‘Something Beautiful for God’: New Documentary Highlights Mother Teresa’s Life and Legacy
The postulator of St. Teresa’s cause, the Knights of Columbus’ supreme knight and an award-winning director discuss inspiring forthcoming film.
With the much-anticipated film Mother Teresa: No Greater Love set to play on 960 screens early next month, three of the principle people responsible for this new documentary, debuting in the 25th-anniversary year of the saint’s death, shared insights and hopes about the film with the Register: Father Brian Kolodiejchuk of the Missionaries of Charity and postulator of the cause of canonization for Mother Teresa; Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus; and award-winning filmmaker David Naglieri.
“The witness of Mother Teresa is a timeless witness,” said Kelly, who describes the film as a work for all ages: “For young people to be exposed to this witness is a wonderful thing.” For those who have a memory of Mother Teresa, he said, the film will “have that devotion reignited and have people understand who she really is.”
“This is really important because, if you are 35 or under, you have no living memory of Mother Teresa,” he explained. “And the witness of Mother Teresa is such a profound one. She had this call from the Lord, she followed it, it was a witness of selfless love, and she was put on a world stage for the entire world to see.”
Father Kolodiejchuk is of similar mind. “Of the younger generation, many don’t know Mother Teresa,” he said. “Even for people who did know her life, they also can see how the Missionaries of Charity are carrying on that legacy, working in the apostolates that they do.”
The Missionaries of Charity had been approached at different times for a Hollywood-style movie on Mother Teresa’s life, but “they didn’t work out,” the postulator explained. With the Missionaries’ longtime excellent relationship with the Knights of Columbus, the documentary idea unfolded, especially given especially the Knights’ past documentary work, which includes Naglieri’s film Liberating a Continent; John Paul II and the Fall of Communism.
“There has been a relationship of trust between the Knights of Columbus and the Missionaries of Charity that goes back a long time,” Kelly said. The Knights, he explained, “helped them quite a bit in tangible ways,” from doing printing for them to when “the Missionaries would open a new house: The Knights would provide a tabernacle for that house.”
Naglieri remembered that close relationship, including when “Mother Teresa came to the Knights’ headquarters in Connecticut and gave a very beautiful and inspiring speech to all our employees.”
The director credits the Holy Spirit with the opportunity to highlight the saint on film. As he said, “It was an honor and a privilege for me to be asked to write and direct and produce this film.”
“We didn’t want to do a straight chronological, linear biography of Mother Teresa — she was born on this date; on this date she had a call within a call,” Naglieri explained. “We wanted to do something different, something very high in productive quality, using the very best cameras, best cutting-edge technology for visual effects. We wanted to make a documentary that showed Mother Teresa’s life, who she was and her mission and charism, but that also showed the continuing work of the Missionaries to serve the poorest of the poor in the darkest places of our modern-day world.” The film is “anchored by personal stories of people who were transformed by Mother Teresa. We wanted to give people a visceral sense of that reality.”
Naglieri pointed to one example of the sisters’ good work in the Amazon jungle, “where Missionaries of Charity travel by boat to reach far-flung villages of Indigenous tribes who have no contact with the outside world to bring them the Eucharist.” While filming, the crew also traveled elsewhere in the world, showing the MCs at work, including their care of children with severe disabilities.
The film helps everyone see Mother Teresa’s mission has spread worldwide, even in unexpected places. Father Kolodiejchuk said seeing their charity firsthand is inspiring.
This trio pray this film, highlighting the life and work of Mother Teresa, will touch the hearts of people of every age and situation. Naglieri said he hopes it inspires “for a new generation a new devotion to Mother Teresa, and people will turn to her as an intercessor.” A powerful incentive to watch: The miracle that led to her canonization is included in the documentary, featuring the recipient and his family.
Naglieri believes “Mother Teresa was the perfect blend of truth and love. She was strong and not afraid to speak boldly about the Church’s moral teachings. At the same time, she was a perfect embodiment of the Gospel and the love and mercy of God. And when she was with people involved in a sinful life or were very far from God … there was zero sense of judgment. I think that balance of the truth of the Gospel and bringing the love and mercy of God … Mother Teresa strikes that balance as perfectly as any human possibly could.”
Yet another hope involves the Eucharist. Naglieri said that “this film very powerfully articulates the Catholic truth of the very presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Mother Teresa had a very great Eucharistic devotion — Christ hidden in the Eucharist and also hidden in the poorest of the poor. As we go forward with the Eucharistic Revival being led by the USCCB, something the Knights of Columbus is very involved in, I think Mother Teresa is a great witness to our Eucharistic faith.”
He also expressed hope that “this film touches people and that people come away with a deepened faith and certainly a deepened understanding of one of the great saints in Church history.”
Among Father Kolodiejchuk’s hopes is also that the new generation will become interested in Mother Teresa.
In various polls taken during her lifetime, “she was usually the most admired woman in the world,” he said. “Wherever she went, there was media coverage. She was a household name. It shows the good influence she had.”
Father Kolodiejchuk explained that her holy witness can continue to bear fruit: “It’s supposed to be inspiring — ‘What can I do?’ Mother Teresa would say, ‘Calcutta is everywhere.’ Where is my Calcutta? Where I am. Mother would say: Who in your own family [has] needs? Another constant thing Mother said was, ‘Small things with great love. Ordinary things with extraordinary love.’ Small things — a smile, a word of encouragement, making a visit to someone who is lonely. If we really look, there’s all kinds of little things we can do to show love for my neighbor, including my own family.”
He added that if you take the actual action of the sisters, “normally they visit homes, maybe clean homes — all simple things.” But those small, simple things mean something because they are done in love.
Interestingly enough, the postulator related how this film may inspire young women to consider joining the Missionaries of Charity. When the movie premiered in Rome, one of the novices said, “If I wasn’t here already, I would want to join.”
Father Kolodiejchuk also shared one way the film affected him personally. Heading to a pre-release screening that marked about the 10th time he would see the film, he said, “Every time, something new strikes me.”
For Kelly, it was “hearing Mother Teresa and listening to her in her own voice that really touched me,” he said. And the message he came away with personally was “that Calcutta is everywhere, in a way. We have those who are poor and isolated all around us. Sometimes that is physical and material, and other times it’s spiritual.”
“What Mother teaches us is to see the poor and serve them, to be the light of Christ to those that the Lord puts in our path. It might be a work colleague,” Kelly said. “It might be someone in your family. It might be a sibling. We’re called to bring the light of Christ to others.”
He added, “My hope is that it reignites devotion to Mother Teresa and her message. The film helped me personally to become more devoted to Mother Teresa, and when you become more devoted to Mother Teresa, you become more devoted to the Blessed Mother because she was so connected to the Blessed Mother. She had this little prayer she would say: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now.’”
He continued, “Very few of us are called to do what she did — the radicalness of her call to go to homes of the poorest of the poor. But we all have Calcuttas in our lives; we all have the poor in our lives. We need to bring Christ to them. Mother Teresa said, ‘I can go places you can’t go, and you can go places I can’t go, but together we can do something beautiful for God.’”
Mother Teresa: No Greater Love makes that abundantly clear.
“That’s the message of Mother Teresa: to be Christ to everyone, see Christ in everyone we encounter, and to bring the light of Christ to them,” Kelly reflected. “She taught us there are no expendable people. Everyone we encounter is made in the image of God.”
Visit MotherTeresaMovie.com for more information, theaters, times and more.
- mother teresa of calcutta
- knights of columbus
- father brian kolodiejchuk
- missionaries of charity
- david naglieri