On Sunday, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled their Mother Teresa commemorative stamp. The ceremony was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It was a bit of a remarkable thing.
There were some milquetoast but genuine tributes from government officials. But there was no watering-down of Blessed Teresa from the religious leaders who spoke.
With over 2,500 people in attendance, the event began with a Mass, with Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, as the main celebrant. It ended with the official unveiling ceremony, where the shrine was referred to as “America’s parish Church” by shrine rector Walter R. Rossi, and “Mary’s house” by Sister Leticia Cabrera, provincial superior of the Missionaries of Charity.
Mother Teresa saw “only the face of Jesus” in every person she encountered, including, as is widely recognized, the “poor, unborn, and destitute,” as Monsignor Rossi remembered this frequent visitor to the Shrine. “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta put worldly wisdom into focus.” He prayed that the existence of the stamp would be a reminder of this. He prayed that “each of us will be instrument of God’s transforming love,” like she was.
Again during the stamp ceremony, the Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., talked about our universal call to holiness. Mother Teresa is not merely a saintly woman, but a saintly woman who reminded us that “by God’s grace holiness is not…an impossible idea.” He said that her life demonstrated to us that “holiness is often expressed through ordinary acts of love done in extraordinary ways because they are united with Christ’s extraordinary act of love.” The celebration at the shrine was a prayer that we never forget this, that the celebration of God’s gift of Mother Teresa always includes this, and that this stamp can be a reminder of this.
Archbishop Sambi expressed the hope that “the bright smile” of Mother Teresa on the stamp — designed by Colorado Springs artist Thomas Blackshear II , who was in attendance — brings home the message of her life: that “God has created us for greater things: to love and be love.” “Smile generate smiles,” and “love generates love.” “Works of love are always works of peace.”
In his homily during the Mass before the stamp unveiling, Archbishop Sambi had expounded on these things. “How much joyful and peaceful our earthly lives would be” if we heeded these messages of Mother Teresa’s life, he said. Key messages of her life and ministry are that we “know that He loves us with an unconditional and everlasting love.” Also, that we are “called to share that love with those around us.” Archbishop Sambi remembered Mother Teresa’s observation that “everybody today seems to be in such a rush. Children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other. In the home begins the disruption of peace in the world.”
Sister Leticia ran with this message during the postal ceremony. She explicitly expressed her prayer that the existence of the stamp would serve as “a reminder and challenge to each one of us to do as she did. To imitate Christ in pouring ourselves out in love for our brothers and sisters and the poorest of the poor.” She defined “the poorest of the poor” as “the unloved and unwanted.” And emphasized that we need to “begin with members of our families.”
Mother Teresa’s dedication to the unborn was also not downplayed during the Mass and ceremony. In his homily, Archbishop Sambi said that “the biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but the feeling of being unwanted. The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.”
Sambi remarked that the stamp looks almost like a “holy card.” Not for all, of course. But a challenge for all? That’s nothing to object to.
Stamps can be purchased here.
Some photos from the event here: