In preparation for the Centenary of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s birth on August 26th, the Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded, brought a variety of relics to The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC for veneration on June 2, 2010.
The relics were on display all day near the newly dedicated statue of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, in Memorial Hall at the Crypt level of the Shrine.
They included her crucifix that she wore for her whole life, from her first vows in 1931 to her death in 1997.
The rosary and sandals were those she used at the time of her death. There was a large piece of cloth from her habit displayed as well.
Also available for veneration were reliquaries containing her blood and fragments of her hair. At the end we were given a holy card with an image of her shoes.
For the noon Mass, the relics were moved to the Crypt Church where Monsignor Walter R. Rossi preached on the role of relics and shared some personal experiences he had with Mother Teresa.
He explained the historical traditions of the faithful venerating relics such as the bones of St. Polycarp in 156 AD as a way to encourage imitation of the saints and seek their intercession.
One story he shared of his experience of Mother was from a conversation he had with her many years ago. (I’ll paraphrase it as best as I can remember.) He said he asked her, “Why is it that when I try to be holy I always fail?” She was quick to reply, “You will never be holy, not until you die.” [An audible chuckle was heard in the packed Crypt Church, quarter of which was occupied by sisters from the Missionaries of Charity.] He said she went on to explain that, “The important thing is your desire for holiness and that it is in the desire that you achieve your goal.”
I thought about how true those words are. If our desire for holiness is authentic, then we will do whatever it takes to live in God’s will. Yes, we can stumble or fail sometimes, but it comes down to the purity of our intention, our desire. Who are we seeking to please? A simple, distilled question that works as a great examination of conscience.
I hope these images of her relics inspire you as they did me: to live simply and to love richly.