There are some people who are just iconic. Legendary!
I'm sure you can think of a few ... for me they may include Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Neil Armstrong ... that's an eclectic mix but you know what I'm talking about.
People who are not just famous for what they did, what they wrote or who they were but also because they are ... or were ... just outstanding members of the human race. Yes, they are part of the history books or will be in the future, but it's more than that.
Not all iconic people have lived 'good' lives ...sometimes they are notorious for leaving behind a dark legacy ... let's think of Jack the Ripper for instance or similar serial killers ... these are people who become legends for all the wrong reasons.
But MY list of people who I consider to be 'icons' don't include those guys ... I'm more interested in those who made a real difference to their times and cultures, and those who left or who will leave a real legacy of positivity.
One of those at the top of my LEGENDS list is a woman who in her time lived a very humble life but who made an incredible impact on the world ... not just on the people around her but also those who looked to her as an example of love and faith.
Today I celebrate the birth and life of Mother Teresa - Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Born on this day - August 26th - in the year 1910, in Albania, Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu would grow up to be a world icon ... but actually she lived a very quiet and compassionate existence which was all about OTHERS. An indication of her religious life and the importance of it to her is the fact that ... so I read ... Mother Teresa actually considered August 27th to be her 'true birthday' because that was the day she was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith, aged just one day.
Please click on the link to her name above to find out more about this amazing woman, but I just want to say that very early in life she became fascinated by the stories of the lives of missionaries, especially in India, and by the age of 12 she became determined to commit herself to a religious life.
In 1928 at the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham in Ireland, with the intention of learning English to help her with her aim of becoming a missionary ... English was the language of instruction of the Sisters of Loreto in India.
Just a year later she arrived in India where she trained as a nun ( actually in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas). Here she learned Bengali and taught at a school. When she took her religious vows in May 1931, she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.
Her life and mission and Christian ministry would be India. By 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that by 2012 had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries. The congregation and order runs homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. In addition, they also run orphanages and schools, soup kitchens, mobile clinics and dispensaries and children's and family counselling programmes.
Vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience define the lives of the nuns, but to this is added a fourth profession of faith - to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."
Even though I'm not a Roman Catholic, growing up I was aware of Mother Teresa and the work she did, especially in the city of Calcutta (now renamed Kolkata) in West Bengal in India. For me she was always the epitome of love. She worked with the 'poorest of the poor', advocated on their behalf and loved them unconditionally.
There are many quotes attributed to Mother Teresa.
She apparently once said '
"By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."
She gave her entire life really to service in the name of Jesus Christ. Her own needs and desires and wishes cast aside to enable her to think of others before herself and just love.
And I think one of my favourite Mother Teresa quotes is this one ... .
"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
When you look at the words, the depth of meaning grows over time.
We might all want to 'change the world' ... some of those on my list of Icons at the start of this blog did just that!
But that wasn't what Mother Teresa was about. She was just walking one day at a time, looking for the need around her, helping where she could. Just making small differences which, in the end, would change lives.
The discarded babies she saved from dying on the streets, the people she and her nuns fed every day, the families counselled and cared for, the hands of people dying from AIDS or leprosy held in love, the many many thousands who still, today, receive free medical treatment courtesy of the Missionaries of Charity, the children saved from conflict and natural disasters - yes she did leave India from time to time to help in other situations.
Each person's life altered, made more comfortable. Hope given. Friendship and love shared.
That's beyond measure!
And then there's her legacy of devotion and Christian faith. THAT is also something that can't be measured.
So today, as we celebrate the life of Mother Teresa, perhaps we can remember this one thing.
No action done in love is wasted. We might not change laws or move mountains, or even receive rewards, but today ... if we do just one act of love for another ... we might just change their circumstances, make it easier, give them hope and surround them with the knowledge of love!