The woman we meet in this book is a vibrant, worshipful, faithful and, at times, doubtful person who, by the grace of God and herculean amounts of prayer and struggle, found the peace of Christ.
Mother Teresa — beatified by St. John Paul II in 2003 — could command the world’s stage and have presidents and kings defer to her presence, yet, as the book notes quite movingly, upon her death, her worldly possessions consisted of a prayer book, a pair of sandals and a couple of her order’s traditional blue-and-white saris.
No saint of the Catholic Church has been so recognizable to the world in his or her lifetime as Mother Teresa, Scott points out, a fact attributable to the near constant barrage of global media attention she received. But the book goes far beyond photo-op depth and deeply explores how her love of Christ was the first and last driver of all of her actions. Even in the spiritual darkness she experienced for much of her life as a missionary, it was the love of God that kept her going and kept her light shining for the rest of the world.
Like so many saints before her, Mother Teresa had her own “Road to Damascus” moment, described in the book as taking place on Sept. 10, 1946, on the Calcutta-to-Darjeeling train. She heard a voice that spoke straight to her heart: The Lord asked her to leave her nice convent teaching children of the elite in order to be a missionary nun tending to the lost and forgotten in the filth and squalor of Calcutta’s slums.
Undeterred by doubters and imbued with fervor to follow the direction she believed had come from Jesus, Mother Teresa gathered a few co-workers to labor beside her; by 1950, the Church officially recognized the Missionaries of Charity order.
Much of Mother Teresa’s fame and special attention would follow, including being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the topic of international press, both good and bad, with some detractors convinced she was too good to be true.
But whether she was admonishing the leaders of the free world about the sanctity of life or tending to the wounds of a dying man found in the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa was a self-identified instrument of God’s love. She never cured a single body, but every physical body that expired in her presence was attached to a soul who, through Mother Teresa’s simple acts of kindness, was loved.
Fittingly, it is the last short chapter that has the most impact. Because some of Mother Teresa’s most intimate musings on her cross of doubt survived her, we “saints in the making” get a powerful gift. The book gives readers a brief window into how this remarkable woman took up her cross and accepted it, turning the pain of darkness and doubt into grace.
As Scott characterizes it, “From her letters, we can see that she understood her darkness as an ordeal, a divine trial. In the dark night, her vow of self-offering was being put to the test.”
It’s a poignant illustration that makes Mother Teresa someone we can all relate to. More importantly, by including the dark with the light in a real saint’s life, the author demonstrates that the journey to sainthood comes through a network of crossroads, triumphs and defeats that, through faith, prayer and action, will inevitably lead the seeker home.
Early in the book, Scott captures the essence of the saint in a touching way: “Mother Teresa had about her what an older generation of Catholic writers termed the odor of sanctity — something like the sweet smell of spiritual success.”
writes from Los Angeles.
THE LOVE THAT MADE MOTHER TERESA
By David Scott
Sophia Institute Press, 2014
144 pages, $14.95
To order: sophiainstitute.com
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