Monday, March 15, 2004

Thoughts on Mother Teresa - March 15, 2004

There are some who have criticized Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. The critics are often those in developed countries who are most concerned about overcoming the problems of poverty and equity in our world. They say that she did not do enough to tackle the systemic problems of poverty. Some say that she took money from the wealthy whose funds may, or may not, have had ethical sources. Her homes, run by her Missionaries of Charity, didnt meet basic health care standards.

But Ive learned its hard to understand the ramifications of Mother Teresas actions until you have stepped over a shivering burlap scrap, whom you know may very well be someone dying, and continue on you way for a cup of tea. Only until you have looked a slender mother in the eye as she carries a sleeping child and an empty bottle and tell her a forceful "No", because you dont believe in encouraging begging, can you begin to understand the extent of Mother Teresas life call. You might think these are examples of the harsh and insensitive wealthy towards the poor. I hope they are not; I have done both already this week.

I search for a word to describe how I feel and can only find "emasculating" even if I have no claim to masculinity in the first place. Its as if things that I have valued so dearly, held so true to myself, have now been ripped from me revealing how little I had in the first place.

Mother Teresas critics are well intended but far away from the heat of Kolkata. Sure, method matters in all work and good intention is never enough, but Mother Teresas inspiration is an incredible ministry. It can be so easy to lose hope when what is present emits no glow of change coming. But to love is an act of faith, and faith is not based on what we see around us but what we believe to be beyond our reach in the realm of that which is greater and better than us. Accepting the humanity, even of Mother Teresas ministry, is not to let down our ideals but to put hope in good coming out of our clearly inadequate attempts to love one another.