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AP Mother Teresa attends a Mass celebrating the day of St. Peter and St. Paul in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, in this Sunday, June 29, 1997 file photo.
Mother Teresa's path was a unique one. While she never deviated from her faith, she reached out to millions of her special constituency, the deprived and the dying, recognising their faces to be the face of her God.
A few weeks ago I visited one of Mother Teresa's Sisters who was admitted for surgery in the PGI hospital in Chandigarh. Haryana Chief Secretary Urvashi Gulati and the Principal Secretary to the Governor accompanied me that morning to Sister Ann Vinita's bedside. Attending to her in the hospital were two companion Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. In the course of conversation, one of them said that she was really happy to meet me. She went on to explain that as a young woman in Kerala, she had admired Mother Teresa's work, but it was when she chanced to read my biography of Mother Teresa that she decided to join the Order. That a young Catholic woman should have read a book written by one, who while he was unmistakably close to Mother Teresa yet did not share her faith, stunned me into silence. It made me reflect on a number of issues related and unrelated: of the strength of secular values; and of true compassion knowing no religious, ethnic, caste or geographical boundaries, and indeed being able to transcend altogether the formal contours of religious practice.
Mother Teresa understood her environment acutely. She was no evangelist in the 19th century mould. She remained true to her religion till her last breath, but chose not to impose it on others. Never once during my 23-year-long association with her did she ever suggest that her religion was the only path, or that it was in any way superior. Yet she often reminded those around her of the power of prayer. If I occasionally remarked on some initiative she had taken as a “good idea,” she would reply with a teasing smile that if I learned to pray I would get a few good ideas too! She often urged those who came to her that they must be good Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Sikhs, and in that process must learn to “find God.”