Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Mother Teresa's canonization: praying to saints

In the news: Mother Teresa's upcoming canonization ... Pilgrims trek to Rome for Mother Teresa's canonization.

Cynical and skeptical me doesn't think she's saint material: Mother Teresa may deserve to be made a saint. But why now? ...

[...] The most formidable of her critics was another British journalist, Christopher Hitchens, who in 1994 made a film called Hell’s Angel. It claimed that Mother Teresa treated the symptoms of poverty while ignoring the causes. She took money from distasteful political figures and rich fraudsters, and didn’t publish any accounts. Her Catholic opposition to abortion and contraception made her a religious fundamentalist. Her Kolkata home for the dying had poor medical standards. It all constituted, Hitchens railed, a “cult of death and suffering”.

Should all that disqualify her from being a saint? Hitchens’s critique is polemical – his 1995 book on her is framed with attacks on religion in general – but it airs concerns raised by an Indian doctor, Aroup Chatterjee. It has interviews with volunteers from the Kolkata Home for the Dying Destitutes, who spoke of needles reused without sterilising them, too few drips, and little pain control beyond aspirin. The Lancet visited in 1994, and said the home failed to distinguish between dying patients and those who could be cured.

All this stemmed, critics said, from Mother Teresa’s archaic religious attitude to suffering, which she saw as “beautiful” because it enabled poor people to “share in the passion of Christ” – though that did not prevent her from being treated in expensive medical facilities when she herself was ill.

It was not a view all the dying shared. When she told one man “you are suffering like Christ on the cross, so Jesus must be kissing you,” he replied: “Then please tell him to stop kissing me.” Mother Teresa was unrepentant, insisting that a home for the dying was not a hospital. “We are not nurses, we are not doctors, we are not teachers, we are not social workers,” she said: “We are religious ...

I had noticed when she went to La Jolla's exclusive Scripps Research Institute, as I had once applied for a job there ... Mother Teresa Seriously Ill at Scripps Clinic.

But anyway, she's passed the litmus test - coming up with two miracles to prove her saint-worthy. In the modern era, the miracles named to canonize always seem to be medical, as opposed to miracles having to do with controlling nature or raising the dead: How The Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa's 2 Miracles ... [A] woman in India whose stomach tumor disappeared and a man in Brazil with brain abscesses who awoke from a coma both credited their dramatic recovery to prayers offered to the nun after her death in 1997.

That's one thing I've never understood since becoming a Catholic - why do people pray to saints (or blesseds) instead of praying directly to Jesus/God? I find it just disturbing to believe God could be more influenced by the nagging of celebrity dead people than by the average person's direct prayers. Here conservative Robert Barron goes to pretzel-ish lengths to make this idea sound coherent ... we're not praying "to" the saints, we're praying "through" them .... God is all about delegating responsibility. I'm unconvinced ....

More: The trouble with Mother Teresa


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