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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Mother Theresa of Calcutta, The Patron Saint of Doubters

Sometimes I get ahead of myself, I think we all do at times, projecting what I want to see, over and against the reality of what is, as in the title of this piece.

Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta; the patron saint of doubters.

In truth, the Church has named the Patron Saint of World Catholic Youth Day, and that is fair. In her time she inspired many young people, through her life of austerity and selflessness. She inspired many of us to good things, to want to be good people.

She was a tiny woman, but she was strong. She inspires me for her strength, for her commitment to her ideals, despite the reality that she understood, that the suffering she sought to ease would never cease. The suffering of the world has no end.

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 only to approximate a small degree of her fundamental stance toward justice and compassion, and give just a small part of ourselves over to the healing of the world, the world might stop spinning in its spiral of violence.

Pope Saint Francis “the Good” (you see I just did it again; projecting), canonized Mother Theresa on September the 4th, 2016, on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time of that year, her feat was celebrated for the first time, and from that day forward, on the 5th of September, Christians of every stripe, and non-Christian alike, in keeping with her embrace of all people, no matter how flawed or marginalized they might be, will remember this brilliant woman, servant and sister, this theologian; her brilliance grow greater in her afterlife.

Mother Theresa is famous for her service and her impressive life, and the inspiration she gave to millions of people.

For me, it was her memoirs that had the greatest impact.

Saint Theresa struggled, like all of us do, with the sense that God had abandoned her, and that 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, her personal suffering, the suffering of other’s which she shared, and her sense of alienation from God.

To persevere in goodness, in the face of her doubts, to admit to the pain that she brought to others, even as she tried to serve them, to confess and ask forgiveness, and to lead them. To bear witness to the suffering of the world, hold God accountable for it in her heart, and still follow the calling of the Spirit despite that indictment, that is why she will be known as the Patron Saint of Doubters.

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 through the galaxy.

We will carry the memory of Saint Theresa of Calcutta with us, she will be a light for us in the darkness.

There is something deeply significant about her relationship to her doubt, insofar as the history of Christianity in India has always been connected to the missionary work of the Apostle Thomas. Saint Thomas the doubter, who did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he placed his own fingers into the wounds Christ bore, the wounds which still marred his body even after he was raised from the dead.

Never mind the historical realities of the origin of the Church in India, set aside the legends held closely by the faithful in India. It is not important that Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, never travelled there, the myth that Christians in India have believed this for centuries. The beliefs of the Church in India are themselves a historical reality, a reality that cannot be ignored, one that has shaped their communities for as long as those communities have existed.

There is no doubting that, or ho the character of Saint Thomas the doubter shaped them.

Thomas is the patron saint of doubt, Theresa is the patron saint of doubters. Saint Thomas tells us that doubt is an integral part of faith. Saint Theresa comes to aid us in the midst of it.


Given First 09.03.2016

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