Many Catholics around the world will remember Mother Teresa on 4th September, the day on which the "little mother of the poor" will be canonised
Mother Teresa will be canonised on 4th September. Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) met Mother Theresa in India and wrote about her in his book: “They call me the Bacon Priest” first printed in 1961. Below is the extract from the book relating to this encounter. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) does not directly support projects from the Missionaries of Charity as Mother Theresa wanted to live from God's providence and not via the help of charities. ACN does from time to time lend assistance via project requests from bishops where Mother Teresa’s sister are the beneficiaries. ACN also helped in the construction of the Cathedral of Mother Teresa in Prizren, Kosovo.
They Call Me the Bacon Priest – Horror in Asia
Then came Calcutta. A million homeless people live, sleep and die in the scorching streets of this metropolis. A hundred thousand others, mostly refugees from Pakistan, live on the pavements. They have built tiny huts, strung together for miles, leaning against the walls of the houses. The greatest height of their slanting roofs is four feet. Past these kennels flows the brown, muddy water of the gutters. There is no food and no work nothing. Of the four hundred million Indians, three quarters are undernourished. Only the sacred cows are better off-it is said there are two hundred million of them. They wander unhindered through the streets, block the traffic, devour the contents of greengrocers’
shops; they may not be chased away or killed. And the people are starving. There are homes for aged cows, but not for aged people.
The only one who is concerned about the people is Mother Teresa. She cares for the foundlings she fishes every morning out of the dustbins and for the sick and the dying. I visited her in the house for the dying. The house is quite near the Temple of Kali, and it used to serve for temple prostitution. Now it is a last home for lonely dying people. Above the door stand the words Home for Dying Destitutes. Mother Teresa’s nuns and helpers go through the streets and look for the dying; they carry them on litters to their home. When I visited, there were one hundred and twenty-seven in that house: six long rows of litters next to each other. Withered skeletons lay and waited for death: dark feverish eyes stared at me. But Mother Teresa and her helpers stay with them, and, perhaps for the first time in their lives, these dying people experience selfless love. Mother Teresa is an Albanian nun from Yugoslavia who has lived for thirty-seven years in India. About fifteen years ago she founded a congregation for the purpose of looking after only the poorest and most destitute. There are already one hundred twenty-five nuns, of whom six are European.
There was a girl from Freiburg there. Four years ago I had preached in Freiburg, and after the sermon she had come to the parlour and told me she wanted to dedicate her life to God in the service of the very poorest, and could I tell her where to go? I honestly did not know. I promised that I would pray for light and advised her to discuss the matter with someone who knew her intimately: then God would certainly show her the way. I never heard anything more of her. But in Calcutta I recognised her in the house of the dying, and she recognized me. She had been working there for a year and a half In the last few years they have been able to show a little love to more than twelve thousand dying persons. It is not so much the sari or the bowl of rice, but the motherly care that illumines their last days like a miracle.
In Calcutta I baptised a dying child in the arms of its sixteen-year-old Muslim mother-for I am not only a beggar, but first and foremost a priest, who is glad if he can baptise a child. Nobody noticed I gave the child the name Werenfried. Ten minutes later little Werenfried was dead. When the men came to take him away, I went with him. We arrived at a fenced-in place close to the Temple of Kali, There were seventeen trenches in the ground with wood fires burning in each one. For each corpse, forty rupees’ worth of wood must be bought. Those who are rich buy a can of petrol as well-it takes less time. Without petrol it takes at least three hours. The child was laid with the other dead people on the ground until a trench was free. A man who had been run over by a tram had just been thrown on the fire.
The relatives waited patiently and chatted with one another. Children were playing with bones that had escaped the fire. A sacred cow wandered among the burning trenches and snuffled at the dead child. From time to time there was a muffled bang: this was a skull exploding. Every time a body was ready, the ashes were gathered in a pot and thrown into the river ten yards further along, where children in the water were splashing and playing with mud and ashes.
In this macabre scene human beings are nothing more than a scrap of flesh, a piece of bone, a heap of ashes. Why are these people still so little affected by Christianity, after four centuries of contact with it? The reason is that we Christians have been criminally lacking in pure love and brotherly help. This is especially the case with the Christian peoples who, as colonising powers, have borne the responsibility for the development, the education and the religious instruction of the so-called underdeveloped countries. I know, of course, that we are not personally responsible for the sins of our fathers. But we are indeed responsible for furnishing the present day charitable service which our dead ancestors of the colonial era can no longer supply.
I have been in places where the rats would die if they had no more to eat than the people do. I recall reading somewhere that there are areas where four hundred and fifty out of every thousand children die in their first year because they have nothing to eat. One hears of the parrots in New York being given elocution lessons by television, but there are today six hundred million children in the world without schools or teachers. They will remain illiterate all their lives. In certain regions half of the population dies before the age of fifteen. Two thirds of humanity is hungry. Tomorrow the dust cart will visit our houses to take the food we have thrown away, but in Calcutta the dust cart will come to clear away the corpses of those who have died of hunger during the night. If a dog is run over in these places, the children fight for a piece of flesh or a bone to put their teeth into. This is the harsh reality, and we cannot shut our eyes
I have now been working for ACN for more than forty years. In these years I have seen terrible destitution and sorrow. But such things as these I had never experienced. I think it my duty to write this: I do not know how things can be improved. I only know that we must do everything-everything-and that our Organisation has a task here: for in one way or another this has to do with refugees or with the Church in need. For such things lead inevitably to religious persecution. And indeed the future of Communism-and, therefore, also of Christianity-s-will be decided in the countries I am writing about.
There is a tragic passage in Holy Scripture: “He came to His own, and His own received Him not!” There was no place for Him because “His own” were without love. This is the dark root of all wars and destruction, wrongs and disorder. Without Christ, everything goes wrong, because He is the Head governing the whole of mankind. And Christ is present only where there is love.
Let us therefore, in the name of God, restore love, which opens doors and hearts to Him. We human beings are one race. All of us. Even the most primitive peoples of the underdeveloped countries and the millions of starving people in our present-day world. The foundling in the dustbin and the weeping mother of little Werenfried, whom I baptised; the old Chinaman with his bottle of gin and the refugee on a barge in Hong Kong. The knowledge-hungry girls of Korea, who sleep with the Americans out of sheer poverty, and the little ragpickers who have stopped stealing: they all belong to us, and we to them. We must love each other and help each other. Like St. Martin: he was riding his horse; a beggar cried for help; but St. Martin had nothing left to give. So he took his cloak, cut it in half and gave one half to the beggar. Half, reader! The beggar was Christ. Every poor man is Christ!
(A unique link from 1959: Mother Teresa and Father Werenfried © Aid to the Church in Need)
To view a documentary about the construction Cathedral of Mother Teresa in Pristina, Kosovo please click the image. [url=
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help this work, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148. Web: www.aidtochurch.org
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