Mother Teresa officially canonized by the Catholic Church

Although long considered a saint by many, it was not until last Sunday, Sept. 4, that Mother Teresa was officially recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. The Canonization Mass was held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square of Vatican City amidst a crowd of 120,000. During the service, held 19 years after her death, Mother Teresa’s widespread influence was evidenced by prayers offered in a variety of languages. The Wall Street Journal reports that 1,500 members of the Italian homeless community were given a place of honor at the ceremony.

Mother Teresa is remembered as a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to serving the impoverished of India. Called Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu at birth, Mother Teresa originated from what is today considered Macedonia. In 1950, she and 12 followers established the Missionaries of Charity in the slums of Kolkata. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with the marginalized.

According to CNN, Pope Francis described Mother Theresa as “a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.” Pope Francis also remarked on Mother Teresa’s ability to combine traditionally opposing ideologies by emphasizing both economic justice and traditional moral teachings in her work. Her legacy of uncompromising compassion for the poor and desire for unity inspires many throughout the globe; the Wall Street Journal reports that today, there are offshoots of the Missionaries of Charity in 139 countries.

Sainthood is the greatest honor the Catholic Church can bestow on an individual. Saints are canonized for performing miracles and are celebrated for their virtue. They are a central aspect of Catholic religious life; many of the Catholic tradition pray to saints to intercede with God on their behalf. The Catholic Church accredits Mother Teresa with performing two healing miracles.

Despite receiving the high honor of sainthood, Mother Teresa will not become commonly known as St. Teresa. Pope Francis somewhat unexpectedly broke with tradition, saying that Mother Teresa should continue to be known by her traditional name because of its comprehensive familiarity.