Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di

I ran across a post about Mother Teresa of Calcutta earlier today, while writing an early Mother's Day post in another blog. I wrote the Mother Teresa post just before the 10th anniversary of her death. That was when, for some people, Princes Di was a "wonderful humanitarian" and Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a hypocrite.

Her letters were being published around that time, and revealed that she hadn't been on an emotional high while serving the poor. I wrote, at the time -

"Some of the more colorful headlines:
Mother Teresa of Calcutta's letters, some of them, at least, have been made public. She asked that they be destroyed after her death, but the Catholic Church decided that they should be preserved."
("Princess Diana of England and Mother Teresa of Calcutta" Apathetic Lemming of the North (August 27, 2007))

I think I can understand how people steeped in contemporary Western culture might assume that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a hypocrite, after reading (or hearing about) her letters. For many in the west, religion is an emotional experience: something a person feels. The assumption is that if a person doesn't 'feel religious,' that person doesn't have faith - or needs to shop around for something that will crank up that 'religious' feeling again.

There's nothing wrong with emotions. They're not good or bad - by themselves. What we do about the emotions we feel is something else.

Dark Night of the Soul

As for Mother Teresa of Calcutta keeping up her work and prayers without an emotional buzz - that sort of thing is called a dark night of the soul. More about that in another blog: (August 31, 2007)

Mother Teresa of Calcutta died on September 5, 1997. In less than a week, we'll see the 10-year anniversary of the event. Many people seem to think of her as a social worker, but this contemplative nun was just that: a contemplative nun.

I think her failure to drop into one of the dominant culture's pigeonholes is a big reason why her chief claim to fame in today's news is the recent publication of her letters. These letters show that she
  • Lost her faith and was a hypocrite (secular view), or
  • Had a major-league dark night of the soul (informed Catholic view)
I'll get back to that.

Mistaking Mother Teresa for a social worker is understandable. She, and her order, have cared for the very poor in Calcutta for decades. They've also set up similar operations worldwide, including a home for AIDS patients in San Francisco, California. What sets them apart from social workers is their motivation.

One of her critics, Christopher Hitchens, said that:
"It was by talking to her that I discovered, and she assured me, that she wasn't working to alleviate poverty, ... She was working to expand the number of Catholics. She said, 'I'm not a social worker. I don't do it for this reason. I do it for Christ. I do it for the church.' "
("The Debate Over Sainthood," 60 Minutes, CBS (October 9, 2003)
Shocking, and quite true. She wasn't the standard-issue social crusader, out to free the masses from their oppressors. British interviewer Polly Toynbee was particularly impressed that Mother Teresa lacked the rage or indignation of many social critics. Mother Teresa
"did not find it necessary to attack the economic or political structures of the cultures that were producing the abjectly poor people she was serving. For her the primary rule was a constant love, and when social critics or religious reformers chose to vent anger at the evils of structures underlying poverty and suffering, that was between them and God. Indeed, in later interviews Mother Teresa continued to strike an apolitical pose, refusing to take a stand on anything other than strictly religious matters. One sensed that to her mind politics, economics, and other this-worldly matters were other people's business. The business given by God to her and her group was simply serving the very poor with as much love and skill as they could muster."
(Polly Toynbee, via
An interview with Malcom Muggeridge revealed that "Mother Teresa had virtually no understanding of a cynical or godless point of view that could consider any human being less than absolutely valuable." (
"The Hindu priests at a Kali temple were unhappy when Mother and the Sisters began their work at Nirmal Hriday in Kalighat close to the temple. Then something happened that brought about a complete change of heart. Mother heard that one of the priests of the temple was dying of an infectious disease and nobody would touch him. She collected his emaciated body in her arms and brought him to her home. The local people asked her to stay. A Hindu priest of the temple said to her with folded hands, "for thirty years I have worshipped the goddess Kali in stone, but today the goddess Mother stands before me alive." (quotes from
Mother Teresa is now Blessed Mother Teresa, as of October 19, 2003. In 2002, Monica Besra, an Indian woman, was cured of a tumor through the intercession of Mother Teresa. Ms. Besra says that light coming from a locket with a picture of Mother Teresa cured the cancer. Some doctors insist that it must have been the medical treatment she was receiving.

Following Catholic rules, one verified miracle puts a person in the "Blessed" category. Another verified miracle, and Mother Teresa will be an officially recognized saint of the Catholic Church.

Back to those letters.

I'm not at all surprised that Mother Teresa had times when she did not feel God's presence, when she felt spiritually dry, and felt that God was ignoring her. It's called "dark night of the soul." Many saints, and many others, go through it. the phrase, dark night of the soul, comes from "The Dark Night," by St. John of the Cross, which described and discussed this part of a soul's growth.

For some people, lack of an uplifting, "spiritual," feeling means it's time to find a new religion. Catholics, at least those who pay attention to what the Church teaches, don't work that way. "Faith isn't what you feel, but what you will."

Mother Teresa's faith was running on her will, rather than her feelings, for something like a half-century. In the two thousand years that the Catholic Church has been cataloging the biographies of saints, this stands out. As a devout Catholic, I have no intention of anticipating the decisions of the Church, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Mother Teresa is found to be responsible for a second miracle.

If some of this seems familiar, you're observant. I wrote about Mother Teresa and Princess Di in another blog.

Related posts:
Much of the information for this post came from the Answers.Com article on Mother Teresa and EWTN's Mother Teresa.

"MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA - Official Site of the Cause of Canonization" requires pop-ups for viewing, so some browsers must be re-set before using this site.

And then there's the "People's Princess," "Princess Di."

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.