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Ultimate motherly love: Why Mother Teresa was such a saint

Mother Teresa died 23 years ago Saturday, but her legacy lives on forever

Photo by Tim Graham
Photo by Tim Graham (Getty Images)

This story is a part of our "Something Good" series, which is designed to remind you of all the goodness in the world: the moments that can make you smile, feel warm inside and applaud humanity.


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Everything was seemingly good about Mother Teresa.

From a life of constant servanthood, a desire to help the poor and accolades from prominent world leaders, it’s no wonder why she was posthumously declared a saint by Pope Francis in 2016.

All of this is why the world is still trying to fill the void she left behind when she died 23 years ago Saturday at the age of 87, just days after Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car crash.

So, what made Mother Teresa such a figure of goodness? There are lots of reasons, but here are five that stand out especially.

1.) Her sacrificial nature

Not only did she devote her life to serving “the poorest of the poor,” she also sacrificed interaction with her family in order to fully devote herself to her ministries. When she left her home in what’s now known as North Macedonia at age 18, she never saw her mother and sister again, according to Biography Online.

2.) She spoke 5 languages fluently.

After leaving home at age 18, Mother Teresa joined the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Ireland and learned English there. When she traveled to India a year later, she learned Bengali. In other words, she knew how important it was to pick up the language of the places she lived -- and quickly. She ultimately became fluent in English, Albanian, Serbo-Croat, Bengali and Hindi.

3.) She served in so many ways.

Mother Teresa wasn’t just a champion of one or two causes. She established a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home and multiple health clinics, among her tireless efforts to help the poor, sick and needy.

4.) Her accolades are unmatched.

In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1985, she was awarded a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House by President Ronald Reagan. In 2016, almost two decades after her death, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint. It’s hard to imagine a better trio of accolades than that.

5.) She had people in the West on her mind as she served the poor in the East.

Even though Mother Teresa spent her life serving the poor in India, she also spoke of a different kind of poverty plaguing those in richer nations out West.

In her 1995 book titled “A Simple Path,” she was quoted as saying:

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB (Tuberculosis) or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the west is a different kind of poverty. It is not only a poverty of loneliness, but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

Photo by Michel Setboun
Photo by Michel Setboun (Getty Images)

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