Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On Her Way to Sainthood?

I’ve just finished Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light and feel as ambivalent to the book as I do to Mother Teresa herself. Based on everything I’d heard about the book—one reviewer even compared Come Be My Light to Merton’s Seven-Storey Mountain and Augustine’s Confessions-- I’d expected a collection of letters and diary entries of Mother Teresa showing her struggles starting the Missionaries of Charity and wresting with the dark nights of the soul the reviews said she endured. I’d hoped it would give me a different view of this woman so many consider a saint. Instead what I found in the book were short excerpts from her letters and journals surrounded by running commentary from the priest who is making the case for Mother Teresa’s canonization, all of which takes the tone of “even in her struggles with faith she was a saint.”

Although I wanted to put the book down over and over, I read it through to the end, hoping that somewhere along the way that I’d begin to feel some sympathy for this woman.
Instead what I found was a woman with a huge ego—even the quotation at the beginning of the book (a quotation much overused throughout the book) makes that clear when Mother Teresa writes “if I ever become a saint…” No matter how faithful we struggle to be, how many of us think so well of ourselves that we’d imagine becoming a saint? Throughout the book, it feels like Mother Teresa is posturing all the time, talking about how unworthy she is while really not believing it herself. Her concern seems to be, not that she has felt no faith or relationship with God for many years of her life, but that others might get a hold of her writing or learn of this lack on her part, becoming disillusioned with her. I’m not a big Christopher Hitchens fan at all, but an objective reading of Mother Teresa’s writing (if you ignore Kolodiejchuk’s attempt to couch all of the texts in “the lives of a faithful saint”) is found in Hitchens’ summary that Mother Teresa was “a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud”.

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