Recently I got the book titled ‘Mother Teresa: Come be my light, The private writings of the Saint of Calcutta’. This book contains several letters which she sent and received. There was a furore at the comment of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in which he said that the main motive behind Teresa’s charity was religious conversion. Masses seemed to support Teresa blindly partly too because Bhagwat is popularly termed as a fundamentalist Hindu. All they had to say was that she was too pure for such a motive. This book presented her own words regarding her motive. Her words are stated on page 43 which read:
“The Particular End is to carry Christ into the homes and streets of the slums, among the sick, dying, the beggars and the little street children. The sick will be nursed as far as possible in their poor homes. The little children will have a school in the slums. The beggars will be sought and visited in their holes outside the town or on the streets.”
Carrying Christ into homes and streets of slums doesn’t seem so light when viewed from the angle of a Christian nun. It directly points to telling people about Christ and motivating them to embrace the religion. Further on page 98, in her letter to Father Van Exem, she has told what Jesus told her. The words of Jesus are:
“My little one-come-come-carry me into the holes of the poor.- Come be My light-I cannot go alone- they don’t know Me-so they don’t want Me. You come-go amongst them(poor), carry Me with you into them.-…In your immolation-in your love for Me-they will see Me, know Me, want Me”
It is clear by the words of Jesus that ‘carrying Christ into homes and streets of slums’ was aimed at Jesus being made known to the poor which would end in them wanting Jesus, hence them embracing Christianity.
Many people will say, so what if she preached Christianity, she helped the poor, the diseased. Here I’d like your attention to fall on the words of Teresa mentioned on page 92. She said to Father Van Exem, “The poor are bitter and suffering because they have not got the happiness that poverty should bring if borne for Christ.” So the problem isn’t poverty, the problem is the absence of Christ with the poor.
On page 116, she tells Cardinal Perfect of the Sacred Congregation of Religious Rome, “There are millions who live in Indian cities and villages in ignorance of God and of Christ, in abominable sinfulness. We shall bring them to Christ and Christ to them.” I don’t think now that there should be any doubt regarding the meaning of ‘carrying Christ’.
One incident calls for your attention which she mentions in her letter to Archbishop Knox on page 254. She says, “The old man asked for a cigarette and how beautiful of God- in my bag there were two packets of [the] best cigarettes. A rich man gave them to me that morning in the street. God thought of this old man’s longing.” So she thought that it was holy and healthy to give cigarettes to the man. We all know how bad smoking is for the lungs and hence for the whole body. I don’t think anyone would appreciate Teresa for this incident also because she didn’t even care about what she was receiving as donations, at least in this case.
On page 309 she tells Father van der Peet, “The work for “Aids” [AIDS] keeps growing fruitfully. No one has died without Jesus. There is so much suffering among our Poor all round the world.- We are now in 77 countries over 350 houses. Can you imagine- poor people entering Heaven from all sides-… in New York- already over 50 have died a beautiful death… Jesus must be very happy to have those thousands coming to Him, with love from Calcutta.” So the major contribution of Teresa seems that she sent many a poor to heaven, and Jesus would love it (Jesus’ thirst for souls is mentioned numerous times in the book).
Reading the book you’d come across letters in which Teresa repeatedly mentions her losing faith in God. On page 257, her words in her letter read: “I love them [Sisters & Poor] as I love Jesus- & now as I do not love Jesus- I do not love them either. I know this is only feelings- for my will is steadfast bound to Jesus & so to the Sisters & the Poor.” On page 250, she tells Father Neuner, “If there is hell- this must be one. How terrible it is to be without God- no prayer- no faith- no love.”
On page 282, to an M.C. Sister, she says, “Suffering, pain- failure – is but a kiss of Jesus.” What would be the implication of this line? It would mean that all the suffering and pain and failure is bringing you closer to Jesus and hence do not improve upon your position or you will lose Jesus.
There’s a need to look beyond popular images. If you have to appreciate or blame a person, do it with facts in hand. Stereotypes serve no real purpose when it comes to finding truth.
The book is a must read for both the followers of Mother Teresa and the sceptics.
© Satyan Sharma 2015