WEST SACRAMENTO -- The words and smiles come easily for Father Mathew Rappu as he talks about Mother Teresa -- a woman whose choice to overlook the fast and easy paths in life has led to a sped-up sainthood process in the Catholic church.
"The gift of her sainthood is something that grows so naturally," he said.
"So she's a choice, not just of the church, of the world like, I would say," he said.
Mother Teresa will be canonized Sept. 4 and Father Mat, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in West Sacramento, will be in Rome to see it.
He'd already planned to take a sabbatical in September for the first time in 38 years of ministry.
For him, it turned out to be perfect timing.
"I am really excited about it. First of all, I think this is really once in a lifetime for me," he said.
What he now realizes was also once in a lifetime, was the face-to-face meeting he and five other seminarians had with the nun back in 1973.
"She was not so famous at that time," he said.
By then, the tiny titan from Albania had already started religious life in Ireland.
She'd fought to live outside of the convent as an independent nun so she could fulfill the calling she said God gave her -- serving the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta, India.
The order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, was already 28 years old.
Father Mat traveled about 1,100 miles from his native Kerala to Calcutta to visit with her.
What struck him most?
"Her humility," Rappu said.
"She brought us tea herself...not somebody else."
After that meeting, Father Mat says he was only able to see Mother Teresa in large crowds as her legend and legacy grew, with more and more young women attracted to the "more and more" brand of service the nun championed.
And with such an example of mercy ascending to sainthood in the church's Year of Mercy, he says the everyday believer shouldn't feel distant from the path of this process.
"Sainthood is the call of every Christian, and she, I think, shows how easy it is to be a saint because Jesus told us 'love one another as I have loved you' and she personified that," he said.