The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The overnight rain cleared the air. The morning swept aside the clouds and unveiled a clear blue sky. St Peter’s Square, bathed in sunlight and brimming with people, was a breathtaking sight — Jesus and the apostles looking down from the top of the Vatican, the pope on the dais and the crowd below sitting in blocks, waving their national flags.

This was spectacular stuff, beyond Hollywood extravaganza. Not the plundering victorious legions returning to Rome, led by dashing plume-helmeted warriors on bucking horses but the meek and gentle who said the rosary and sang the hymns for Mother Teresa’s beatification. The world watched and rejoiced as the slurring words of an ailing pope, physically frail but imbued with spiritual resolve, anointed her as “Blessed Teresa” amongst tumultuous applause.

The highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling of a large portrait of Mother Teresa. It was a beautiful picture of Mother smiling. Placed above the papal balcony, it looked down on St Peter’s Square. This was the emotional high of the beatification. Everybody had tears in their eyes.

My thoughts raced back over the years and I envisioned the lone figure of Mother at Motijhil, where she started her work. Her darned sari tucked in firmly at the waist, wearing patched up sandals, she tackled everything head-on. Hers was an irresistible force bursting with divine energy. As the years went by, her work for the poor and the sick brought dictators, presidents, prime ministers, royalty, film stars, the rich and the famous at her beck and call. She had come from humble Motijhil to the top of the world. The Vatican clasped her to its bosom.

During the ceremony, a group of nuns from another order, their saris draped in the colours of the Indian flag, performed “aarti”. Children adopted from Mother’s homes in India living in Italy danced with joy and some of the hymns were sung in “Bengali”! It all left me emotionally drained. Can you imagine more than sixty years of non-stop work, 18 hours-a-day with no holiday' Do we still have to look for miracles'

Once while travelling with her, when after two days my wife and I were totally exhausted, I asked Mother where she found the strength to continue in such a manner. She said, with a smile, “I fill my tank with prayer”.

Symbol of hope

Divine fuel has the highest octane and is inexhaustible. The distinctive white saris of the Missionaries of Charity, with the familiar blue lines on the border, woven by rehabilitated lepers at Mother’s Titagarh home, have become a symbol of hope for thousands of poor, sick and needy at more than 700 homes in 132 countries. Can you even name 132 countries' Mother always said that material needs can be reduced to minimal and provided for, but the biggest void was the absence of love. The pain of the abandoned, the unwanted, the unloved is the deepest.

Yet, one step remains for sainthood. Another miracle is required followed by a long inquisition, may be two years or more, before Mother takes her place amongst the saints in the eyes of the Church. For the people, Mother reached her destination a long time ago.

I know exactly what Mother Teresa would have said if she had been at the ceremony. Whenever she opened a new home and the seating and other arrangements were being made, she would say “Do it nicely, many big, big people are coming”. Now she rests with the biggest of all, whatever name you call him by.

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