The poignant revelations that Mother Teresa spent years in spiritual aridity, questioning God’s love and God’s existence, have been greeted with a spectrum of responses. For some, the news seems to have shaken their faith, while some who are not just irreligious but anti-religious seem almost gleeful to know that one of the most famous “God Squad” members was at best a phony, at worst a hypocrite.
I never paid much attention to Mother Teresa while she was alive except to note that whatever her beliefs, the starving, wretched people she served needed all the help they could get; soup is soup whether it comes from believers in God or believers in Sherlock Holmes.
Strangely enough, though, these revelations actually make me feel a bit closer to her.It’s hard to feel much in common with a saint-in-waiting. Her whole existence was devoted to nurturing others, while I feel pretty magnanimous taking a bag of old t-shirts to the Salvation Army. To know that she struggled with doubt and questioned life’s purpose makes her seem more like one of us, I suppose.
If you’d like to read a great essay about another “saintly” leader, and the difficulties we ordinary mortals can have in understanding them, check George Orwell’s classic “Reflections on Gandhi.” You’ll find it here.