It was still dark, almost an hour before sunrise on Sept. 5, but the freshly decorated white marble tomb of Blessed Teresa gleamed as the feast day of the saintly nun began.
According to UCA News, activities began early in the morning with the arrival of more than 150 women, men and children from slum areas where Blessed Teresa had begun her mission among "the poorest of the poor."
The program of activities that day marked the 10th death anniversary of the world-renowned nun, who lived in this eastern Indian city formerly called Calcutta. Her tomb sits inside the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) congregation that she started in 1950.
The tomb, adorned with flowers and the words "Happy Feast, Mother" formed with yellow marigold petals, was lit up by the glow of candles held by people who came for the morning program.
Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta led the 6 a.m. Mass in the motherhouse chapel with 12 priests. The chapel was crowded with MC novices, all in white, professed nuns in their blue-bordered white saris, Religious brothers, priests and people of various religions.
The archbishop asked the congregation to meditate on the words Blessed Teresa spoke or wrote. "They were very simple," but revealed a person of great depth, he added.
After the Mass, the MC novices walked down to the courtyard and sang "Happy Feast Day, Mother, and may God make you a saint" before a huge picture of Blessed Teresa. The picture had been displayed at St. Peter's Square when Pope John Paul II beatified the nun on Oct. 19, 2003, at the Vatican.
Sister Nirmala Joshi, Blessed Teresa's successor, told the gathering she was "overwhelmed with joy" and "a great feeling of gratitude for what God has given to each one of us, especially in Kolkata," through Blessed Teresa.
She wanted all to "pray to Mother to instill in us love for God and all his children, especially the neglected, poor and those who have nowhere to go."
In an August interview with UCA News, Sister Nirmala said the Vatican has cleared most formalities for declaring the MC founder a saint. All that is required is "one more miracle" through Blessed Teresa's intercession, she added.
When a reporter asked Sister Nirmala if everyone experiences the "crisis of faith" revealed in a recently published book of Blessed Teresa's private letters, she answered in the negative.
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, a collection of some of the nun's letters to confessors, has stirred controversy.
"Only those of an advanced level of spirituality" experience this, Sister Nirmala said, calling it a sign of being close to God. It is like being close "to the sun and so blinded by the brilliance," she explained.
At the tomb, people continued to pray. Harihar Sahu, who was born blind and a Hindu but later became a Protestant, sang his own composition at the tomb. The nuns said he regularly visits on her birthday and feast day.
Also seen around the tomb were people from Motijhil, the slum area where Mother Teresa began her work. One of them, Polly Ghosh Roy, told UCA News she believes the saintly nun is still with them.
The MC nuns prepared for the feast with a special novena, nine days of prayers, and daily Mass at the tomb starting Aug. 27. The archdiocese celebrated Mass in English and in Bengali at Blessed Teresa's Christ the King Parish.