A Collection of Thoughts on St Teresa of Kolkata Which Descends into Rant
We can, I fear, thank God that St Teresa of Calcutta never had a blog or a Facebook account. That is not to say that these things, when used well are a waste of time, but Saints of contemplation and action don't need social media. Saints are saints in deed.
Mother Teresa seems to still have the capacity to cause a lot of people to fall over each other. Traditionalists say she was not traditional enough and criticise her for unorthodox sounding statements on inter-faith issues. Atheists just plain hate her because she was a nun who preached about Jesus Christ in word and deed. You could say atheists hate St Teresa of Calcutta in the same way they hate the Church or even God Himself.
Mother's big idea was in fact very simple and she maintained that what drove her mission was Matthew 25. That's pretty traditional. Matthew 25 deals with the Last Judgment. If you're going to have a mission statement, that's not a bad starting place to begin a mission. We can glean from this alone some important truths about her life.
Firstly, Mother Teresa both feared God and loved God. She took Jesus's words very seriously indeed. She clearly feared being consigned with the goats. She knew Jesus meant what He said about death and Judgement. She clearly loved Christ in the Eucharist, spending hours alone with Him. How many Catholics nowadays believe that stuff?
An image of Mother Teresa alone tells an accurate story of this nun who, in fact, refused to conform her life to her age both in the Church and the world. Notice that Mother Teresa wore a habit. Around her neck and clasped in her hands was the Cross. One attached to her habit and one a Rosary in her hands. Yes, Mother was a nun of the habit and the Rosary. During the 1980s these visible signs of religious life were not common at all with so many nuns discarding both their habits and their Rosaries in preference of yoga and jeans and a gospel of self-fulfilment. In terms of evangelisation, a habit really helps a nun. It identifies her as being dead to the world and alive to Christ, her spouse. Of course, this would be counter-productive if her life was marked by a lack of Christian virtue and charity. Of course, the opposite is the case. The reality is that her compassion and heroism puts the great majority of us to shame. Quite honestly the words 'Mother Teresa' make us feel generally guilty. That's because whether you're a traddie or not, the likelihood is that however holy you might be, you're almost certainly not as holy as Mother Teresa. You almost certainly make compromises with the World that Mother never would. You almost certainly have stored somewhere treasure on Earth that will pass, that Mother would never accept for herself. Her one treasure was Jesus Christ.
Mother Teresa's life pointed very explicitly to Jesus Christ. The charge that she was indifferent to other religions would be very valid had Mother Teresa ever stopped talking about Jesus and Mary, something she never did. The name of Jesus was never far from her lips. More than this she showed very clearly that Jesus Christ makes the difference in a religious life. Divine love made flesh enabled her to become an embodiment of divine love made flesh. Our religion is incarnational. No other religion can do that because no other religion believes that divine love was made flesh in Jesus Christ. No Hindu can replicate Christ's selfless love because no Hindu believes in Christ. Mother was never ashamed to speak of Jesus but wanted her life to be a witness to His love. She let her light shine and her light was Jesus, the Light of the World. How many 'liberal' nuns talk about Jesus and Mary? How many 'liberal' nuns talk about abortion?
The very words 'Mother Teresa' continue to embody selflessness and self-denial, love and compassion - a stubborn refusal to accept the horrendous poverty and evil surrounding her. In terms of iconography she became as powerful as other women of history but in an entirely different way.
Mother Teresa was a very radical and exciting vision of womanhood. First, she refused romantic love, she was an attractive youth. She took Jesus for her spouse. This is the same attitude taken by the early Christian female martyrs. Is that not traditional enough for traditionalists? It is that kind of thing that really angers the Devil and the atheists.
She rejected and trampled upon the world and saw in its glories so much rubbish. That sounds pretty traditional.
Almost alone, she single-handedly challenged governments to respond to her life, on poverty and abortion. Of course, they could not handle her challenge. She - with St John Paul II - was deemed to be a huge threat to the established order of the world and the ideological tyranny that was engulfing it.
She promoted and frequented the Sacrament of Penance. Her life was deeply penitential. That sounds pretty traditional.
She honoured the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and saw it for what it is, the Most Holy Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, made present on the Altar. She attended that Mass, I believe, every single day that God gave her to.
She considered nothing to belong to her but everything belonging to God, most of all, her time. She considered time as precious, for the glory of God. She didn't kick back, take a day off, get a four pack of beer and watch the football.
Mother Teresa gave up all her possessions to conform her life to the same pattern of life as Christ. Is that not traditional enough for traditionalists? That's what St Francis did. That's what the Apostles did.
Mother Teresa spoke up in defence of the family. If Mother was still speaking now on Earth, do we really think there is any doubt as to how she would answer to a question on her thoughts about the Kasper proposal adopted so keenly by Pope Francis? She defended the unborn as often as she could. Do we have any doubt as to how she would respond - with delight or abject horror - to the idea that the Pope feels 'gratified' by the UN development goals which include access to abortion and artificial contraception? You can almost hear her condemnation of this from Heaven! Pope Francis can thank his lucky stars that this Saint is in Heaven - rather than speaking now on Earth, for what an earthquake that would be among the College of Cardinals.
I could write so much more but as well as the unsurprising hatred expressed towards this brave, heroic, incredible woman, deeply in love with Christ, from atheists, I have seen some very dismissive things written of her by traditionalist Catholics. I do understand their reasons in what appears to be some sketchy ecumenical ideas, but the manner in which they do so seems so arrogant in dismissing both her life and her message. I am reminded of the two thieves on the Cross. To her critics: Have you no fear of God? Have you no thought that it is very likely indeed that she is on the other side of the veil of this life to answer your arrogance and that her defender and avenger is very likely Christ the Lord?
May the Lord rebuke you who mock her! Imitate her for one day. See if you can! Sell everything you own and give it to the poor. See if you can! Be holy and humble of heart. See if you can! Become famous not for your fine sounding words but for your deeds, for only for loving the poor and dying and for doing good while wearing the sign of your Christian identity. See if you can! Speak to every single person you meet about Jesus. See if you can! Be considered a fool for Christ. See if you can! Put every single person you meet above yourself and your own needs. See if you can! Allow Christ to transform your life into a living witness to the love of God so that every person you meet believes they are in the presence of a living Saint, someone who loves the other person with Christ-like tenderness. See if you can! Then, when you have done all that, maybe, just maybe you can reproach Mother for some things you would do or say very differently, but be very careful, along that road, the royal road of the Cross, you might fall and give way to any number of temptations since the Devil sees you as a signal threat to his domain and his power over souls.
Our new Saint may be a very 'Vatican II' Saint, but she's also a Saint who continues through her words and her deeds to rebuke the spirit of that Council that has seen the Eucharist neglected and unloved, the habit thrown away, the religious life trivialised, true prayer discarded, sacrifice and self-denial exchanged for self-indulgence and almost every modern relativistic belief surrendered to in exchange for the narrow road and the Gospel of Our Lord.
May she intercede for the Church and for our torn and tattered world today from her place in Heaven, where I fully believe she is, with St John Paul II. May their prayers help to defend the Family, Marriage, the Blessed Sacrament from defilement and sacrilege, the unborn, the poor, the outcast and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!