A Pencil in God’s Hand: Mother Teresa’s Story Comes to the Big Screen

A Pencil in God’s Hand: Mother Teresa’s Story Comes to the Big Screen November 22, 2015

Mother Teresa writing letterAnjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was only twelve years old when she first felt the call to become a missionary to India. At the age of 18 she joined the Sisters of Loreto, with the hope of serving in missionary work. For fifteen years, she lived in a convent in Darjeeling and Calcutta, teaching school to local girls.

Then, while traveling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, she experienced what she called her “call within a call.” Later repeating the message she heard from God, she wrote in her diary,

“Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross.

She explained that Divine call, saying,

“I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”

Mother Teresa

She eventually petitioned Rome for permission to begin a new religious order, which she called the “Missionaries of Charity.” She became known as Mother Teresa, and she and her new community sought to serve

“…the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled,

the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

This week, the Holy See quelled rumors first published in Italy’s Catholic newspaper Vatican Insider that Mother Teresa would be canonized (named a saint) on September 4, 2016, during the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. Fr Ciro Benedettini, vice director at the Holy See Press Office, denied the reports, clarifying that since the investigation into her life (the cause for canonization) is still ongoing, announcing the date for canonization is purely speculative.   

*     *     *     *     *

Mother Teresa 1Mother Teresa’s story is told in THE LETTERS, a new film written and directed by William Riead, scheduled to open in theaters on December 4, 2016.

Not a documentary, THE LETTERS is a love story of sorts–a telling of Mother Teresa’s unfaltering love for Christ, and for the “poorest of the poor” that He entrusted to her care.

In the starring role, four-time BAFTA Award nominee, British actress Juliet Stevenson accurately conveys Mother Teresa’s commitment and strength, and yet reveals something of her loneliness and her deep personal desolation–what came to be called her “dark night.”

Swedish actor Max von Sidow plays the role of Fr. Celeste van Exem, spiritual director to Mother Teresa. Fr. Celeste is a storyteller, recounting events from Mother Teresa’s life to Fr. Benjamin Praagh (Rutger Hauer), a priest sent from the Vatican to investigate her life and her personal holiness.

If you’ve not heard Mother Teresa’s story before–or if you have, and you want to experience its poignancy and be inspired by her selfless abandonment of riches and an easy life in order to do God’s will–you’ll want to see THE LETTERS.  

For more on The Letters visit the Patheos Movie Club here.


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  • helligusvart

    I will definitely see this movie when it comes out.

  • Andrea Fitzgerald

    Don’t want to see another white-washing of that woman. She was evil. She wittheld pain medication so patients could suffer like christ.

  • spike5022

    Read Christopher Hitchens book about this woman before you see it, to admire her ( or not ) in her true light.

    • Michael Pinecone

      I’d be a bit skeptical of that book. Hitchens set out to write a book that ridiculed Mother Teresa. He is not a historian. He only reported on those opinions that agreed with his biases. He either completely ignored or was completely ignorant of people who supported Mother Teresa. Why not give a balanced report about her? Why did he make ad hominem attacks and unsubstantiated accusations? Why did his book not have footnotes or end notes like most scholarly articles do?


      • spike5022

        I’m a bit sceptical about most reports, which is why I read reports, saw film and video reports by her supporters, her detractors and the people who have worked with both. There are some interesting works by ex nuns who worked with her and by film makers who filmed on behalf of her supporters ( e.g. the late Malcolm Muggeridge ) from whom you can form your own conclusions.
        Even the Vatican called upon Hitchens to be the modern equivalent of ‘Devil’s Advocate’, which seems to indicate that, from their point of view, he had adequate knowledge on the subject in question.

        • Michael Pinecone

          Yea, I’ve always accepted the story that she was… well… what Hitchens called her. Which included derogatory names I won’t say here. But then I’ve read stories from people who knew her well and they tell a different story.

          • spike5022

            An acquaintance of mine, who died about a month ago, knew her very well and had nothing bad to say about her at all; a picture of them together had pride of place on his mantelpiece. On the other hand he thought very well of a man who is now cloistered in the Vatican, hiding from American justice. You never know everything you think you know without a lot of investigation. What can you do? I just shrug my shoulders and follow the money.

          • Michael Pinecone

            Good points. It’ll be interesting to see what discussions arise after the movie comes out.

      • Neko

        First Things is hardly an objective source.

        For example, William Doino Jr. writes:

        She was denounced for meeting with unsavory politicians and businessmen, in order to assist the poor, but ironically, it is Hitchens who used the film to promote Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a notorious ex-priest whose record as Haiti’s President was symbolized by corruption and abuse.

        Aristide was a saint compared to the brutal Duvaliers with whom Mother Teresa was so chummy. Only a neocon could call Aristide “notorious” with a straight face. But then, Aristide was a proponent of liberation theology, so there you have it.

        I’ve never read Hitchens’s Missionary Position and don’t doubt he goes over the top. But neither would I expect a smidgen of disinterestedness on the part of First Things.

        • Michael Pinecone

          Oh, yea. They both have an agenda.

  • Bill Scudder

    She never gave anyone the Gospel. Her goal as she said was to make them a better Hindue or Muslim or whatever God they worshiped. She never told them they could be saved through Christ alone.