In memory of a saint

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 September, 1997, 12:00am

In the last week, the world has lost two remarkable, albeit very different, women. Some 2.5 billion people watched the majestic and poignant spectacle of Diana, Princess of Wales' funeral on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the death of the woman known as a 'living saint', a woman who worked among the poor and sick in the back streets of Calcutta for almost 50 years, received only a fraction of the media's attention.

This may at first appear ironic, perhaps an example of distorted values. And yet it was particularly appropriate. Mother Teresa continually reminded admirers that her passing would have no effect on the Missionaries of Charity which she founded; she was just the pencil, she said, the guiding hand belonged to God. When she last visited Hong Kong she baulked at the offer of a room at the Mandarin Oriental, choosing instead a simple dormitory bed at the mission her Missionaries of Charity founded in Shamshuipo. She paid annual visits to the centre, but was always low-key, preferring to stay out of the spotlight. These are measures of the simplicity and humility of the woman.

That India, a predominantly Hindu nation, has declared two days of state mourning is proof that these qualities are able to transcend all barriers of religion, race and politics.

Although Mother Teresa's funeral next Saturday will certainly be a grand occasion, attended by heads of state and dignitaries from many countries, it is to the ordinary people that her example will continue to speak. She lived a life without fuss and without pomp. Her message was simple and it never changed. It was the message she gave Hong Kong when she last visited: 'In this beautiful, rich city there should be more tender love and care.'