In Memoriam: Today, we remember our inaugural Templeton Prize laureate, Mother Teresa, who founded India’s Missionaries of Charity and gained recognition for her extraordinary efforts to help the homeless and neglected children of Kolkata.
Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was a Catholic nun and missionary who devoted her life to helping the poor and sick.
At the age of 18, she was given permission to join a group of nuns in Ireland called the Sisters of Loreto. After her training, she traveled to India to begin her work. She was moved by the poverty and suffering she saw in Kolkata, which motivated her to begin working with the poorest communities in the area.
In 1950, Mother Teresa was granted permission to start her own group, The Missionaries of Charity, which provided love and care for those who could not afford any support. Her heroic work brought about real change among those she served and continues to inspire millions around the world. Mother Teresa was canonized as Saint Teresa of Kolkata by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016.
We celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mother Teresa on the anniversary of her passing, September 5th, by reflecting on her thoughts delivered at the inaugural Templeton Prize ceremony in 1973.
1973 Templeton Prize Laureate, Mother Teresa, speaking with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
“Very often I ask people to come to our home for the dying — we have a big place in Calcutta and in the twenty-one years we have picked up over twenty-seven thousand people from the streets — and I ask the people not to come and to give things, things I can get for the asking. But I want their presence just to touch them, just to smile on them, just to be present there — it means such a lot to our people: some time for our lepers, for our crippled, for our unloved, uncared for children, it is the same need. They need love, that compassion, that touch, as the priest touches the Host during Mass and he touches of the body of Christ on the altar — it is that touch, with that love, with that faith, we have to touch the body of Christ in the poor. It is the same Jesus who meets Saul on the way to Damascus, who was on his way to disturb, to kill, to destroy the Christians, and He asks, ‘Saul, Saul why dost thou persecute Me?’ And Saul asks, ‘Who are thou Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus Christ thou persecutest.’
And today it is the same cry, the same cry, the same Jesus, the same today in our poor people who are unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry and naked and homeless. They are useless, so to say, to society and nobody has time for them, and it is you and I as Christians, burdened with that love of Christ if our love is true, we must find them, we must help them, we must bring them to Him. They are there for the finding and here in this city, great city of London, there is so much, so much that you and I can do. The first time I was here in London and we went out at night it was a terrible cold night and I found the people on the street. And there was an old man, a well-spoken man, shivering with cold. And this gentleman would say, ‘Take me, take me anywhere. I am longing to sleep be-tween two sheets.’ He was a well-spoken man, he must have had better days and yet there he was.
And if we look round we will see many, not as many as in Calcutta, not as many maybe as in other places, but here there are many. Even if it is one, he is Jesus, he is the one that is hungry for love, for care, and as it is written in the scripture, ‘I looked for one to care for me and I didn’t find one.’ How terrible it would be if Jesus had to say that to us today, after dying for us on the cross.”
— Mother Teresa, 1973. Read the full speech.