So, we’re doing a lenten project on campus called “Brief Relief” which is an underwear drive for the homeless. Val, a junior, was the person who inspired the idea based on her experience from last year’s alternative spring break where we did something similar. She noticed that it was really indignant for the homeless to not have underwear. Much like Mother Teresa, Val longed to give these people back a bit of dignity.
Fr. James Martin, SJ has a great article on Huffington Post today on how Mother Teresa isn’t any more holy than say, the average housewife.
Since at least the Second Vatican Council, which convened in the 1960s and stressed the “universal call to holiness,” Catholics have been reminded that everyone has a vocation. Everyone’s call is to be holy — no matter who you are.
To be blunt, that means that the work of a Catholic sister is no holier than the work of your sister — who might be a mother, a lawyer or a physician. (Or all three.) That doesn’t mean that your sister is necessarily a saint, but that she could certainly become one!
That’s not to detract from the manifest holiness of Mother Teresa, who I consider to be one of the greatest saints ever. (She vaults into that category because of her unshakeable fidelity to her call even in the midst of her “dark night” of prayer, when God felt absent to her for years and years.) Rather, it’s to remind people that the young mother who wakes up in the wee hours of the night to care for her child is every bit as saintly as the Catholic nun who spends hours and hours teaching children in an inner-city school.
Indeed. There is an inherent misconception that our lives themselves cannot be deemed holy. But the truth of the matter as Merton points out that “All that is needed to become a saint is to simply want to be one.” We don’t live lives of quiet desperation, I think, rather we live lives that we view as quiet degradation.
“I’m no Mother Teresa”
“Well, I’m certainly no saint.”
“The church will fall down if the likes of me should be a lector.”
“I can’t believe that I’m holy enough to be a eucharistic minister.”
These are all uttered by GOOD and HOLY people who live their own lives as students, fathers, mothers, librarians, firefighters and sports announcers. They can’t see that these vocations in and of themselves are holy.
God calls us to simply be who we are. And the act of being who we are is holy. And when we sin, we get off track from what is the best expression of who we are but it doesn’t mean that we’ve suddenly stopped being able to be holy people. Fr. Jim gets this fact directly.
I’ll bet that Mother Teresa would agree. Better than most, she understood the universal call to holiness. When visitors used to visit her in Calcutta, and offer to work with her, and follow her example, she would happily accept some. But to most, she would say, simply, “Find your own Calcutta.”
Today we pray to find our Calcuttas–the places we are called to express all that we are and all we can be. For many of us, our Calcutta may be helping with homework when a child is stuck on a math problem, or holding the hand of a fearful spouse when she gets diagnosed with cancer, or mental illness, or even shingles. It may be helping a co-worker or even treating them with respect when others don’t.
You don’t need to be Mother Teresa. The world already had one.
You simply need to be you.
America’s Fr. James Martin and David Gibson at politics daily have two excellent posts today on the argument over whether or not Mother (now Blessed for you, ecclesiastical types) Teresa belongs on a U.S. Postage stamp.
The argument is seems stems from the law stating that “Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.”
Fair enough, I suppose. I certainly wouldn’t want to see Pat Robertson or even Joel Osteen on a stamp any time soon.
Fr. Martin points out that both Dr. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister and Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town were both issued a stamp. Officials say they were not known primarily as “religious leaders.” I’d argue that the deep faith of both men is what drove them to effect secular culture in both of their walks of life. To say otherwise, is indeed to denigrate their religious experience.
Gibson also points out that Mary is on a stamp every Christmas. But I guess she’s not religious either. You could even argue that Santa is really a saint who was a Bishop who provided dowries for the poor of his day.
How many letters do you send a year anyway? And if she doesn’t get on the stamp what’s stopping me from creating my own Mother Teresa stamp on Stamps.com anyway?
Here’s one place where India used their common sense and honored a woman well deserving of a postage stamp–and a whole lot more.