Friday, October 19, 2007
Mother Teresa: My New Hero
Well, I have a new hero. I always admired Mother Teresa, who doesn’t? However, the article in Time Magazine about her faith struggle floored me. The book that will be coming out about her 40+ year “dark night of the soul” casts her life in an entirely different light.
I like saints. Not because they are so holy, just the opposite. Yeah, they live lives of holiness but their attraction to me is they live human lives. These folks are flawed. They are neurotic, at times insensitive, erratic, and unpredictable. But they get the job done, they do what most of us only think about in passing, they actually live a life centered around their faith.
I love Francis because he was willing to be a Fool for God. He took the Gospels literally and he gave up everything to gain everything. I am awed by authentic lives courageously engaged in the world. Gandhi standing up to the British Empire or Martin Luther King Jr. standing up to the nightstick, hoses and attack dogs, I can admire all of their lives from the safety of distance. Then when I read of a personal imperfection in each of them I rejoice, not because they fell, that is a given. I rejoice because perhaps, maybe, just maybe I can someday harness such faith in my own life.
So I read about the enormous discrepancy between Mother Teresa’s public life and her agonizing private faith life. She does not seem less saintly to me, she seems far more impressive. It is so easy to believe without questioning, but what is that. We are creatures of intelligence, while not the Creator, yet we create. Such a mind was meant to question. And so she did.
She lived a life based on a faith she did not feel. She had moments of divine communication. She reports hearing Christ and of seeing Him. But they were the brief exceptions in a life-long journey. The Rev. James Martin who is a Jesuit and wrote My Life with Saints states he has never read of a saint whose life is marked with such extensive spiritual darkness. And yet, she grabbed the attention of the world. She knew the difference between feeling and doing. She knew that faith did not require an emotional counter-point, it was just wonderful when both were present.
And so she served. Because she served the hungry were fed, the dying were not alone and Christians and other people of faith were reminded of what a life dedicated to being Christ-centered looked like.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta is not diminished in my eyes by these new revelations. This is a saint who is real.
We are called upon to believe what can only be believed through faith. That faith does not require Instant Messaging from God to sustain us. Mark 9:24, ..."Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"
Thank you Mother Teresa.