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Upcoming Sainthood of Mother Teresa Raises A Lot Of Eyebrows.
Santa came early this Christmas to the Monica Besra household in the obscure village of Nakor in Harirampur block of Dakkhin Dinajpur district, West Bengal. The family has learnt through the grapevine that the Vatican has decided to canonise Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. The news has come as a fountain of joy for them.
So who is Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, and why is Monica Besra overjoyed? Well, Bojaxhiu is Mother Teresa to all and Besra was the first of the two beneficiaries of the Mother’s miraculous healing touch that is to fetch her sainthood status in the Catholic world.
The Americans had nicknamed the Mother ‘the saint of the gutters’, when President Ronald Reagan presented her the ‘Medal of Freedom’ in 1985 in recognition of her service to the poor. The real sainthood comes now after, according to the Vatican, the Mother has performed a second miracle required to be recognised for canonisation.
There is no official confirmation of the canonisation date, but it is a fair guess the ceremony would be held either on September 4 or September 5, 2016. Mother passed away on September 5, 1997, aged 87.
Mother’s Second Miracle
According to Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops’ conference, the second miracle performed by the Mother unfolded at a diocese in Santos, Brazil. The extraordinary healing on December 9, 2008, concerns a man, who is an engineer. He was suffering from multiple brain abscesses with obstructive hydrocephalus. He underwent a kidney transplant too.
The man, who was 35-years-old then and was dying, survived and turned 42, following Mother’s intercession, so believes the Catholic world.
So where does Monica Besra come in? Recipient of numerous honours, including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was beatified the ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’, in 2003 for miraculously healing Monica Besra. Beatification is the first step towards sainthood and by that count, Besra is all too happy with the latest development.
The Inexplicable Healing
“The year was 1998. I was terminally ill with brain tuberculosis and tumor in the stomach. The intense pain had incapacitated me and medical treatment was making no difference. Then on the evening of September 5, I was assisted to the nearby Church from the Patiram hospital. The day was Mother Teresa’s death anniversary,” recounts Besra.
As I entered the church to pray, I felt an ethereal wave run through me. I returned to the hospital clutching a Mother Teresa photo. That night, after long many days, I visited the washroom without help. My head felt normal and the excruciating pain in the stomach was gone and so had the tumor lump
Monica Besra (who claims to have been healed by the Mother)
What followed next is a flurry of activity. The Vatican learnt of the incident, flew Monica to the Vatican and beatified the Mother ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’ in 2003 for performing the “first medical miracle”.
Disputing the Miracle Claim
Monica’s “inexplicable” cure, however, does not impress Dr Rajan Mustaphi, the gynaecologist, who treated her last at the Balurghat hospital. “Medical science does not recognise the miracle angle and Besra was medically cured,” claims the doctor from Dakkhin Dinajpur district town Balurghat.
According to Dr Mustaphi, Monica was admitted to Balurghat hospital with tubercular meningitis or brain TB in layman’s language. “Ultrasound showed she had developed ovarian cyst as well, which had been mistaken by her family as tumour. She was advised a six-month medication course for both, which she initially ignored. That was in 2002.”
She came back to me a year later in 2003 claiming she had been miraculously cured. On verification it was found she had undergone anti-tubercular treatment in this period in Siliguri. If untreated, TB bacilli spread in the body through blood and can accumulate, as it had as an ovarian cyst in the case of Monica. The prolonged anti-tubercular therapy had actually cured her of both ailments. There is nothing miraculous about it
Dr Rajan Mustaphi, Gynaecologist
“Disbelief” over the Brazil development paving way for the Mother’s canonisation is paramount for Prabir Ghosh too. Ghosh is the president of the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India. He had challenged the “miracle angle” attributed to the Monica Besra cure episode in 2003.
“What worries us is that if people start believing in miraculous cures, a section of people might stop taking medical treatment for their ailments and seek miraculous intervention instead. That is a serious cause of anxiety,” states the “rational” Ghosh.
And so continues the debate between the believers and the cogent. For the Monica Besra household, the bells would, however, peal a little louder this Christmas in fond memory of the Mother.