Anjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was only 12 years old when she first felt the call to become a missionary to India. At the age of 18 she joined the Sisters of Loretto, with the hope of serving in missionary work. For 15 years, she lived in a convent in Darjeeling and Calcutta, teaching school to local girls.
Then, while traveling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, she experienced what she called her “call within a call.” Later repeating the message she heard from God, she wrote in her diary, “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross.”
She explained that Divine call, saying, “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”
She eventually petitioned Rome for permission to begin a new religious order, which she called the “Missionaries of Charity.” She became known as Mother Teresa, and she and her new community sought to serve
“…the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
On Sept. 4, 2016, just 19 years after her death, Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis as thousands of witnesses gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Mother Teresa,” he told the gathered crowd,
“…in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.’
Mother Teresa’s story is told in The Letters, a 2015 film written and directed by William Riead. Not a documentary, The Letters is a love story of sorts–a telling of Mother Teresa’s unfaltering love for Christ, and for the “poorest of the poor” that He entrusted to her care.
In the starring role, four-time BAFTA Award nominee, British actress Juliet Stevenson accurately conveys Mother Teresa’s commitment and strength, and yet reveals something of her loneliness and her deep personal desolation — what came to be called her “dark night.”
Swedish actor Max von Sidow plays the role of Fr. Celeste van Exem, spiritual director to Mother Teresa. Fr. Celeste is a storyteller, recounting events from Mother Teresa’s life to Fr. Benjamin Praagh (Rutger Hauer), a priest sent from the Vatican to investigate her life and her personal holiness.
If you’ve not read Mother Teresa’s story before — or if you have, and you want to experience its poignancy and be inspired by her selfless abandonment of riches and an easy life in order to do God’s will — you’ll want to see The Letters.