 19.

Pope John Paul II who will celebrate the Silver Jubilee of His Papacy on October 16, will proclaim to the world as Head of the Universal Church that He has the privilege of announcing the beatification of Mother Teresa, the humble maid servant of God. The Pontiff so far had declared 278 Saints and 769 Blesseds.

Sri Lanka which runs Homes for the "Destitute" in seven districts will be represented by the Regional Superior of the Missionary Sisters and Brothers of Charity along with other representatives from the world at the Beatification Service.

Canonization is an infallible declaration by the Pontiff that a person who suffered martyrdom and/or practised Christian virtue to a heroic degree, is in glory with God in heaven and is worthy of public honour by the Universal Church and of imitation by the faithful.

Beatification, a preliminary step in the process of canonization, is a decree by the Church informing that a certain person be regarded as a virtuous individual who could perform miracles for the believers.

The process of canonization begins with an investigation into the life, the writings and heroic practice of virtues of the candidate. With the promulgation that a candidate had practised Theological virtues, to a heroic degree, Church elevates him/her to venerable status. Fulfilling all requirements to be declared a Blessed, Mother Teresa has come one step closer to Sainthood, six years after her demise.

As per Canon Law, the procedure must follow three distinct stages. The candidate must first be identified as a Servant of God, for the beatification process to commence. It requires proof of one miracle by her intercession as defined by the Church and that has to be a cure that cannot be explained in medical terms. Two more miracles after beatification are needed for the elevation to Sainthood. Beatification in the penultimate step to sainthood.

According to the Cannon law, the beatified may receive public veneration and the Church could make it obligatory for determined places. Veneration to Mother Teresa who will be enlisted among the numerous beatified may be confined to a certain country or a region as the cult of the blessed is not universal.

Mother Teresa whom the people fondly called the "Saint of the gutter", "Mother of Mercy", "India's Angel of the Slums" and "Living Saint" while she was alive and serving the "poorest of the poor", His Holiness Pope John Paul II referred to her as a "unique gift for the Church and the world" and added saying that "In the smile, gestures and words of Mother Teresa, Christ walked once again on the streets of the World".

The world was pressing the Church authorities to declare Mother Teresa a Saint following her death on September 5, 1997.

In normal circumstances it is mandatory to wait for five years after the death to commence the process of making of a Saint. But in the case of Mother Teresa, the Church responded waivered of the specified period of time as a result of a number of communications from Calcutta's Archbishop Henry Sauza, and directed the launching of the process.

Vatican Postulator, Rev. Fr. Brian Kolodiekchuk MC, Missionary Fathers of Charity and a very close associate of Mother Teresa appointed by the Holy See to look after the process of her Sainthood said that he spent two years in gathering information, supportive evidence and criticisms from over 112 witnesses.

"My job has been to look at the evidence as closely as I can. One day all this will be made public.I know that I have God,the Church and History looking over my shoulders". There had been no relaxation of standards in the case of Mother Teresa,he added.

The second Phase of the process began on the thrid week of December in 2001.

This involved preparing of the Positio, a dossier of 36,000 pages giving a comprehensive biography on how Mother Teresa lived the Christian life and her virtues,compiled under the Relator,an official from the Congregation.

It was examined by the Congregation for the Cause of Saints-Vatican and the Promotor Justitie or the Devil's advocate.

The elevation of Mother Teresa as Blessed has been made possible with the declaration made by the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and Promotor Justitie or the Devil's Advocate declaring that the healing of Bengali Tribal woman Monica Basra was, "scientifically inexplicable".

The miracle had occurred in September, one year after Mother Teresa's death. Monica had suffered from a tumour and she avers that she was cured of a malignant tumour after a medallion depicting Mother Teresa was put over her swollen abdomen.

Mother Teresa was born as the youngest of the family of five children on August 26, 1910, to Nicholas Bjoaxhia and Dranafile Bernai from nearby Venice and was baptised on August 27 at the Sacred Heart Church. Her name was Agnes Gounxha Bjoaxhia.

In 1928, at the age of 18 on September 26, accompanied by her mother whom they used to call "Nana Loke" and her sister Age left for Zagreb by train. Once they reached there she bade farewell to her mother and sister and left for Ireland to join as a Postulant of the Order of Loreto of the Irish Nuns.

She came to Loreto Novitiate at Darjeeling on January 16, 1929. and took her First Vows in 1931 and Final Vows in 1937. She began her public life as a religious by joining the teaching staff at St. Mary's Girls High School.

She had taught girls of rich families, geography and history.

While serving as a member of the teaching staff and having come into contact with the poor, she slowly began to realise that her vocation was a very different one from that of the one she was living as a Nun of the Loretto Order. The journey from the school back to the Convent for a retreat, marked the turning point in her life.

Vatican allowed her to live her religious life outside of the Convent ie: "exclaustration". The Pope at the time was Pope Pius XII. She left the Convent on August 8, 1948, dressing herself for the first time with a blue bordered plain white cotton saree, the dress of the poor ordinary women.

She designed her own Order to serve the Lord in the "Poorest of the Poor" and on October 17, in 1950 she 'launched to the deep' with 12 members.

The first Home for the destitutes, "Dayave Hadhawatha" came up. Today there are 600 homes in 136 countries.

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