Rita Ora, Mother Teresa and the Human Spirit

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rita Ora, Mother Teresa and the Human Spirit

On 4th September the much loved nun Mother Teresa of Calcutta became Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Her Canonisation ceremony took place in St Peter’s Square in Rome in front of 100,000 people who came from all over the world to thank God for the life of this remarkable woman.

 One of the moments of real grace and beauty was when 25-year-old Rita Ora stepped up to sing “What Child is This?” - a song about the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rita’s performance was dazzling. You could tell she was nervous as she approached the microphone. She breathed in deeply and looked

at all the people that were present for this unique event: the declaration of a saint.

 Before she sang she tweeted that “Singing What Child Is This to celebrate her life and legacy will be a moment I cherish forever.” And the privilege she felt was reflected in the elegance of her performance. Each word was sung with reverence.

Image taken from

“This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing  
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, 
The Babe, 
The Son, 
Of Mary.”

Upon first glance it may seem as though these two women – Saint Teresa and Rita Ora – have little in common. One is a Catholic nun who rose to notoriety because of the humility of her life. While the other chose a career in music which has seen her become we

ll-known and sing in front of millions of people. But these two women have more in common than you may think.

First of all, both have Albanian heritage. Both Rita Ora’s parents were Albanian. An

d the second part of her name “Ora” means “time” in Albanian. Rita was born in Kosovo and when she was 2 years old her family fled as refugees to London, where for the first few years of her life she lived with a refugee status in quite poor conditions. Her early life experiences, without a doubt, have helped Rita to understand what it means to be insecure, fearful for the future, and what it means to be on the margins.

Saint Teresa had an incredible exposure to poverty. And it was a voluntary exposure. She not only spent her life serving the world’s poorest people but she lived in this same poverty herself, out of both solidarity and love for her brothers and sisters.

 So both share an Albanian heritage and both have had exposure to poverty and hardship, albeit in different ways.

But, most profoundly, both these women are testimonies to the power of the human spirit, and as Christians we know this spirit is the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

When we are baptised we become temples of the Holy Spirit. The sacramental grace we receive enables us to participate in the nature of God. That is what grace is: participation in God. Responding to this grace opens up a channel of extraordinary riches in our lives, riches that change the way we see the world. We know that even in the darkest, most hopeless, most seemingly desperate of situations, God’s grace can lift us up and out and give us freedom, - give us wings. Grace is extraordinary. It is divine. And believing in it makes all the difference.

 Rita began her music career singing in bars across London. Deep inside her heart she had only one dream and she made that happen. Something drove her on, something made her believe in herself and the gift of her voice. Her father was a Muslim and her mother a Catholic and although faith was not a big part of her upbringing, the direction of her life somehow and mysteriously led her to that beautiful performance in honour of Saint Teresa: a saint whose life shows what amazing feats a person can achieve by responding generously to one’s baptismal grace. 

 Rita was touched as she sang her heart out in Rome. She may not be a practicing Catholic but clearly the abounding goodness and holiness that cloaked St Peter’s that evening caused stirrings in her heart. And that is the influence of a saint. A saint’s life has the power to draw people in from all stages and places and walks of life and remind us, - with the help of grace – how extraordinary the human spirit is.