“Nirmal Hriday” means the “Home of Pure Heart.” When started by Mother Teresa in 1952 it was called “Home For Dying Destitutes.” It was Mother Teresa’s response to reach out to those who were close to death unwanted. uncared for and unloved. People who were brought to the home received received medical attention and love by the Missionaries of Charity and were given the opportunity to die with dignity according to the rituals of their faith. Mother Teresa would say it was a place for those abandoned living on the streets to die as angels. Entering inside the building a prayer was said. When a Catholic Priest was present Mass would be arranged. My initial feeling was that we were on sacred ground made holy by the love of those who served and the lives of those who died with a pure heart. Over the years there have been a multitude from around the world who volunteered to be present with the Sisters in this self giving atmosphere. Mother Teresa never sought volunteers to assist, on the contrary she advised to work with the poor and needy were you live. “If you have eyes to see, Calcutta is everywhere.” To this present day you don’t write the Sisters to volunteer, you just show up at the Missionaries of Charity Mother House where after the 6:00 am Mass volunteers are assigned to a place. In those days if you wanted to meet Mother Teresa, it was after the morning Mass that she would greet visitors. That brief encounter was an uplifting experience and people felt satisfied. People of faith just enjoyed being in her presence whether at Mass, the evening Mother House Holy Hour with the Sisters or while volunteering where Mother Teresa would be present.
Mother Teresa”s House of Pure Heart might be considered a forerunner of our present hospice houses around the world. Medical personnel recommend hospice care when death is approaching rather than staying in a hospital where the beds are required for sickness, surgical or recovery care. The city of Calcutta was named after the Hindu goddess Kali. It was on the property of the Kalighat temple that Mother Teresa received permission to use a building for her work with the dying. Pilgrims from all over India come to worship goddess Kali. In the temple there are two altars for blood sacrifice. The bigger altar is for buffalo sacrifice and the smaller for sacrificing goats. The animal sacrifice of beheading can be a prayer of thanksgiving seeking prosperity, protection from harm or seeking Kali blessings. Celebrating Mass in Mother Teresa’s house of the dying is almost a mystical experience. While the bloody old testament animal sacrifice is taking place, in the next building the unbloody sacrifice of the new testament the sacrifice of the Mass is being celebrated. The death of Jesus was the last blood sacrifice and replaced by the bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus offered to our heavenly Father. Renewing this new covenant sacrifice is what contributes to making the house of the dying part of the mystical experience. It is also a reason that many non Christians attend the Mother House daily Mass. They desire to receive the Graces that Mother Teresa and the Sisters receive that empowers them with divine love. The great realization that many receive as volunteers is that it is the same Mass with the same Graces celebrated around the world. (to be continued)