On Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa, who will be known as St. Teresa of Calcutta. It would probably be impossible to come up with a modern man or woman who better fits the world’s understanding of saintliness.

Her spare, wiry figure, her white sari with its blue stripes: These became icons of radical self-giving. Her life was a long and moving illustration of the relationship between Christianity and poverty. This is a relationship Pope Francis himself embraces and understands, famously remarking how he longs for a “poor church for the poor.”

Focusing on the Christian meaning of poverty renders Mother Teresa a more complex figure than the one of popular imagination. Mother Teresa fought against poverty, going out into filthy streets to serve the destitute, but also embraced it in her own life, giving up all her material goods and physical comfort. Her understanding of poverty and her relationship to poverty were much more subtle than most people comprehend.

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