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(The following article was written shortly after the deaths of "Princess Di" and "Mother Teresa", in October, 1997.)

Hardly a person on earth has not been touched by the recent deaths of Sister Diana and Sister Teresa. (Diana was not technically a Princess, nor was Teresa technically a Mother, so we have avoided both of those titles.)

It is difficult not to draw comparisons between these two women, who were arguably the two most famous women on earth at the time. Both of them could be identified just by mentioning their first names. They knew each other personally and were both loved by millions. But their lives were quite different in some fundamental ways. We would like to look at one of those differences.

Diana actively supported many charities, but what made her famous was not her social service. What made her famous was her former marriage to the future King of England. Anyone wishing to pattern their life on her example would probably be (at least subconsciously) expressing a wish to be a princess, or to be married to a millionaire like the man she died with. She symbolised the fairytale image of a beautiful princess, who is full of goodness and grace -- a ray of sunshine at any royal occasion.

Her little acts of humility (like refusing to wear gloves when shaking hands with admirers) were never so radical as to make people forget that she herself was a princess.

She was clearly at the top of a very tall pyramid, and there was not much room up there for anyone else. Half the world may have dreamed of being like her, but it was an unreal dream for almost all of us.

On the other extreme we have Sister Teresa. What did she do that made her so famous? She spent her life living with and loving some very poor people. There will, of course, be some stories of miracles done by her before she is canonised; but really there has been no suggestion that any of her fame came from anything more supernatural than what we have just said: She spent her life living with and loving some very poor people.

The closest thing to a miracle was just God's provision for her material needs. She started her work with just a few cents in her pocket, and her philosophy included not asking for funds. Yet she ended up being responsible for the expenditure of many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In other words, she lived by faith, and God met her needs. But it's not like money poured down from heaven (at least not in the early years). She ate the simplest food, religiously slept on the floor, and did not even use a fan to escape the intense heat of India. In other words, living by faith for her meant living on almost nothing (even when much more later became available to her).

Like St. Francis before her, it was her simple, childlike faith in God's provision that captured the imagination of the world. And yet any one of us could do the same.

If one princess dies, only one other person can take her place. But even while she was alive, Sister Teresa showed that there was no end to the number of vacancies that could be filled by people wishing to adopt the same lifestyle that she had adopted.

Diana's admirers could only leave flowers at the gate to her castle, whereas Teresa's admirers could come and join her in doing "something beautiful for God."

In just a few years of working with the poor in the Vision 2000 project in India, we experienced some of the fame that goes with such a work. Had we continued for another ten years or so, we felt that we may easily have become as famous as Teresa.

Our feeling is that God is calling us to something different at the moment; but the clinic and all that goes with it still sits there waiting for someone to take up where we left off. And there are similar vacancies crying out for someone to fill them all over the world.

It's true that not every social worker becomes immortalised as Sister Teresa did; but every single one who has the faith to trust God rather than money or organisational backing will most assuredly be immortalised. If not by the politicians, public, and press of the world, then they will most certainly be immortalised by the One who alone can give immortality.

(See also Those Other Apostles.)

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