Mother Teresa: A hero for our time

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I wish everybody could be at the Vatican on Sept. 4 for the remarkable occasion of Mother Teresa’s Sainthood. There they would meet some of the most caring people from across the world. I am fortunate to have met many of them.

I first talked to Mother Teresa herself at Harvard University’s graduation before I became Boston’s mayor. Later, I helped her build housing for poor mothers and their infant babies in Boston and around the U.S. I was blessed to have met her several times in Rome, in soup kitchens and clinics in Africa, and India when I was Ambassador to the Holy See.

Mother Teresa and Ray Flynn (provided photo)

Mother Teresa and Ray Flynn (provided photo)

Wherever she travelled in the world, hundreds of people would come to see this special person. Like Christ, she had no title, power or money. It was her love for the desperate, leapers and outcasts which made her such an admired woman. But Mother Teresa’s canonization will be even more special because this extraordinary celebration of her life was not something she ever set out to achieve.

In a society that gives so much attention to the powerful, rich and famous, at the canonization of Mother Teresa, average people from across the world will find the financial means to witness this special Saint. Were I the President of the United States, or a CEO of a big corporation, I would fill my plane with “people down on their luck” and fly them to St. Peter’s Basilica to be with the “Saint of Gutters.” Proudly, I’d sit in the middle of Mother’s special friends, including many, pro-lifers at the ceremony, and share in their joy. Millions will sing, pray, and Pope Francis will talk about Mother’s devoted and holy life and her commitment to the poor and needy. They’ll all feel her presence and remember her doing God’s work on earth.

At Mother’s Beatification on Oct. 19, 2003 by Pope John Paul II, I spoke to a group of world diplomats in Rome, “When Blessed Mother Teresa becomes a Saint of the Church, it will be one of the greatest events in modern history,” I said.

Consider where she came from, what she had to overcome, and see what she achieved. But in talking with her as many times as I did, it was never about her, but always about the people who live in the “shadows of life.” Yet, believe me, she knew how to get things done, and she knew well how to cajole politicians (I was one of them) as well as business leaders.

In a era devoid of moral and political courage, Sept. 4 just might be the day when we show the world that what the soul seeks is not fame, power or money, but rather decency, honesty and kindness. Those are the qualities to which the people of the world will pay tribute on Sept. 4.

Ray Flynn

Ray Flynn

Ray Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Mayor of Boston. Read his past columns here.