| Pope John Paul II talks to a nun of the Missionaries of Charity at the Vatican on Monday. (AFP)
Rome, Oct. 20: This morning at the Vatican, the search began for another miracle that would allow Mother Teresa, now called Blessed Teresa of Calcutta after her beatification yesterday, to be canonised to full sainthood.
Here, in Rome, no one doubts this will happen and probably before too long, as a “Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” was held in St Peter’s Square.
Compared with yesterday’s unprecedented turnout of half a million, today’s ceremony, quiet and dignified, was attended by around 150,000 people but they still filled St Peter’s Square.
Greater love hath no pilgrim for “Madre Teresa di Calcutta” than those who stood in a heavy downpour, a marked contrast to yesterday’s blazing sunshine, and took almost a perverse pleasure in getting drenched during the 90-minute service. Those from the senior ranks of the Church of Rome were well prepared for the first drops of rain and brought out a flurry of umbrellas in the yellow and white colours of the Vatican.
Half way through the service, “miracle lady” Monica Besra left, looking wet and forlorn under an umbrella, her pink sari damp and bedraggled. This morning it seemed she did not want to tempt providence by catching a nasty Italian cold.
However, faith is a wonderful thing. By and by, she returned and sat through the rain.
The Mass was presided over by His Eminence Jose Cardinal Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints — a small hint that Mother Teresa’s canonisation is a foregone conclusion.
There was a small prayer in Bengali by one of the sisters from the Missionaries of Charity during which she said: “Ishwar ke dhannabad jaanaan (offers thanks to Jesus).”
But otherwise, the Mass offered the customs and practices of the High Church of Rome, some of it offered in Latin, though occasionally there were translations in English.
There were introductory rites during which the Cardinal asked the congregation “to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries” and to “let us call to mind our sins”.
Mother Teresa has clearly become the most powerful contemporary symbol of the Catholic Church after the present, exceedingly popular Pope.
During one prayer, for example, the Cardinal said: “God, who called Blessed Teresa, Virgin, to respond to the love of your Son thirsting on the Cross with outstanding charity to the poorest of the poor, grant us, we beseech you, by her intercession, to minister to Christ in his suffering brothers.”
There followed a Liturgy of the Word, with readings from the Song of Songs, and St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Next came another prayer: “Through the intercession of blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Lord Hear our prayer!”
There was an exhortation to “receive our worship in memory of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”.
There were concluding rites, a last prayer (“God of mercy we rejoice that on this feast of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta you give us the bread of heaven”), and the closing beautiful hymn that soared above St Peter’s Square (L’anima mia magnifica).
As the Mass ended, the sun broke through and thousands of pilgrims queued up, patiently and not at all in the way things are done in Calcutta, to take holy communion from the Sisters of Charity.
And so the curtain fell this morning on one of the greatest recent events of the Church of Rome. Next stop: the canonisation.