Was she a “lying, thieving, Albanian dwarf --less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs" as Christopher Hitchens, not known as a great humanitarian, wrote in his book Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice? Or was it true that she had, as a group of Canadian Academics once opined: "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts . . . and her overly dogmatic views regarding abortion, contraception, and divorce." Then there was always the criticism that the houses she set up in Calcutta for the sick and dying were subpar and the medical care was medieval. In that view I guess it was better for people to die on the streets of Calcutta than die in a house that didn't measure up to Western medical standards. And of course there was the accusation that she was in love with poverty and not the poor.
As the canonization of Teresa of Calcutta approaches we should be prepared for the usual hit jobs to reappear in the press. But why should we expect the world to understand the logic of the Gospel? It never really has. Of course we can’t forget that the witness and work of this little woman with immense charity shamed the rich and power, the intellectual elite and the arrogant. Saints in general tend to prick our conscience and make us uncomfortable. Obviously Mother Teresa hit a raw nerve with so many in our culture. So let the world judge her by its own standards but the only judgment that matters in the end is God’s. She was willing to become humble like a little child and therefore Jesus declares her “greatest in His Kingdom”. (Matthew 18)
Here is one story in her own words that she told when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize:
One evening a gentleman came to our house and said, there is a Hindu family and the eight children have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them. And I took rice and I went immediately, and there was this mother, those little one's faces, shining eyes from shear hunger. She took the rice from my hand, she divided into two and she went out. When she came back, I asked her, where did you go? What did you do? And one answer she gave me: They are hungry also. She knew that the next-door neighbor, a Muslim family, was hungry. What surprised me most, not that she gave the rice, but what surprised me most, that in her suffering, in her hunger, she knew that somebody else was hungry, and she had the courage to share, share the love.
There is a great lesson in there for each one of us. Despite our often-busy lives we have to train ourselves to notice. To notice even when we are hungry that there is someone else who is hungry, when we are lonely that there are others who are lonely, that when we are afraid there are others living in fear. It’s challenging to do amid the distractions our culture parades before us. One sure way out of the self-centeredness that so often absorbs us individually is to live a life of service as Mother Teresa did. Obviously not all of us are being asked to join the Missionaries of Charity or another religious community but all of us are being called to serve.
Next weekend once again we will hold the fourth of our four People Raisers for 2016. This one focuses on ways to Pray for the Living and the Dead as one of the spiritual works of Mercy. Specifically we will focus on ways to help serve at the Liturgy and some ways that are connected to the Liturgy. The Mass is our first and most important prayer. When we assemble for Mass we are praying for the living and the dead and doing “something beautiful for God”. But there are lots of details and ministries that go into making our Worship beautiful and for that we need lots of hands.
Also next weekend join us for our celebration of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Something Beautiful for God is an evening with Tom Booth and a lot, a whole lot of other great musicians, many you are familiar with, some new faces. This will be a relaxed evening with some fantastic music and uplifting stories and testimonies. Invite your friends and neighbors, there is no cost.
As Mother Teresa once said: “We feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Without your presence and without your willingness to serve, our Parish would be less without each one of you.
Fr. John B.