I'm inspired, like so many others by the life of Mother Teresa. The thought that a young woman would leave everything she had, both relationally and materially, to go to a distant foreign part of the world to serve the poorest of the poor. I couldn't do it. I know I couldn't do it. I was leaving the house the other day and glanced at my front closet and I remembered the words of Jesus, to give that second coat to the poor, and did I? No. Will I? Not likely. I struggle as a Christian, to reconcile living in a modern age with modern comforts, a consumer culture, with the teachings of Christ. How radical they are. How uncomfortable they make me. Gandhi understood this. A Hindu, in many ways he lived up to the teachings of Christ, better than I ever will, and I know it. What I have heard is that when Mother Teresa died, all that she had in terms of her personal belongings...was so little. All that she had, this tiny person, when she picked up that first broken dying body were her own hands, her own body, her own life. And so I struggle to understand why it is that modern comfortable academics and writers would seek to subject a woman who gave everything she had to help the poorest of the poor, to such scathing ridicule and criticism.
Could she have done some things differently? Probably. Could there be some legitimate criticisms there? It sounds like there is. Denying people pain medication, I'd be inclined to agree there, because I know I would want them. Lack of medical training? I can believe that. Could she have had some blind spots or character weaknesses even? Sure, don't we all? I know I do. Took money from not so nice people? Okay, but isn't it better that money was then being used to help people? Isn't it? Opposition to birth control, abortion, divorce, does a Catholic or a Catholic organization have the right to operate according to their own beliefs? A lack of supplies or medicines or unsanitary conditions? Okay, but is it possible that here you have a western or generational or cultural expectation of a woman who began caring for the poor in India in 1948! Here's my question. Who else was doing it? Who else was offering palliative care to the poorest of the poor in that part of the world at that time? And that's where it seems so disproportionate to me, and so obvious that these people are not interested in looking at the whole picture. I can't speak for the writers of this more recent study, but in the case of the late Christopher Hitchens, who described himself as an "anti-theist," he was interested in tearing down her public image. That bias must be acknowledged. As someone who's self stated personal agenda is to demonstrate that religion itself is the source of the world's troubles: Mother Teresa is a problem in what she represents. A great symbol of the good of religion, how it appeals to our better angels, our higher voices, how it inspires the good in us, makes us want to be better people, better than we are. In short, I'm not saying that Mother Teresa couldn't have learned from some of her critics, but I think that both they and our own decadent culture could stand to learn a lot more from her example. And it saddens me, that young people may not have that opportunity as that image is torn down. Failings considered, Mother Teresa remains a great role model, who in her own doubts and uncertainty, pain and suffering, limitations and failings, continued to endure and to serve. Her's is great story of faith, of selflessness and devotion, of courage and of hope.
I remember when the student protests over tuition hikes were ongoing in the province of Quebec, which has the lowest tuition costs in Canada, possibly North America, and a friend of mine who is also from Quebec said " I wonder if you were to ask those students, now shutting down a province, how many of them have a smart phone...that would be the approximate cost of the tuition hikes." Interesting question, isn't it, the same province that at least some of this study is coming out of. Sigh. Better question, how many of those young people would leave their families, knowing that they will never see them again, to go to India, to pick up the broken body of a stranger, so that that person can die with dignity? Where would they find the inspiration to do that? Virgin Mobile? Telus? Rogers? Bell mobility?
Thanks for listening,
Here's the recent study I was referring to.
and a basic bio outline of Mother Teresa's life.