Sometimes I get ahead of myself, I think we all do at times, we project what we want to see, over and against the reality of what is, as in the title of this piece.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta; the patron saint of doubters.
In truth, the Church has named Mother Theresa the Patron Saint of World Catholic Youth Day, and that is fair: in her time the good mother inspired many young people, providing that inspiration through her life of austerity and selflessness; she inspired many of us to good things, to want to be good people, to emulate her in that way.
She was a tiny woman, but she was strong. She inspires through her strength and her commitment to her ideals, despite the painful realities that she experienced and despite her understanding that the suffering she sought to ease would never cease, and her knowledge that the suffering of the world has no end.
We must be like the wise mother and pray for strength, pray for wisdom, for understanding and perseverance. Mother Theresa did not expect that by praying for these things God would transform her, or that God would give her supernatural powers, but that the act of praying would fortify her, that it would give her the strength she needed to get through the day, her day, each and every day.
Mother Theresa was sainted for her life-long commitment to the good, to serving the poor, for setting an example of patience and endurance; for setting such a strong example that if each of the rest of us were able to approximate a small degree of her fundamental stance toward justice and compassion, to give a small part of ourselves over to the healing of the world, the world might stop spinning in its spiral of violence and in that moment we might see something of the true glory that belongs the God of peace and mercy and grace.
It is right and good to praise God, the creator of the universe, because creation is miraculous and mysterious, and beyond the scope of human comprehension.
And while it is right and good to praise God, to doubt God’s purpose in the world is not a sin. Mother Theresa taught us this, she taught that doubt it is a natural movement the heart, beating within the breast of a person who loves, of someone who confronts the pain and suffering in the world and subsequently falls into despair.
It is not sinful to doubt God or God’s purpose in the world, neither is it sinful to doubt the traditions of the Church, its doctrines and decrees and decretals.
The Good Mother taught us this, and so let us be clear about a few things:
God is not a giver of victories. God has no enemies. In God, within whom all things exist and have their being…there is no conflict.
It is not God’s justice that is shown in the work of human beings, it is human justice, and when human justice approximates the justice of God, it is expressed in mercy and compassion and that is good, The Good Mother taught us to aspire to things even in the midst of human misery and despair.
Pope Francis, canonized Mother Theresa on September the 4th, 2016, on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, her feast was celebrated for the first time and from that day forward, on the 5th of September, which is today.
Christians of every stripe, and non-Christian alike, remember Saint Theresa for her desire to embrace all people, no matter how flawed or marginalized they might be, and all people will remember this brilliant woman, servant and sister, this theologian; they will remember her for her brilliance which grows even greater in her afterlife.
God chose her, as God chooses all of; God chose her from the beginning, to receive the sanctifying spirit, he created her in the divine image, placing within her a seed of the eternal Word to enliven her. God made her this way, in the same way that God makes everyone, but what made the sainted mother different from most of the rest of us was that she saw the truth of it clearly, and in seeing it she understood her purpose in the world. The Good Mother saw the divine image in the people she bent down to serve, she saw the face of God in the poor and the sick, in the blind and the leper, she saw God suffering in them and she responded with the love God had instructed her in.
Mother Theresa is famous for her service and her impressive life, and the inspiration she gave to millions of people, and when I reflect on the life of Saint Theresa of Calcutta, it is her memoirs, which were published after her death, which had the greatest impact on me.
Saint Theresa struggled, like all of us do, with the sense that God had abandoned her, She felt at times as if God had abandoned the world. She managed to do the good works she did, to serve the Church and all of its members, to fulfill her commitment to her order, to lead them; to make of her life a daily sacrifice even in the midst of her own profound doubt and great personal suffering, as she experienced the suffering of other’s (which she shared).
In consideration of her experience she lived with a deep-felt sense of alienation from God.
Saint Theresa persevered in goodness even in the face of her doubts, she admitted to the pain that she brought to others, even as she tried to serve them, she confess and ask forgiveness and they allowed her to lead them. She bore witness to the suffering of the world, she held God accountable for it in her heart, and yet she still followed the calling of the Spirit despite her indictment of the divine, and that is why she will be known as the Patron Saint of Doubters.
Mother Theresa was different from the disciples who followed Jesus and witnessed his miraculous life. Her example of how to fulfill the Christian life in the face of the deepest doubts is what makes her life exemplary, a life that will continue to shine on us long after the sun has collapsed and human beings are scattered throughout the galaxy.
We will carry the memory of Saint Theresa of Calcutta with us, as a light shining in the darkness.
There is something historically significant about her relationship to her doubts that we would all do well to be mindful of. We see it reflected in the history of Christianity in India, which has always been connected to the missionary work of the Apostle Thomas, who is in fact the patron saint of doubters, who struggled to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, and did not accept it until he placed his own fingers into the wounds Christ bore, the wounds which still marred his body even after he was reborn.