This Sunday, September 4, Mother Teresa will be canonized a saint and at least in my lifetime I have to believe she is the one person who worldwide, across different cultures and faiths, was respected for her work, her faith, her sincerity, her love, more than anyone I can think of. This little woman living in a slum in India could get the attention of the world and world leaders. Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 probably brought her more notoriety and attention then she would have had without it, yet while her work for the poor and dying was being honored it needs to be recognized that many would just ignore her when she said things they didn’t want to hear.
Reading through her acceptance speech for her Nobel Prize I was surprised to see how much of it was focused on what she described in her speech as “the greatest destroyer of peace today – the cry of the innocent unborn child.” Reading over numerous reviews and comments about Mother Teresa there would often be some comment about her views on abortion as conservative or problematic. It is interesting to read how so many may honor and respect her for the great work she did for the poor and dying, showing honor and respect herself for those society would dismiss or consider a burden. And then these same people would not understand why she would be against abortion.
Some other critiques of her questioned some of the people she accepted donations from and the method of care used in her hospices. While I don’t want to focus too much on these comments, I also don’t care for the version of saints’ lives where it appears like they were perfect their entire lives and we don’t question anything they did because they are a saint. The title of an article in the New York Times about her is “Mother Teresa’s Canonization Is a Recognition of Holiness, Not Perfection” where Kathleen Sprows Cummings states “Mother Teresa, despite her faults and even her sins, lived a life of extraordinary holiness and is worthy of veneration and imitation.”
Just last week we celebrated the feast of St. Augustine, a great saint and theologian, but by his own words in his “Confessions” he told us clearly of many of his faults and sins. As we hear the various commentaries and stories about Mother Teresa this weekend I think it is good to see all of her good works, to consider how this may challenge us to extend more charity and mercy to others in need. But we should also hear criticisms of her (as most of us also ace), that she did have faults and sins (as most of us have), and even the best things she did (and we do) may be criticized by others. Hopefully the lives of the saints, and of Mother Teresa, help us see how to live holy and faithful lives amidst the challenges and problems in our life and the world. St. Teresa pray for us.