Mother Teresa 100th Birthday Fight Is No Way to Party

Cynthia Dermody

mother teresaPoor Mother Teresa. I'm sure she's looking down today on all these silly New Yorkers while shaking her head, praying and wondering how in the world they could turn something as simple as someone's 100th birthday into an ugly zoning and property rights controversy.

But find a way they did.

Echoing strains from the mosque at Ground Zero, it's religion meets real estate all over again, although this one involves faith and a 1,200-foot skyscraper, some blue and white lights, and the Empire State Building.

I can't help believe that if Mother Teresa was anything other than Roman Catholic this wouldn't be an issue, but I'm a little sensitive in that regard and it's besides the point ...

Protesters are set to gather this evening outside the Empire State Building over the building owner's refusal to light the building in blue and white lights this evening. The owner of the building said the lights would violate a policy against honoring individual religious figures. He draws the same line at politicians.

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Yesterday, the same City Council granted developer Vornado Realty Trust permission to construct a 1,216-foot office building at the site of the Hotel Pennsylvania, which will effectively block the view to and from the iconic Empire State Building and change the New York City skyline forever, reports the New York Post.

One member of the City Council called it "karma" that the building got approved over objections from Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin.

"I'm willing to vote based solely on the merits, but I just happen to be very happy that the merits are not on the side of the Empire State Building," Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said before casting his "yes" vote. "We're not going to be able to look up and see the blue and white lights honoring Mother Teresa, but years down the line we'll be able to see a beautiful new skyscraper, which in my mind will always be Mother Teresa Tower."

From what I know about Mother Teresa, she's not liking the idea of a big corporate tower named after her.

One member of the City Council declared today a citywide day of service and called on New Yorkers to light their own blue and white candles tonight, and several other public or government borough offices followed suit: Brooklyn Borough Hall was lit blue and white last night and the Hutchinson Metro Center in the Bronx also will be lit blue and white tonight.

As for me, I prefer to honor Teresa by sharing what we know about her beyond the generality of helping poor people. Teresa was always very secretive about her past, but in recent years, some new details have surfaced. Here are 8 extraordinary things you may not know about Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

  • She's NOT a saint ... yet. First you become a "blessed," which is what she is, Blessed Mother Teresa. When she becomes "canonized," that means she will be Saint Mother Teresa. And there will have to be two medically documented miracles attributed to her before that happens.
  • As a little girl, her family was involved in an independence movement, which led to her father being poisoned by Yugoslav authorities when she was 9 or 10.
  • Her mother, whom Teresa loved dearly, would frequently take in old, homeless women and unwed mothers in crisis pregnancies into their home.
  • She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian work.
  • Her very first calling to be a nun was in a vision from Jesus, who told her: "I want you to serve the poor." He even gave her the exact name for her program: Missionaries of Charity.
  • The last time Teresa ever saw her mother was age 18, when she left to pursue her vocation.
  • Her sisters were one of the biggest physical caretakers of AIDS patients, back in the '80s, when everyone thought you'd catch it immediately. They didn't care. They still have convents/homeless shelters in NYC/Bronx.

Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother.

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