MOTHER TERESA - A Biography by Meg Greene, chapter name THE GROWTH OF A MIRACLE


By the late 1950s, Mother Teresa found herself becoming quite newsworthy, at least in Calcutta, where she was the subject of several articles in both the Indian and English newspapers. This attention marked the beginning of a remarkable relationship between Mother Teresa and the Indian press. For one thing, the articles about Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity often resulted in donations to the order. Some of the gifts came in the form of money; others donated supplies and their time.

The wife of a British businessman and a former Loreto student, Aruna Paul, helped teach children in the slums. She also organized Christmas parties for the children. After her own children were born, she made a point of having birthday parties for the children in Shishu Bhavan on the same day as her own children’s celebrations. She also made a point of taking her children with her to Shishu Bhavan to impress upon them how fortunate they were. Paul also had access to a textile factory; through her efforts, the sisters received new saris every year. Years later, Paul recalled that Mother Teresa, prior to her travelling, never seemed hurried and that she always had time for everyone who came to see her. But that would all soon change as Mother Teresa began capturing the attention of a much wider audience while recognizing there were other places in the world that might benefit from her vision.



For nearly 10 years, the work done by the Missionaries of Charity had been confined to Calcutta. This was in agreement with church law, which prohibited new orders to open houses outside of the diocese. Initially, Mother Teresa realized that between the archbishop’s emphatic enforcement of this rule, and the horrific problems she faced in Calcutta, expansion of any kind was clearly out of the question.

But, in 1959, things had changed. There was one year left before the probationary period of the Missionaries of Charity formally ended, and the sisters were eager to take their mission outside of Calcutta and begin work in other parts of India. When Mother Teresa went to Archbishop Périer, he relented. But he told Mother Teresa that her work could only expand into other areas of the country, not beyond. She agreed. New houses of the Missionaries of Charity were established—and warmly welcomed by church and city officials—in Delhi and Jhansi. The news of their work reached the highest echelons of Indian government; at the dedication of a children’s home in Delhi, the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in attendance. When introduced to him, Mother Teresa proceeded to tell the prime minister of her order. Gently stopping her, Nehru replied that he did not need to hear of her work; he knew all about it and that was why he had come to the ceremony. The Missionaries of Charity also sent a group of nuns to Ranchi, a city located in the extremely poor state of Bihar. Here, many girls from the local tribes were recruited to become Missionaries of Charity with great success.

In Bombay, a city with numerous Catholic churches and schools, the Missionaries of Charity were welcomed by none other than the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Bombay, Cardinal Valerian Gracias. After a short tour of the city, Mother Teresa angered many of the residents with her comment that the slums of Bombay were worse than those in Calcutta. But many others recognized that besides the many palatial homes found in the city were also tall buildings with little ventilation, no indoor plumbing, and very little fresh air. With Cardinal Gracias’s bless- ing, Mother Teresa soon opened a home for the dying, similar to Nirmal Hriday.

In the autumn of 1960, Mother Teresa looked beyond the borders of her adopted country and accepted an invitation to speak at the National Council for Catholic Women to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although it seemed an unlikely destination for a woman considered a saint throughout India, Mother Teresa went with the hope of raising more funds for the Missionaries of Charity.

By this time, Mother Teresa was 50 years old and in charge of 119 nuns, all but three of whom were Indian, and she wished to carry her message further. As it turned out, her reputation was already becoming established on the world stage. In the United States, she had appeared on the front page of an American magazine called Jubilee: A Magazine for the Church and Her People in 1958, which introduced her at least to the American Catholic community.

That October, Mother Teresa arrived in Los Angeles; from there she travelled to Las Vegas in the company of a former volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity, Katherine Bracken. Mother Teresa was to give a speech entitled “These Works of Love,” in which she outlined the work of the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa had never spoken in public before; previously she had relied on others to do her talking for her. But speaking before 3,000 women, she discovered that what might have been a disadvantage actually was an advantage. Instead of a professional giving a polished speech, Mother Teresa showed herself to be a natural orator. She spoke easily of her life’s work and that of the Missionaries of Charity in India. She stated she was not there to beg for donations; instead, she continued to rely on God’s providence for help. But she did remind her audience that they, too, could participate in doing something beautiful for God. As she was to discover, this approach proved far more effective in raising money than a direct appeal ever would. Afterwards, sitting in a booth in the convention hall, she watched as person after person stopped to put cash in a bag she carried with her. During the course of the day, the bag was emptied several times. Mother Teresa had discovered a powerful and successful way in which to raise funds for her projects. It was a formula from which she rarely deviated in the following years.

During her time in Las Vegas, Mother Teresa was less interested in the goings-on in the nearby casinos and nightclubs than she was to travel in the desert. When asked what she thought of the city, she replied that the neon lights of the city’s casinos and hotels reminded her of Dewali, the yearly Hindu festival of lights. As a souvenir of her visit to Nevada, she took some long cactus spines that she found in the desert. These were later twisted into a crown of thorns and placed on the head of the crucified Christ hanging behind the altar in the novitiate chapel of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.



From Las Vegas, Mother Teresa went to Peoria, Illinois, where she spoke to yet another group of Catholic women. Then it was on to Chicago and New York City. In each city, she was welcomed warmly and had little trouble in gathering more monies for the Missionaries of Charity. One disappointment in her itinerary came when a planned meeting with the Democratic presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, who was also Roman Catholic, did not take place. However, while in New York City, Mother Teresa met with Mother Anna Dengel, the Austrian-born founder of the Medical Mission Sisters, who had given Mother Teresa her early medical training in Patna a little more than a decade earlier. She also paid visits to Catholic Relief Services and met with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who was a prominent radio and television personality in the United States. Sheen was the head of the American division of the foreign mission’s organization, the Propagation of the Faith, which channelled donations to Catholic missions all over the world. But perhaps one of the most important contacts Mother Teresa made during this trip was with Marcolino Can- dau, director of the World Health Organization (WHO). She told Can- dau of her urgent need to provide for the lepers and their children in India. Candau told her that if she made her request through the Indian government, WHO would see that she received the necessary medical supplies.

From New York, Mother Teresa’s next stop was London, where she spent one evening at the home of the sister of Indian Prime Minister Nehru, who encouraged her to expand her work, particularly where volunteers were concerned. Mother Teresa also met with a representative of the Oxfam aid agency and had her first television interview with a British journalist on the BBC.

Her next stop was Germany, where Mother Teresa enjoyed a greater reputation, having been featured in a news magazine Weltelend (World Misery), published by the German Catholic relief agency Misery. The article had also shown photos of the terrible poverty in Calcutta as well as shots of Nirmal Hriday. Another news magazine Erdkreis (Earth Circle) had featured photos of Kalighat. As she stepped off the plane, wrapped in a rough wool blanket to protect her from the cold weather, Mother Teresa was greeted by a horde of German photographers and journalists.

In meeting with Miseror representatives, Mother Teresa outlined her plans for the construction of a new home for the dying in Delhi. She already had land set aside but needed help in building the proposed facility. The organization, while generally preferring to fund self-help projects, readily agreed to her request. In return, they asked only that the Missionaries of Charity send financial statements to the organization to monitor how the money was spent. To their great surprise, Mother Teresa flatly rejected their request, stating that the sisters did not have time to spend on preparing complicated financial forms. She assured the officials that they should not worry about the money; each penny would go to the proposed project. But her refusal to keep detailed accounts marked the beginning of a practice that would continue and later become a source of much criticism. As Mother Teresa later argued, making out separate reports to each sponsor would be so time-consuming that the poor would suffer. Although she and her sisters recorded each donation with a letter, they did not keep detailed financial records of donations accepted and monies spent. As was her nature, Mother Teresa ignored complaints about the order’s accounting practices.

Before leaving Germany, Mother Teresa also stopped to visit Dachau, one of the most infamous concentration camps in Nazi Germany, where more than 28,000 Jews died between 1933 and 1945. After listening to the history of the camp, Mother Teresa stated that the camp was to his- tory what the Colosseum in Rome was to the Romans who threw the Christians to their death. In Mother Teresa’s eyes, modern humans were behaving no better, and if anything, far worse.

After a brief visit to Switzerland, Mother Teresa stopped in Rome where she hoped to make a formal and personal plea to Pope John XXIII for the Missionaries of Charity to become a Society of Pontifical Right. If the pope agreed, it would mean that the Missionaries of Charity could begin working in other countries. However, when it came time to meet the pope, Mother Teresa, frightened at making the request directly to the pope, instead only asking for his blessing. She then made her request to Cardinal Gregory Agagianian, who agreed to take the matter under consideration. But it was clear that the Church recognized the value and importance of Mother Teresa not only to its missionary and humanitarian efforts but to its efforts to spread the Gospel.



While in Rome, Mother Teresa arranged a reunion with her brother Lazar, whom she had not seen in more than 30 years. Lazar now lived in Palermo, Sicily, where he worked for a pharmaceutical firm. He was also married to an Italian woman and was the father of a 10-year-old daughter. During World War II, he had joined the Italian army after the Italian occupation of Albania. His defection to the Italian army earned him a death sentence in Albania; Lazar could never return to the land of his birth.

When the two met, they discussed the terrible predicament of Aga and their mother, who were still in Albania. The country, now a communist satellite of the Soviet Union, had made it virtually impossible for its residents to leave Albania. Mother Teresa had applied for a visa to visit the country, and possibly because of her brother, but more likely because of her own activities, she had been refused. Albania’s atheist government did not look kindly on a religious figure, particularly one becoming inter- nationally renowned.

And then all too soon, it was time to return home. Upon her arrival in Calcutta, Mother Teresa continued to work with her sisters, opening up new homes throughout India. For the next five years, new chapters appeared in cities and states throughout the country. Adopting the pattern established in Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity assessed the needs of an area and adapted their programs. With each new house, each new school, each new mobile clinic, Mother Teresa’s name and works gained greater and greater recognition. Still, it was not enough, and Mother Teresa waited anxiously for news from the Vatican.



In February 1965, Mother Teresa finally received her answer: the Missionaries of Charity had received the pope’s permission to become a Society of Pontifical Right. In his decree granting the right, Pope Paul VI, who had succeeded John XXIII, charged Mother Teresa and her order to continue carrying out their works of charity and to dedicate themselves to God. Now, Mother Teresa could carry her good works outside of India for the first time. In time, these works included clinics for those suffering from tuberculosis; antenatal clinics; clinics for general medical needs; mobile leprosy clinics; night shelters for the homeless; homes for children, the poor, and the dying; nursery schools, primary, and secondary schools; feeding programs; villages for lepers; commercial schools; vocational training in carpentry, metalwork, embroidery and other skills; child-care and home-management classes; and aid in the event of emergencies and disasters such as floods, earthquakes, famine, epidemics, rioting and war.

Mother Teresa’s first invitation came in 1965 when she was asked to open a house in Venezuela, to help many of the impoverished people who had lapsed in their Catholicism due to a lack of priests and nuns to sustain them. Archbishop James Robert Knox, the Internuncio to New Delhi, had already met with a South American bishop who impressed upon Knox the need for the Missionaries of Charity. Knox wanted Mother Teresa to accept the invitation and pressed her to do so. But Mother Teresa baulked. She was not sure that her sisters were ready for such an undertaking. She wanted more time. Archbishop Knox told her that the needs of the Church were more important than the needs of her sisters. The matter was then settled. Mother Teresa and her order were going to Venezuela.

In July 1965, the Missionaries of Charity opened their first home outside India in Cocorote, Venezuela. Mother Teresa, accompanied by five sisters, came to the small town. Working in Cocorote also presented the Missionaries of Charity with a very different situation. Not only were they dealing with a different language, but also with a different culture. While in Cocorote, the sisters, for the first time, began cooperating in religious education. Because priests were in such short supply, the sisters took on the duties of preparing children to receive their First Communion and Confirmation, which were important Catholic rituals for children between the ages of 8 and 12.

By 1970, the duties of the sisters had expanded even more. After opening a house in Caracas, they received permission for three of their nuns to administer Holy Communion, a duty previously reserved for priests. This relaxing of rules allowed the Missionaries of Charity to offer Holy Communion to the sick and the dying. In addition, the sisters were busy conducting funerals, washing and cleaning for the elderly, and feeding the hungry. In 1972, the Missionaries of Charity helped with roof repairs when strong winds damaged several homes, leaving many without adequate shelter. In return for their many labours, the nuns might be rewarded with something simple: an egg from someone’s hen, or a banana. The sisters accepted the gifts with gratitude.



In 1968, Mother Teresa received another invitation, this time to work among the poor in Rome. The invitation came as a bit of a surprise. Rome already had more than 22,000 nuns belonging to 1,200 separate religious orders. Why Mother Teresa thought, would the Church need yet another group to work with the poor? But this invitation was different; it came from none other than Paul VI himself.

Three years earlier, in July 1965, Mother Teresa was among a group of 40 persons granted an audience with the pope. Although Mother Teresa was overwhelmed at meeting the pope, as were the six other Missionaries of Charity who accompanied her, it appears Paul VI was taken with her. Asking for her prayers, he told Mother Teresa to write to him. Now, the pope was asking her directly for her help in working with Rome’s poor.

That August, Mother Teresa and a handful of her nuns arrived in Rome to begin work. The area in which they were to work, known as the bor- gate, is located on the outskirts of Rome. Here live the city’s poorest residents, many of whom could not even begin to pay the city’s high rents. The area was home to thousands of immigrants from Sicily and Sardinia.

Rome’s slums were also known for their distinctive architecture. Shelters are known as barraca, a kind of barracks-like structure, sprawled for acres in the city’s slums. The homes were also distinguished by their bright orange terra-cotta roofs, which were secured by heavy stones. Many of these homes lacked electricity, water, and sewage, though some enterprising souls were able to tap into the city’s electrical power source to light their homes. Some families also planted small gardens near their homes, which, in addition to supplementing their diets, alleviated the barren and harsh landscape of poverty with a wondrous riot of colour.

Initial attempts to find a house for the order were futile; there appeared to be nothing for them. Finally, Mother Teresa found a barracche. It was by far the poorest and shabbiest residence that the sisters had resided in, something that appealed to Mother Teresa a great deal. With the exception of the house being wired for electricity, the residence was from all appearances no different from the others. There was no plumbing; the nuns would have to make do with the nearby fountain from which residents drew their water. In time, the Missionaries of Charity instituted many of the same programs for the poor of Rome that they provided elsewhere.



Over the next several years, Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity continued to open new homes around the world. In 1967, the order opened its first home in Sri Lanka. In September 1968, a month after travelling to Rome, Mother Teresa journeyed to Tabora, Tanzania, where the sisters opened their first mission in Africa. A year later, the Missionaries of Charity were in Australia, where they opened up a centre for the Aborigines. From this point on and well into the next decade, a new mission centre opened somewhere in the world approximately every six months.

The Missionaries of Charity were growing in other ways, too. By 1963, Mother Teresa realized that men were better suited for certain kinds of work, such as working with young boys, than her nuns were. After consulting with Father Van Exem, she petitioned the archbishop of Calcutta for his permission to create a new branch of the order: the Missionary Brothers of Charity. The archbishop did not have to think very long; al- most immediately he agreed to the request.

But there were issues to settle before the new order could get underway. Men were reluctant to join because the order was still unrecognized. To become recognized meant that the order needed to grow and have the proper leadership to provide guidance and direction. Even though the brothers were aligned with the Missionaries of Charity, under Church law, Mother Teresa could not head a male congregation. She tried to engage the services of two other priests, but for a number of reasons could not convince either man to leave his order to take charge of the new congregation. Finally, a young priest applied for the position; Mother Teresa, even though she did not know him personally, agreed to have him take on the responsibility of directing the new order.

In 1966, an Australian Jesuit, Father Ian Travers-Ball, became the head of the Missionary Brothers, changing his name to Brother Andrew. Travers-Ball was a young and charismatic presence within the order. He was familiar with conditions in India having come to the country in 1954 as a new priest. He was interested in working with the poor, and specifically with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity.

Early on, Brother Andrew believed it was necessary for the Brothers of Charity to establish their own presence and identity. Although he admired Mother Teresa, Travers-Ball also wished to escape her domination. To establish a base for the Brothers, Brother Andrew rented a small house in Kidderpore, which Mother Teresa purchased. Along with a dozen young homeless boys, Brother Andrew moved into the home. In time, the house settled into a routine that was far different from the goings-on at Motherhouse.

In general, the Brothers adopted a style of working with the poor that was far less regimented. They were less sheltered than the Sisters, which allowed them access to the poor community in ways that the Sisters did not enjoy. The more informal approach enabled the Brothers to be more adaptable to cultural and regional differences than the Sisters. And because their focus was on helping poor boys, their homes tended to be smaller and more close-knit.

One of the first places the Brothers began work was at the Howrah railway station where many young poor boys lived. Much as Mother Teresa did when she began working among the poor, the Brothers started out by establishing contact and helping the boys in small ways, such as passing out bars of soap or helping get medical treatment for those in need. Gradually, the Brothers organized an evening meal for the boys at the station. Some boys were taken in and given refuge where they could receive vocational training. Along with boys residing at the Shishu Bhavan, several were then transferred to other houses in and around the city, such as Nabo Jeevan (New Life), or Dum-Dum where there was a radio-repair workshop. Boys suffering from medical or mental handicaps were taken to Nurpur, a farm located about 20 miles outside of Calcutta, where they learned to farm. The Brothers also became heavily involved with mobile leprosy clinics and, in time, would take over the day-to-day work at the leprosy colony in Titlagarh.

Like Mother Teresa’s own Missionaries of Charity, the Brothers grew rapidly. Within a decade of their creation, Brother Andrew opened up the first overseas house in war-torn Vietnam. From there, the order began opening houses all over the world, usually in places where the Missionaries of Charity did not have a presence. In 1975, the Brothers opened a house in a poor, crime-infested neighbourhood in Los Angeles, California, where they began working with drug addicts and alcoholics who had been living on the street.

There was no shortage of rough neighbourhoods in the world, and Brother Andrew sought out as many as he could find, establishing homes in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Guatemala, the Philippines, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Brazil. Everywhere they went, the Brothers undertook the jobs they knew best. Their mission, more than that of the Missionaries of Charity, brought them into contact with the residents of many a city’s mean streets and society’s outcasts: the criminals, the drug addicts, and the hopeless alcoholics. The Brothers also continued their work with orphaned and wayward boys. Wherever they went, they established soup kitchens and helped those in need to receive medical attention.

Still, the Brothers’ road to success was not without its bumps. Predictably, Brother Andrew and Mother Teresa clashed over the order’s management. One issue was the dress; Brother Andrew requested that the brothers wear no uniform and instead dress in jeans and T-shirts. While this made them more accessible, it also made them at times harder to distinguish, and on more than one occasion, a brother was picked up along with those he was helping to spend a night at the city jail. Mother Teresa wished for the Brothers to wear their clerical garb. She also did not agree with Brother Andrew’s willingness to delegate authority and wished for tighter, stricter management, much as she did with her own order. The final straw came when Mother Teresa established a contemplative branch of the Brothers without consulting Brother Andrew. Her actions caused a temporary rift between the two orders; in 1987, Brother Andrew left the order. His replacement, Brother Geoff, brought with him a management style and an attitude that was more complementary to Mother Teresa’s vision for the Missionaries of Charity Brothers.



Assisting the Missionaries of Charity and the Brothers were volunteers whom Brother Andrew called Come and Sees. This group consisted mainly of young people interested in working with the Brothers for a few weeks or months. Some were interested in joining the order but wanted to see if they were capable of handling the work. Mother Teresa had adopted a similar practice with her own missions for young women who might be interested in joining her order.

Also assisting Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity were hundreds of volunteers, called Co-Workers. The term was borrowed from Mahatma Gandhi, who referred to his helpers by the same name. Like Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Co-Workers were men, women, and children from all over the world. They came from a variety of backgrounds and represented a number of different religions. All shared an interest in helping the poor.

Among the first Co-Workers helping Mother Teresa were the Gomes family, and the many doctors, nurses, and dentists who donated free medical services. By the 1950s, a more formal organization of Co-Workers had been established, largely through the efforts of British wives who were involved with various social services in Calcutta. When a number of these women returned to England, they began meeting, and by 1960, a Mother Teresa committee was formed that began working with the poor in English cities. By the 1990s, approximately 30,000 Co-Workers were volunteering in the United Kingdom.

Smaller groups of Co-Workers appeared in other countries as well. In the United States, there are approximately 10,000. In Europe, the numbers are much smaller, with only a few hundred active volunteers. Still, the rise of one group has often led to the formation of another. Although forbidden to engage in fund-raising or publicity, the group publishes a Co-Workers Newsletter, which goes out to all members. There is no paid office or staff to put out the newsletter; all work is donated. Further, Mother Teresa stipulated that all collection centres for clothing or food are to be in someone’s residence; there is to be no rental of a unit or storefront.

In some areas, Co-Workers handled donations of money which were turned over to the Missionaries or were spent to buy bulk purchases of necessities such as food, clothing, and medical supplies. The size of some of these donations are staggering even by today’s standards: for instance, in 1990, 17,000,000 Belgian francs ($680,000 in 2004 dollars) were used to purchase powdered milk, while 200,000 Dutch guilders ($146,000 in 2004 dollars) bought protein biscuits. Both purchases were then sent to Missionaries of Charity houses in Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. An additional 3,000,000 Belgian francs ($120,000 in 2004 dollars) was spent to buy clothes bought at one-tenth of retail value and sent to various countries in Africa. Finally, 24 large containers of used clothing, blankets and bandages that were collected door-to-door by British Co-Workers were sent to several countries in Asia. But Mother Teresa emphasized to her volunteers not to wander away from more humbling tasks, whether it was writing a letter, washing clothes, or reading to the ill.

There is also a very special branch of the Co-Workers that was created during the 1960s: the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers. These are individuals who are old, infirm, or handicapped; they cannot help with the more strenuous activities of the other Co-Workers. This group offers prayers for Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity’s efforts. Quite often, these volunteers are linked with a member of the active Co-Workers in their area. Currently, there are about 5,000 Sick and Suffering Co-Workers representing 57 countries.



In 1968, Oliver Hunkin, head of religious programming for the BBC, called upon noted British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, to ask whether he would do a short television interview with a relatively unknown nun from India. Hunkin’s choice of Muggeridge was inspired. Muggeridge was well known for his agnosticism and mocking attitude toward organized religion. Having briefly entertained thoughts of becoming a priest at a young age, Muggeridge instead chose journalism as a career. However, he never completely let go of his deep Christian feelings, and much later in life returned to the Church. But for now, Muggeridge was a bit put out at the thought of conducting this interview, particularly since Hunkin had not given him much notice in order for him to prepare.

Muggeridge had never heard of Mother Teresa, but the next afternoon he found himself making his way to the Holy Child Convent in London to do the interview. Mother Teresa, looking visibly nervous, answered Muggeridge’s questions in a small, halting voice. Gently, he led her through the story of her mission and what she hoped to accomplish, and avoided controversial questions completely; nor was there any appeal for donations on her part. At one point, Muggeridge feared that he would not be able to keep the interview going for the full 30 minutes. When the completed interview was broadcast for BBC executives, there was even some question about whether the lacklustre and ordinary exchange should be televised.

But in the end, the interview aired in May 1968 on the BBC Sunday- night series, Meeting Point. The response was as unexpected as it was spectacular. So many British viewers were moved by the story of Mother

Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, that within 10 days of the broadcast, £9,000 ($16,000 in 2004 dollars) were donated to the organization. Another story credits the interview with raising £25,000 (approximately $45,000 in 2004 dollars). Although the actual figure is in dispute, one thing is not: Mother Teresa struck a chord with the public. BBC officials were so taken aback by the response to the interview that they broadcast it again with even more donations coming in for the Missionaries of Charity.



What, on the surface, appeared to have been a run-of-the-mill inter- view had a very profound effect on Malcolm Muggeridge. Later, he admitted that when he first saw Mother Teresa walk into the room, she appeared unique and significant. He was also very excited about the possibility of working with her again and asked the BBC to send him to Calcutta where he could film Mother Teresa in action.

In the spring of 1969, Muggeridge, accompanied by a cameraman and producer, left for Calcutta. Although initially reluctant to agree to the request, Mother Teresa eventually relented and gave the film crew her full cooperation. For the next five days, Muggeridge and his team followed Mother Teresa as she went about her daily routine. But it was the filming at Nirmal Hriday in which Muggeridge later claimed to have witnessed a photographic miracle.

Initially, both Muggeridge and Kenneth Macmillan, the cameraman, were reluctant to shoot inside the home because of the dimly lit interior. As it was, Macmillan had only a small light with him, and to get adequate light seemed an impossible task. However, he had recently purchased some new Kodak film, which he had not tried yet. He decided to go ahead and shoot footage inside Nirmal Hriday using the new film. When Muggeridge and his team returned to London, they began work on the documentary. Several weeks later, as they were reviewing rushes or the unedited film footage, they watched for the first time the sequence shot at Nirmal Hriday. Macmillan recounted what happened next:


It was surprising. You could see every detail. And I said: “That’s amazing, that’s extraordinary.” And I was going to say... three cheers for Kodak. I didn’t get a chance to say that though be- cause Malcolm, sitting in the front row, spun round and said: “It’s divine light! It’s Mother Teresa. You’ll find that it’s a divine light old boy.”1

Macmillan also found himself besieged over the next several days by newspaper reporters asking him about the miracle he had witnessed.

The completed documentary Something Beautiful for God was shown for the first time in December 1969. It was a resounding success. Later, Muggeridge, Macmillan, and Peter Chafer, the producer, credited Mother Teresa for the film’s reception, citing her as an extremely charismatic presence. However, both Chafer and Macmillan were reluctant to attribute the extraordinary lighting sequence at Nirmal Hriday to Divine Providence, even though when Macmillan used the film again in a low-light situation he got poor results.

The documentary not only boosted Mother Teresa’s image worldwide, it also had an impact on the Missionaries of Charity. As a result of the film, there was a visible increase in the numbers of young women wishing to join the order. In 1970, a year after the documentary aired, 139 new candidates were received by the Missionaries of Charity. The new arrivals came from all over: Pakistan, Ceylon, Nepal, Malaysia, Yugoslavia, Ger- many, Malta, France, Mauritania, Ireland, Venezuela, Italy, and India. The total of the entire congregation stood at 585, of which 332 were fully professed nuns, 175 novices, and 78 postulants, a remarkable achievement for an order barely two decades old.



1. Anne Sebba, Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 83.