Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mother Theresa

It's been a couple of weeks since the shocking news came out that Mother Theresa was, in fact, human. I thought I needed to give you some time to let it soak in.

Now, it's a funny thing about the brouhaha – or does it even merit that status? At any rate, quite a few folks were upset about the revelation that for the last 50 years or so of her life, Mother Theresa was plagued with doubts about God. She wrote letters to her confessors mentioning how she felt unworthy, how she felt no presence of God in her life, and how she even wondered at times if God was really there.

Yet she plugged ahead doing work she knew needed to be done.

If I'm reading the public response correctly, there seem to be a few angles on this. One is that it was nobody's business what she felt or believed. She had, after all, asked that all her correspondence be destroyed after her death. You would think a sense of decency would require that her wishes be followed. However, Mother Theresa lived and ministered in a hierarchical church under vows of obedience. The decision of what to do with these letters simply was not hers. The process of vetting her life to see if she should be granted the honor of canonization requires (as I understand it) a thorough reading of all her writings, including letters. I'm no expert, but apparently, that means making those writings public.

Another avenue of upset comes from those who are shocked that the dear woman should ever entertain doubts, let alone such profound doubts that plagued the majority of her life. Well, maybe it's just me, but I suspect her doubts were a product of her deep searching. An unexamined life experiences few doubts while those who really seek depth willingly take on a spiritual struggle. The operative word is struggle – it is never easy and the results are never certain. The fact that she never gave up on God is completely endearing to me. And to God, too, I imagine.

And then there are those who are breathing a huge sigh of relief now that Mother Theresa has been "outed" as a doubter. A parishioner recently confided to me that he had always suspected believing was easy for people like the saintly nun – that it just came naturally. He took comfort in realizing that believing and living a life of faith was just as difficult for her. I think he even felt a renewed sense of hope in his own spiritual life.

So, I'm not upset that Mother Theresa's spiritual battles have come to light. She was in life a public figure, dedicated to using her fame to help others. In death, she is still a public figure and, God willing, her fame will again help an entirely new set of people who need her.