Mother Teresa and the Cult of Suffering
Mother Teresa has been canonized today.
The new saint’s record is more complicated than either her critics or her fans like to acknowledge, but this balanced piece by Mari Marcel Thekaekara in the Guardian is worth a look.
Towards the end, Thekaekara, a formerly fierce critic of Mother Teresa, concedes this – and understandably so:
I cannot in conscience criticise a woman who picked people off filthy pavements to allow them to die in dignity.
But it does appear that Mother Teresa was one of those Christians who subscribe to the morbid idea that suffering is some sort of blessing (I’ve posted about this phenomenon here, here, here and here).
Mother Teresa didn’t deserve Christopher Hitchen’s unadulterated, poisonous vitriol. But her vintage, “There’s something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion,” left me fuming too. How dare she trivialise poverty? But she could. She did. And the world lapped it up. She once comforted a sufferer, with the line: “You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you.” The infuriated man screamed, “Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me.”