Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and 16-18 (Ostensibly the apostle Paul summing up his life and offering a closing word to the whole venture -- I have fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith ... could any of us want to be able to say anything better?)
For Aaron, who first raised questions about Mother Teresa for me.
This Sunday we celebrate All Saints.
So I am trying to sort out what I think and feel about "saints," and the question seems to be focusing around Mother Teresa -- lauded as a saint in her lifetime, and now officially (since September 4 of this year) Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
On one hand, this week I finally read two on-line articles that I've known about for some time, but have avoided reading until now -- "Mother Teresa was no saint" in the Huffington Post, and the original research article it is based on, "Mother Teresa: anything but a saint" in UdeMNouvelles, an online publication of the University of Montreal. Without going into all that is exposed (the links to both articles are at the bottom of this page), it is enough to know that once the mask of saintly devotion is peeled away, what is revealed is a human being as deeply flawed as any, and a ministry and organization equally human, probably corrupted and in some ways terribly mis-guided. Both articles suggest -- not unconvincingly, that Teresa's saintliness is primarily a product of her church's need for a hero to "sell" the Church to an increasingly disinterested world, and a very good public relations campaign.
On the other hand, this Wednesday's "Our Pulse" in The Hamilton Spectator --which every week features artistic and literary work of a local school, featured submissions from St. Teresa of Calcutta Elementary School, and the submissions of students from grades 5-8 focused primarily on two things: the official story of St. Teresa and her Christ-like commitment to the poor and dying of Calcutta, and the heartfelt sentiment that "today, we pray to St. Teresa of Calcutta to help us live our lives as she did, with a loving and caring heart."
Or as another student put it, "We try our best to live in Saint Teresa's example. Like her, we want to help those in need. So for this Thanksgiving we hosted a food drive for the Good Shepherd where we filled many boxes full of canned goods for people in our city."
How can you argue with that? With the good effect of the canonization of Teresa, on those who learn to admire and emulate the impulse of charity and care for the poor?
But I also agree with a conclusion of the two "de-bunking" or revisionist articles noted above and cited below -- that we would be far better served by the church if instead of having to see saints as perfect and beyond reproach and somehow closer to God and perfect holiness than the rest of us, the church could somehow manage to hold together both the extreme flawed-ness of any human person and organization, and the reality of wonderfully gracious deeds that still are done, and the wonderfully gracious impact that even deeply flawed and misguided people can have on the world?
Because isn't this where most of us are? And how most of are counted among the saints?
I don't know ... but I know I'm looking forward to Sunday, when all of this will be on the table.
Oh yeah, here's the links to the articles that I avoided for so long: