I was recently reading a traditionalist forum in which the discussion centered around Mother Teresa of Calcutta. There were several threads in the discussion that I would like to examine here.
1. Indifferentism: This is the idea that one religion is just as good as another. The traditionalists on the forum would say that Mother Teresa was an indifferentist due to certain statements that she made over the years, but that is not the truth at all.
Mother Teresa, like St. Francis, led by example and saw Christ in all of those that she and her Missionaries of Charity (MCs) ministered to over the years. This ministry led to hundreds of conversions to the Roman Catholic Church. If you look at the number of MCs today, an overwhelming number of them are native Indian women who were converted by the work that Mother Teresa did.
2. The Corporal vs. the Spiritual Works of Mercy: Many traditionalists will say that Mother Teresa and the MCs centered their apostolates on the Corproral rather than the Spiritual Works of Charity.
This is a fallacious assumption. The fact of the matter is that what we see on the TV and what Mother Teresa was most well known for were the hospitals and hospices that she and the MCs established throughout the world. Yet we must not forget that being a sister, priest, or brother does not mean that you concentrate on your apostolate alone. You must be willing and open to those that need you.
St. Francis and Mother Teresa both realized this in different ways. Both of them believed that if their disciples lived in grinding poverty, then they would be better able to assist and help those that needed them. In Spokane, Mother Teresa’s nuns live in one of the worst parts of the city and work primarily with the poor who are in desperate need. Yet we must remember that those needs not be not be corporal, but they are also spiritual.
3. Celebrity: This is something that comes up many times when one talks about Mother Teresa. I personally do not believe that she courted the media or that she wanted to be in the spotlight. The fact is that she always remained the humble nun from Calcutta and she constantly lived her vocation of love inside and outside the spotlight.
I feel that one of the reasons why so many were shocked by the book, “Come Be My Light” was because of the image of Mother Teresa that was created by the media. What we forget is that what the media shows us is only one part of a person’s life or personality. As the book attests, Mother Teresa lived through a dark night of the soul that lasted for decades in which she was tempted to believe that God did not exist.
Yet the phenomenon described in the book should not come as anything new to someone that has read the lives of the saints. Mother Mary Joseph Rossello, a saint that I profiled a few weeks ago, had almost the same experience that Mother Teresa did. Mother Rossello did not experience consolation until she was on her deathbed and the priest brought her Viaticum. During the last months of her life, St. Therese of Lisieux also had a similar experiences.
If anything, Mother Teresa’s celebrity is something that happened because of what she had been doing. Her life was so different from that of other people that the media gravitated towards her. Indeed, it was so radically different from what other Catholic orders were doing that the media came to see what the fuss was about.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!
St. Mary Joseph Rossello, pray for us!
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!