The 20th Century will in many ways be remembered as the century of images. Of utmost importance in this day and age is the image one projects to the world. Politicians obscure self-serving motives behind dazzling smiles and expensive haircuts. Super models hide anorexic bodies behind layers of makeup. Hollywood makes heroes out of decidedly un-heroic narcissists. One person, however, lived a life that was identical to the image the world had of her. This person was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who was celebrated worldwide as a saint and who lived a life that wholly justified this renown.
Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in war-wracked Albania to Catholic refugees. At the age of 19, she went to India to join the Sisters of Loreto, a missionary order of nuns. She served with the Sisters as a teacher for 20 years. At the age of 38, while traveling by train in India, she had a striking realization that her life's mission
was to minister to the poorest of the poor. With the Pope's blessing, Mother Teresa descended into the slums of Calcutta, undoubtedly one of the poorest cities on the planet, and began the Sisters of Charity.
Under her direction, the Sisters of Charity ministered to the sick and hungry of Calcutta. Showering love and food on all who came to the mission's doorstep, Mother Teresa soon became a local celebrity. In 1969, a documentary chronicling her work in Calcutta was released. Overnight, Mother Teresa gained international prominence as a modern day saint.
With a rare combination of goodness and media savvy, Mother Teresa took
advantage of her new-found recognition. She began giving speeches worldwide, helping to bring attention to the plight of the poor everywhere. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and her position as the world's greatest champion of the downtrodden was firmly established.
Towards the end of her life, Mother Teresa was a friend of kings and
presidents worldwide. But it was with the poor that she chose to spend most of her time, traveling to war-torn areas such as Beirut and drought-stricken nations such as Ethiopia in her ongoing quest to find new persons in need of love and support.
Today, Mother Teresa's work is being carried on by the 3,000 + members of the Sisters of Charity. With missions worldwide, the Sisters of Charity minister to the poor on six continents, continuing the selfless legacy that Mother Teresa spent her long life establishing.