Review by Pete Socks
Ignatius Press has recently released a softcover photobook tribute to the life of soon-to-be saint Mother Teresa. Works of Love Are Works of Peace: Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity is a project that was four years in the making and containing some 180 photographs taken over a ten-year period by photographer Michael Collopy. It was also a project that received Mother Teresa’s blessing. As Mother Teresa herself states in the forward; “Let us pray that this book will draw people to Jesus, help them to realize how much God loves them, and help them want to pray. Let it be for the glory of God and the good of His people.”
The book serves a number of purposes. First and foremost it is a photographic record of the work of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity. A quote from Mother in the book is most fitting; “Too many words…let them just see what we do.” And see what they do you will. Picture after picture shows the hungry, the needy, the suffering and those on deaths doorstep. These pictures also hold so much more. They are a witness to God’s love rendered through the hands of Mother and her Sisters.
Michael Collopy has been has been called one of the most preeminent portrait photographers of our time…..for good reason. As you flip through the pages of this book you can’t help but pause at each page as you are drawn into each scene. There are pictures from Nirmal, Kalighat, the home for the dying. “Even though I am a professional photographer by trade, I find it hard to take pictures here. I pass up a lot of shots. Despite the intensity of the situation, I am struck by the pervading sense of peace.” That peace that Michael describes can clearly be seen in the eyes of those whom he did photograph.
The locations roll on. The Home for the Elderly and Handicapped in Calcutta, a Leprosy Center in Titagarh, the streets of Prem Dan, a city of houses on a garbage dump in Mexico, visiting shut-ins and a soup kitchen San Francisco, all testaments to the global reach and influence of Mother’s care and love of the poor and down trodden.
Sprinkled though out the pages are quotes from Mother and Michaels own commentary on where the pictures were taken. The appendix of the book closes things out with her letter to those in her order titled “I Thirst” written March 25, 1993. Perhaps the neatest item included in the book is the official prayer book of Missionaries of Charity. Both were included with the permission of Mother Teresa.
Michael Collopy has assembled an impressive collection of photographs that get to the heart of the mission of Mother Teresa. He does so with few words and all with the power of his camera. Sometimes a picture truly does speak louder than words. In this case 180 of them certainly do. On this, the occasion of her elevation to sainthood, it almost feels as if Mother herself is speaking to us through this photobook. And indeed she is, “At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you have clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’”