Silent bow to India soul

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  • Published 20.10.03

A sea of white-and-blue, kneeling and bowing, as songs and incantations filled the second-floor chapel of Mother House. Behind the desk, lit up by candles, stood priests and nuns leading the way as Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and a few of her followers gathered for a special thanksgiving Mass to mark the beatification that had just concluded at the Vatican.

“Mother Teresa crossed seven seas to come to India and spend her whole life tending to the sick and dying,” intoned Father Michael Baju of Calcutta’s Archbishop House.

Hailing her as the “soul of India and icon of the world”, he added: “The church is proud to have produced her, and India must be proud at one of the greatest among its one billion people.”

Throughout Sunday, hundreds among that billion flocked to Mother Teresa’s home on AJC Bose Road. They queued up quietly, filed through the doorway reverentially, to offer prayers, flowers and candles at the small tomb in which she lies buried on the ground floor.

The doors were thrown open to all soon after the early morning prayer, following which each of the sisters spent a quiet moment or two by their Mother’s tomb. It was an endless stream of people from all walks of life, including many she had rescued from destitution.

“Doctors diagnosed a tumour in my breast… Mother gave me a rosary and said ‘pray with this for 15 days and then go for a second scan’. I did, and the lump had vanished,” cried Anjali Rosario, 48-year-old housewife from Sareng Lane, not far from Mother House.

Italian medical care worker Massimo Quaglia, a volunteer at Nirmal Hriday, spent the entire afternoon at Mother House. “This is a very special day to be in Calcutta… For me, it’s far more important to be here, rather than at home in Rome,” he said.

Even as media outlets from around the world kept a vigil on the outside and Italian network Rai TV set up a direct satellite link-up with the Vatican, the sisters retreated into the chapel to watch the beatification ‘live’ on television.

No outsider was allowed in, as Mother’s missionaries erupted into frequent bursts of applause behind closed doors.

“The whole world is rejoicing,” said Sister Christie, one of the few who could not watch the live images from the Vatican as she was busy directing devotees and visitors to the tomb. “Today is our day of celebration, and of inspiration,” she added, before joining the others in the chapel for the special evening Mass.

“Today, she is recognised as the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Her impact is to be seen in the continuation of the work she began in all four corners of the world… Let us carry on her service to all those in need and suffering, and thereby keep her spirit alive,” said Father Michael Baju.

Head bowed in prayer, the nuns seemed to be huddled in a silent pledge to do just that.