On September 4, Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Prayer is central to this saint’s extraordinary experience.

When Mother Teresa died, the streets of Calcutta overflowed with an enormous deluge of people. Her funeral was an extraordinary event. India hadn’t seen anything like it since the death of Gandhi. Million of viewers watched the ceremony, which was broadcast via television throughout the entire world. They were the same individuals who, a few days before during that same September of 1997, were so moved in front of the images of another funeral – that of the British princess Lady Diana, who had become friends with the nun from Calcutta. Mother Teresa was known everywhere. The news reports did not tire of listing her public speeches, those held in front of parliaments, in stadiums, or in the offices of international organizations. Mother Teresa received the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, sealing her undeniable renown even in secular spheres distant from the Catholic Church. Her friendship with John Paul II, the international expansion of the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity, the huge success of what was started by that tiny Albanian nun, and her sisters’ heroic service in the slums in all the metropolises of the world, all kept her in the spotlight for decades.
Yet those who personally met Mother Teresa perceived that that woman’s incomparable greatness emerged completely from an interior life marked by her intimate relationship with God. «My secret is very simple: I pray,» she said, indicating an option viable for all. «Through prayer, I fall in love with Christ. I have learned that to pray to Him means to love Him.» The profound truth of Mother Teresa’s life was this particular love she had for Christ.
On the day she took her Solemn Profession of vows, Mother Teresa, full of joy for giving her whole self to her Spouse, promised Him that she would never refuse Him anything and give Him everything for which He asked. It was April 1942 and Teresa was 32. It was a conscious and radical decision. «I wanted to give God something very beautiful,» she explained many years later, «without reservation.» This profoundly intimate event, a promise of love, was the force which sustained Mother Teresa’s extensive public activity. «To possess God, we have to allow Him to possess us,» she wrote. And when God possesses a man, he turns on a light inside of him that shines with an incomparable brightness.
The letters that Mother Teresa wrote to her spiritual fathers during her years of mission serving the poor, which were published in 2007 when she was beatified, witness her continuous dialogue with Christ. This hidden conversation was often marked by an agonizing longing for the closeness she experienced during her second calling which then disappeared. Mother Teresa’s attractiveness, that incomparable beauty of her person, is born from her secret labor of love. «You can follow men because they are rich or powerful, and you can hope for something,» Divo Barsotti said, but «you can follow others for the beauty in them that attracts you.» And he added, «In the face of beauty every defense disappears. Even a creature’s beauty wins us over. How can men not be won over by the beauty of God that shines in the saints?»

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