What I think of Mother Teresa
The recent canonization of Mother Teresa was a huge event in the Catholic world. It would be incorrect to single out only the Catholic world;many Indians of all religions felt honoured by association, The political world in India also scrambled to get onto the gravy train. Two separate delegations visited the Holy City, not to impress the pope, but with an eagle’s eye on the minority vote. Why just the minorities, there are huge numbers of Indians who think of her with respect and recall her contributions to her adopted country gratefully.
There has always been a debate about the Albanian born nun. She has been deified and vilified in equal measure and her detractors and admirers have always been legion. The recent excitement over the canonization made me wonder where I stand on this controversy. Do I think she was a saint, or at least a great woman? Or was she a bigoted missionary who looked after the poor in the hope of saving her soul and getting brownie points from the Almighty by saving some of their souls as well?
The first point I would like to make is that the religious part of the controversy leaves me cold. I always feel a pitiful contempt for those who believe that there is a deity, whether Hindu, Jew, Muslin or whatever who is always looking over our shoulders to check what we are doing and who will reward us with a land flowing with milk and honey (though not with Smartphones, or X boxes) or will fry us in hell. It is all the same to me whether the wretched creatures who died in her homes died as Hindus of Muslims or whatever they called themselves all their lives, or if they suddenly, just before death, cried out for Christ.
So, if she converted them, good luck to her. If she managed to convince rich Westerners to part with vast sums of their money in the hope of having a few dying destitutes receive Christ, well, that is fine with me. Much better men that they have had no difficulty in abandoning their religion for material benefits. In any case, nobody ever asked them if they wanted to be part of their original religions, they came to it by an accident of birth. So if they died Christians, good luck to them. If they stayed Hindu, that is also fine with me. In any case, I am reasonably confident that nothing remains of them anyway today. My only regret is that I will not be able to boo believers after I die, though in the miniscule chance that I am wrong, they will be able to tell me “I told you so”.
I also feel that there is no doubt that she could have utilized her resources better to give these destitutes a better chance of survival. Some of the stories that have come out of her homes are harrowing, but they are not worse than stuff I have seen in Government hospitals in my early days. I am therefore less overwhelmed by stores of syringe reuse and dirty blankets than are Westerners.
However, the principal issue remains. In my opinion, she certainly could have done things a lot better. She perhaps did try to convert some of the poor men and women under her care, (though this has been strenuously denied by very believable witnesses). But the fact remains that she did SOMETHING. While you and I sat and wrote and read blogs, she went out there, carried them in, and looked after them, well or badly. She did not leave them in the streets to die like animals as they would have otherwise.
The moot point is why are here such people in our society in this state anyway? Why are their families or the state not looking after them? Why is it that we are not concerned about our compatriots living like animals under station platforms, in hovels that no cattle should be given shelter, besides sewage drains and beside landfills? If we are comfortable with seeing these sights in front of our eyes day in and day out without lifting a finger to do anything about it, why so we care how a nun from a foreign country is treating them? Whatever she is doing is huge advance on their present living conditions. In return, if she is maintaining standards that do not approximate to those in developed countries, I at least do not have a problem. When my country is capable of giving them a decent life, I will worry about their spiritual welfare, not before that.
I do not believe that Mother Teresa did any miracles after her death. I am reasonably sure that all the miracle stories are just that: stories. But that she was a saint, I am sure. Only a saint would have spent most of her life building institutions that looked after the wretched of the earth.
I hail Saint Teresa!