Fr. Rosario Stroscio (1922-2019), a Sicilian from Furnari, on the slopes of Mount Etna, was a Salesian missionary who became the confessor of St. Teresa of Calcutta for half a century. A few years before his death, he revealed some little-known facts about Mother Teresa. He talked about the last moments of her life and refuted some “fake news” and rumors about her.
“When Mother Teresa felt she was nearing the end, and the Archbishop of Calcutta sent for me to give her last rites, even she was afraid of dying. And she was trembling. Death is terrible for everyone. Even she who was a saint, who had seen thousands of abandoned people die, who was as certain of the afterlife as she was certain that the sun rises and sets— even she was afraid. Not fear; trepidation, that’s the word. Trepidation to stand before God. The nice thing was that this time she didn’t die,” Fr. Rosario Stroscio told the Corriere della Sera.
Fr. Rosario arrived in India when he was only 17 years old, but his first encounter with St. Teresa was in Calcutta Cathedral in 1948. “She had obtained permission to leave the convent and move among the shantytowns. Her spiritual director, the Belgian Jesuit Van Exem, treated her almost with contempt that day, and she with humility did not rebel.”
Mother Teresa’s room
Fr. Rosario would visit her in her little cell: a cot, a table, a bench, and crucifixes everywhere. “She looked for the face of Jesus in others, and found him in the dying, the handicapped, the orphans, the women driven insane by prison or violence. On her tomb she wanted it written, with flower petals: ‘I do nothing; He does everything.’”
The missionary remembers when Mother Teresa touched the heart of a journalist who had verbally attacked her for her condemnation of abortion.
“Once an American journalist—prejudiced, haughty—came to interview her. She refused to go barefoot. The sound of her stilettos echoed through the convent. Mother Teresa received her as she was removing worms from the body of a dying man, whom she had picked up on the street corner. She looked up, saw her, and said, ‘Be patient, at my age I can no longer see well. Would you help me?’ The journalist threw herself at her feet in tears. Mother Teresa had touched her heart. She was truly a saint.”
The exorcism rumor
But the episode that remains most in Fr. Rosario’s heart is surely that of the “alleged exorcism” of St. Teresa of Calcutta, as it was passed off by the press and then denied by the Archbishop of Calcutta.
“When the archbishop sent for me because Mother Teresa was really sick,” the missionary recounts, “I gave her last rites, and I prayed with her, for her. It was 6 o’clock in the evening. Mother Teresa felt a little better, and miraculously recovered. It was 1997, and she was already 87 years old. She died a few months later. On that occasion I didn’t have time to get to her bedside.”
The alleged miracles
It wasn’t difficult, Fr. Rosaria finally emphasizes, to start her cause for beatification. “We collected 133 testimonies. At least five women claimed to have been healed by her in a single night, confirmed by doctors.”