NEW YORK – The life of one of the most compelling of modern saints is recounted in the inspiring documentary “Mother Teresa: No Greater Love” (Fathom, in select theaters Oct. 3-4). Its release timed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its subject’s death, aged 87, the film also provides an exploration of her long-lasting legacy.
Filmmaker David Naglieri uses archival footage and dramatizations to chronicle the famed nun’s journey from obscurity to global celebrity. Born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in what is now North Macedonia, she was the daughter of a prosperous and politically involved Kosovar businessman and his deeply pious wife.
Her initial vocation was to the education-oriented Sisters of Loreto. But a mystical experience she termed “the call within the call” eventually led the successful teacher to undertake a very different mission: tireless work among the poorest of the poor in India and beyond. Steady growth in the number of her co-workers in this challenging endeavor resulted in the establishment of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.
Naglieri employs Mother Teresa’s biography as a framework within which to examine the current activities of the Missionaries. His globetrotting survey of their many projects – they staff more than 750 facilities around the world – ranges from South America and Haiti to the United States, Africa, the Philippines and, of course, the Subcontinent, where it all began.
Boldly pro-life, Mother Teresa was also a pioneer in providing fearless medical care to AIDS patients in the early days of the disease, a time when many people shunned them. Another topic Naglieri touches on is her longstanding friendship with St. John Paul II, a bond of mutual understanding and appreciation that required little verbal expression.
Fans of Hollywood movies will be especially intrigued by an interview with actor Mark Wahlberg’s brother Jim. Once an addict and a convict, he attributes his devout Catholic faith – and thus the radical reform of his life – to a visit Mother Teresa paid to the prison in which he was incarcerated.
Now a religious family made up of several branches, all dedicated to the faithful following of their founder’s demanding spirituality, the Missionaries continue to tend to the needs of the forgotten and the outcast. Uplifting but overlong, this study of their heroic service – which was produced by the Knights of Columbus – is a soul-nourishing experience.
Look for: A celebration of sanctity.
Look out for: Potentially disturbing images of civil strife and illness and mature themes.
The Catholic Moviegoer’s guidance is T – suitable for mature teens. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.
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Formerly a staff member for Catholic News Service, John Mulderig has been reviewing visual media from a Catholic perspective for 15 years. His column is syndicated by Catholic Review Media.