Mother Teresa was a “woman of like passions”
I have in my library an old framed cover picture of MT by Time Magazine, with the caption:“The Secret life of Mother Teresa”, 3 Sep. 2007, by David Van Biema. There are also other writers as well who wrote critically, like Christopher Hitchens (book, “Missionary Position” )- and, of course Richard Dawkins with his mega twitter following. It seems their main beef is against religion, particularly persons like MT. They called her a fanatic and a fraud. They were angry with MT for accepting donations from notorious despot Baby Duck Duvalier for her mission. They were against her canonization. Of course, they have no problem with atheists. My post is not to criticize these writers but to bring to light the tendency to judge others and to judge with varying standards.
Yes, MT had haunting doubts, endured times or seasons of, what I would call the “three D’s- “depression, discouragement and despondency”. Who hasn’t? Do we not entertain questions ourselves when we visit the sick without hope or attend funerals of little children etc.? Compare that, if one can, with that of MT dealing with hundreds of tragedies on a daily basis!
None of the Biblical “greats of faith” were immune to it either. How about Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, Peter, Thomas, Apostles etc.? They all had to deal with their own struggles, blunders and demons. I had often thought what had compelled the righteous Job’s loving wife and mother of ten children, seeing him suffer to cry out to Job: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die.”(Job 2:9). Did Mrs. Job experience the three D’s?
Elijah had his fair share right after a great triumph, now running away from queen Jezebel, wife of Ahab the king of Israel ,and hiding. See how God dealt with him (1 Kings 19:1-13). Twice God asked, vs. 9 and 13 ‘WHAT DOEST THOU HERE, ELIJAH”? St. James classified these frailties as “men of like passions” (James 5:17).
Had MT’s critics known that only God is perfect and that the Gospel (good news) includes the real stories of sinners saved by grace or made perfect in Christ. Besides, “God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we are still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 8:39). The popular hymn: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me” and the testimony of its composer John Newton (1725-1807) pretty well clarifies it all.
My friend John Jeya Nathan of the Gideons Canada wrote on his facebook wall, with a sense of humour: “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”. Or how about Luke 9:62? Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
MT did the right thing taking her “3D’s” to her Saviour Jesus, confiding with her local priest, Father Picachy, (who later became Archbishop and finally the Cardinal in 1976). I remember him very well riding his small Motor Scooter(Vespa or Lambretta) to move around the busy streets of Calcutta. I admire Mother Teresa all the more, for plowing through her struggles and overcoming victoriously in spite of her limitations. Hallelujah!
God specializes on unlikely sources to strengthen us for His purpose.
I have lived to see historically how God brought two individuals together from two completely different countries, beliefs and backgrounds with a definite purpose: Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge* – all the way from Surrey, UK and MT from Albania ; and of all places to meet in Calcutta, India In 1967-8!
Muggeridge took a BBC film crew to make a documentary on MT, “Something Beautiful for God” in 1969 and later he wrote the book in 1971. Their meeting had two significances:
(a)Muggeridge- “the “quintessential worldly skeptic” experienced a remarkable conversion to Christianity
(b)God prepared Muggeridge to project MT and her mission, lesser known hitherto, into an international arena. Her mission now is extended to 170 countries with 5,629 workers including Sisters, Brothers and Priests. Exceptional? No, “elementary- Dr.Watson” -with God.
Jeremy and Lalitha (my son-in-law and daughter) were team leaders of Celebrant Singers.
I requested them to write their experience with MT to include in this post. They wrote:“Mother Teresa first encountered the group of Musical Missionaries known as Celebrant Singers in 1977 in Calcutta, India. The Group was introduced to Mother Teresa and they sang for her and her nuns. Mother then invited the group to minister at their Home for the Dying and Destitute in Calcutta. Afterwards she discovered that they were going to be in Rome during Easter “Holy Week” and said. Oh you must visit the Pope.
She disappeared into a room, found a scrap of paper and wrote a note to Pope John Paul II….Dear Holy Father, The Celebrant Singers have been spreading much love, joy and peace through their music and witness here in Calcutta. They are going to be in Rome during the Holy Week. It would be wonderful if you could spend some time with them. Please pray for me and my work…..M.Teresa.
Then she handed the note to the Group’s director and said very matter-of-factly. “Here, take this to Rome”…..as if she was handing them a simple bus ticket. A few weeks later, the Celebrant Singers were in Rome and were invited to spend time with the Pope in his private chapel, which turned out to be a powerful and prayerful time. A couple of days later the group was invited to minister to a hundreds of thousands in St.Peter’s Square the Gospel.
In 1979, the Celebrant Singers were invited to perform at the reception where Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Prize.
All because of a little scrap of paper and simple faith. Looking back, the story reminds me of a bit of a piece of fish was turned into a meal for 5,000.
God bless, Danny Paul
Ps. In 1998 Grace and I with Jeremy, Lalitha, and grandchildren Priya and Daniel made a touching revisit to Mother MT’s place (1910-1997) in Calcutta.
* Short bio: Malcolm Muggeridge, a graduate from Cambridge, left for India to teach English at UC College at Alwaye, Kerala, South India close to my own High School, (Church Mission Society High School-Trichur, Anglican). Returned to UK, got married, and went to Egypt to teach. Returned to UK where he joined Manchester Guardian as Journalist. Joined the Army, commissioned to work closely with General Charles De Gaulle. After war, back to India; this time to Calcutta as Asst. Editor of the prestigious Daily called The Statesman (building still standing at the crossing of Chowringhee Road and Dharamtalla Street).
I like his popular documentary “A Third Testament” profiles on St.Augustine, Blaise Pascal, William Blake, Soren Kierkegaard, Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.