10 things you didn't know about Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa will officially become a saint in the Catholic Church on 4 September. Here are 10 things you might not know about the famous nun.

1. Mother Teresa was born in Albania, not India

She was born in 1910 in Skopje, Albania. She left home at the age of 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, with a view to learning English and becoming a missionary. She didn’t arrive in India until 1929.

2. She didn’t feel close to God

Mother Teresa, 1975.

Mother Teresa, 1975. United Nations1 License

Starting from the time she began working among the poor, Mother Teresa felt isolated from God’s love and even sometimes rejected by him. She experienced an ever-increasing longing for his love. According to the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Centre, “she called her inner experience ‘the darkness’ … and it continued until the end of her life.”

3. Christopher Hitchens called one of her ministries a “cult of death and suffering”

In 1952 she opened the first Home for the Dying in Calcutta. These homes offered medical care to dying and destitute Indians and the opportunity to die with dignity according to the rituals of their faith. Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the last rites.

Prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens has publicly criticised Mother Teresa, saying that the Homes for the Dying were a “cult of death and suffering.”

Numerous others have criticised the homes for not distinguishing between curable and incurable patients, and in a critical documentary produced by Hitchens, a former volunteer at the Home for the Dying compared the conditions inside the homes to photographs of concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

4. She received the Nobel Peace Prize – but for what?

In a press release, the Nobel Prize Committee said she has received the award in recognition for, “work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress in the world, which also constitute a threat to peace.” The prize included a $192,000 cash component, which Mother Teresa asked to be donated to the poor in India.

5. She was friends with Princess Diana (and they died in the same year)

Mother Teresa's home for the dying in Calcutta, India

Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta, India Kate Dixon1 License

The pair were friends from 1992 until 1997, and during their last visit only weeks before Diana’s tragic death, they hugged and prayed together, walking hand-in-hand through the streets of the Bronx in New York City, according to the Independent.

6. She opposed abortion and contraception

When she received her Nobel Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa said, “the greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other?”

7. She worked as a teacher first

She was increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Calcutta, and in 1946 experienced what she described as “the call within the call” to go and help the poor while living among them.

Mother Teresa's House of the Dying in Calcutta, India

Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta, India Sek Keung Lo1 License

8. She started each day in prayer

After morning prayer, she would go out to the streets of Calcutta to find and serve the unwanted, unloved and uncared for. She would visit families, wash the sores of children with leprosy, care for older people lying sick in the road, and nurse people dying of tuberculosis.

9. She begged

She left the security of the convent in 1948 to live and work among the poor, but with no income she had no way to feed herself other than by begging. She was often tempted to return to the safety and comfort of the convent.

10. She was fluent in five languages

She spoke Albanian, Serbian, Bengali, Hindi and English.