Loyola faculty reflect on Mother Teresa’s life on eve of her canonization
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known as “Angel of the Slums” for devoting her life to serving the poorest communities in the world, will be canonized in Rome on Sept. 4, 2016. Loyola University Maryland theology and history faculty offered their thoughts on why she was such a transcendent figure, and what it means for her to be a saint.
"Mother Teresa embodied the Church’s preferential option for the poor, this idea that the Church is first and foremost for the poor, the outcast, the needy. In some ways she stood out because she was in such a profoundly non-Christian context; in Latin America, in Africa, there’s a much stronger Church presence. To do her work in India where there really is such a minimal Christian presence made it stand out more, and likely made the work more challenging and her efforts more significant."
- Stephen Fowl, Ph.D., professor and chair of theology
"We admire Mother Teresa for her openness to God’s ways in her life. Born in Albania, she opted to be a Loreto missionary in India. She learnt English to go there and soon discovered in prayer and personal contact while in Bengal that her mission would mean leaving her congregation and launching out on her own. Caring for the very poor, the neglected, and the abandoned was not attractive or popular as a ministry, but she embraced it seeing herself embracing the Savior in each one in need that she met. Her life is a great lesson for Indians to rise above narrow social and religious divisions and work for the upliftment of the poor and those on the fringes of society."
- Rev. Charles Borges, S.J., associate professor of history
"What strikes me the most about Mother Teresa is the journals of her spiritual experiences, which were published after her death. I was so impressed that a woman who is seen as an exemplar of moral virtue and character, and seen as someone who is very close to God, actually had significant struggles in her own spiritual life in terms of her own ability to feel God’s closeness and feel God’s nearness. That makes me even more impressed with the kind of life that she led. I think she is a wonderful model for people who don’t have the experience of God’s closeness or nearness. It’s very common for people, even people who have strong spiritual lives, to go through periods of darkness or doubts. For someone as amazing and beautiful as Mother Teresa to have her own long periods of dryness and darkness in her spiritual life—I find that one of the most wonderful and endearing things about her."
- Rebekah Eklund, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology
"Mother Teresa makes Christianity very simple and very difficult. She makes it simple because she says, 'do what Jesus said to do.' She makes it difficult because she says, 'do what Jesus said to do.'"
- Fritz Bauerschmidt, Ph.D., professor of theology
"One of the things that is most significant about Mother Teresa, especially for our day, is that we tend to think of the great mystics or the great contemplatives as people who are separated from the world, people who have shut themselves away in a monastery or convent. With Mother Teresa we see one of the great mystics of the 20th century, but she’s also of course completely committed to the poor. She’s a mystic on the streets, bringing people to hospice, treating them, caring for them. And this, of course, is the classic model. This is what we see Saint Catherine of Siena doing, this is what we see Saint Catherine of Genoa doing. But today we have this strange idea that these two things—a deep life of prayer in the presence of God and social justice—are somehow opposed, but in the tradition they are not, and in Mother Teresa they are not."
- Trent Pomplun, Ph.D., associate professor of theology
"What strikes me about Mother Teresa is her profound witness to the Gospel of love and the reign of God through her practice of the works of mercy. Also that she continued to witness in that manner amidst her experience of God receding from her, that there are many times that she did not experience God, experienced God as absent, and continued to move forward in obedience to God in the midst of that."
- Dan Castillo, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology
"Mother Teresa shows the cross-cultural impact of the Gospel. She was able to go into Calcutta from her very different cultural background and language and show this genuine human concern across all of those boundaries. She embodies the modern Church under Vatican II in many ways, and she’s a very symbolic saint for that reason."
- Josh Brown, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of theology