In honor of Mother’s Day, my intention was to write about how we can become more compassionate like Mother Teresa, but the more I read about her the more concerned I became with using her as such a role model.
Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity received millions of dollars in donations? Where did the money go?
Well for one, no one is quite sure because as a global religious charity it was exempt from disclosing much of that information.
We know Mother Teresa wasn’t spending it on a shopping spree…
She preferred to travel in a private jet, but her travel costs were often paid for by the rich people she visited.
We also know she wasn’t spending the bulk of the money on the poor because the conditions at her “Houses for the Dying” didn’t improve overtime even as more money poured into her coffers (nuns tell stories of spending hours opening envelops filled to the brim with cash and checks).
Her nuns didn’t sterilize needles, provide painkillers, or distinguish between curable and non-curable patients, which means people died who could have otherwise survived if given appropriate treatment.
So where did the money go? Her proponents and detractors seem to agree that she put it in the Vatican Bank.
She saved it instead of spend it on improving living conditions for the poor.
In her mind this was the right thing to do because according to her Catholic faith there is only way to get into heaven: repent your sins and place your faith in Jesus Christ. Doing good works doesn’t improve your grade on the entrance exam!
The Vatican Bank is the ultimate tax-free heaven and so the church would be better equipped at using the money to convert more people to the faith, conversions over conditions.
The goal was to get as many people in the door as possible, i.e. the church door and then heaven’s door.
Improving conditions in her homes wasn’t of great importance because the home was merely meant as a pitstop on the way to the ultimate destination.
“Tell them we are not here for work, we are here for Jesus. We are religious above all else. We are not social workers, not teachers, not doctors. We are nuns.” — Mother Teresa
If you held Mother Teresa’s belief system then Mother Teresa Compassion means preventing eternal suffering over alleviating temporary pain, saving souls over saving lives.
“Something very beautiful… not one has died without receiving the special ticket for St. Peter, as we call it. We call baptism ticket for St. Peter. We ask the person, do you want a blessing by which your sins will be forgiven and you receive God? They have never refused. So 29,000 have died in that one house [in Kalighat] from the time we began in 1952.” — Mother Teresa
If it wasn’t for her 29,000 deathbed baptisms then those souls wouldn’t have made it to heaven, but if you don’t believe in heaven, or that the path to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, then Mother Teresa’s compassion could seem cruel.
For example, when a young woman complained of her pain, Mother Teresa said… “You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you!”
To Christians this maybe a comforting thought, but to non-christians this could be the intro to Saw 7.
Imagine if you were on the verge of death and you heard a whisper that there was an inexpensive drug that could save your life, but Mother Teresa decided not to buy it because although your goal is to live, her goal is for you to die with Christ on your lips.
Mother Teresa joked how the woman then responded, “Tell Jesus to stop kissing me so much!”
“What excites me most is to see people die with a smile on their face.” — Mother Teresa
Regardless of your religious faith one thing we can admire about Mother Teresa is that she walked the talk.
If you believe the way to heaven is through accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior then your SOLE purpose in life should be to convert people before they die so that they don’t spend all of eternity in hell! For believers to focus on anything else, in my humble opinion, would be trivial and cruel.
It’s important to walk the talk because the truth will reveal itself to you in the way an untested hypothesis cannot. We all walk around with untested hypothesis we call “beliefs” simply because they “sound true”.
The truth revealed itself to Mother Teresa, but she refused to publicly acknowledge it.
After she died her private letters were published and a very clear image arises — Mother Teresa was unhappy.
“Where is my faith? Even deep down . . . there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. . . . If there be God — please forgive me. Such deep longing for God . . . Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal.” — Mother Teresa
The more saintly she acted the less spiritual she felt…
“The more I want him — the less I am wanted.” — Mother Teresa
There were moments in her life where she felt like Jesus talked to her, but up until the very end her heart was shrouded in darkness.
Five years after she received the Nobel Peace Prize, a Jesuit priest in the Calcutta province noted, “Mother came to speak about the excruciating night in her soul. It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years.”
Just 2 years before her death she wrote about her “spiritual dryness.”
Her crises is similar to those who chase wealth to be happy only to become wealthy and find they’re still unhappy.
A rationale person would then change course, but one of the problems of religion is that it sometimes prides itself on irrationality.
A priest wrote back to Mother Teresa, “God guides you, dear Mother. You are not so much in the dark as you think … You have exterior facts enough to see that God blesses your work … Feelings are not required and often may be misleading.”
Personally, I believe humans are good at heart, but that perverse ideologies can convince us to act against our nature.
In her defense, I don’t think we should drown Mother Teresa in holy water because she took people off the streets and helped them die with some dignity and love.
My main problem therefore isn’t with Mother Teresa, but with a society that was so dysfunctional that going to a place that offered dirty needles sounded like an alluring proposition for many people.
Ultimately, I believe our modern ideological goal shouldn’t be to die so that we can go to heaven, but to live so that we can build it.
Thanks for reading! Anthony Galli writes about the greats so that we may become great. Watch his series @ The Great Life.
How to Have Mother Teresa Compassion (It’s not what you think) was originally published in Personal Growth on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.