Mother Theresa: Non- Favorite Daughter

by Jimmy Akin

in Islam

Mother Theresa is most famous for her work in India. If (really, when) she is declared a saint, she will be known as "St. Theresa of Calcutta." But she wasn’t a native of India, she was a native of Albania, which at the time was a Communist country with a majority Muslim population.

Now there’s controversy in Albania over plans to build a statue of Mother Theresa:

SHKODER, Albania (Reuters) – Muslims in Albania’s northern city of Shkoder are opposing plans to erect a statue to Mother Teresa, the ethnic Albanian Catholic nun in line for elevation to sainthood by the Vatican.

The dispute is unusual for Albania, where religion was banned for 27 years under the regime of dictator Enver Hoxha and where religious harmony and mixed marriages are the norm. Seventy percent of the population are liberal Muslims, the rest are Christian Orthodox and Catholic.

But Muslim groups in Shkoder rejected the local council plan for a Teresa statue, saying it “would offend the feelings of Muslims.”

“We do not want this statue to be erected in a public place because we see her as a religious figure,” said Bashkim Bajraktari, Shkoder’s mufti or Muslim religious leader. “If there must be a statue, let it be in a Catholic space.”

CHT to the guys at LGF, who wryly quip:

Maybe it would be easier for everybody if some sheikh somewhere just made a list of things that don’t offend the feelings of Muslims.

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Jamie Beu April 3, 2006 at 10:22 am

Maybe it would be easier for everybody if some sheikh somewhere just made a list of things that don’t offend the feelings of Muslims.
I believe the following list may be helpful:
Things that offend the sensibilities of Muslims
1) Everything Muslims do not do
2) Everything infidels do
Hope this helps. :-)

Jack April 3, 2006 at 11:06 am

Actually Mother T. was never a native of Albania. She was born in the part of Yugslavia that is now Macedonia (majority Orthodox) of ethnic Albanian parents. Macedonia also treats her as a “native daughter” and one of the squares in the capital is named after her.

BillyHW April 3, 2006 at 1:49 pm

Mother Teresa isn’t a saint yet?
I thought she was…

Kosh April 3, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Erm…y’know what…in this case, if muslims want to be all offended, that’s there problem. There is nothing offensive in honoring someone who was not only incredibly holy, but did incredible good works.

BillyHW April 3, 2006 at 2:26 pm

It’s not that these people are offended.
It’s that they’re embarrassed.

Jeb Protestant April 3, 2006 at 5:38 pm

I don’t always trust traditionalist literature, but I’ve seen similar quotes before —
“I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
Certainly a “saint” for our times.

Ray Marshall April 3, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Apparently, Shkodra, the town in which the statue was to be erected is a traditional Catholic Community in Albania. Joseph Bottum of First Things published the following today:
As it turns out, however, the controversy suggests that Schwartz may be right—for the planned protest marches failed to materialize, and all the largest and most prestigious Islamic groups in Albania quickly repudiated the attempt to create interreligious hatred, claiming it was the work of outside Wahhabi agitators. According to an Associated Press report, Selim Muca, the leader of the Albanian Muslim Community, the organization representing all Muslims in Albania, said “We respect the contribution of the distinguished figures of our nation, like that of Mother Teresa, who is the honor of our nation.”

Mary April 3, 2006 at 6:36 pm

BillHW, she has not been declared a saint.
Certainly we may think that she is a saint. That is why people wish her to be declared one. But she has not, in fact, been canonized.

Tim J. April 3, 2006 at 6:41 pm

“Certainly a “saint” for our times.”
Saints aren’t perfect, and they also don’t establish Catholic dogma simply by virtue of being saints.
All have sinned and come short, after all.
I would like to see what she said in context, but even if that was her view it does not preclude her being a saint.

Neal April 3, 2006 at 7:08 pm

She has been beatified, so she is currently Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, but she hasn’t yet been canonized.

John April 3, 2006 at 8:39 pm

“But she wasn’t a native of India, she was a native of Albania, which at the time was a Communist country with a majority Muslim population.” [James Akin]
One of the two errors contained in the above has already been mentioned, and I’ll expand on that correction in a moment. But first, here is the second correction:
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was born in 1910, years before even Russia “was a Communist country.”
As Wikipedia correctly states:
“Teresa was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in the city of Skopje, [in north-central] Macedonia.”
Until 1878, Skopje was in Kosova, which was the northeasternmost of the four vilayets (provinces) that composed Albania at that time. Albania was then (and until 1912) a region of the Ottoman Empire — which helps to explain why the modern Republic of Albania still has a Moslem majority.
In 1878, Albania shrank considerably, with its Kosova province being split between two other Ottoman regions: Serbia and Macedonia. So, 32 years later, Bl. Teresa was born in Skopje, Macedonia, where “her father (of ethnic Albanian origin) was a successful merchant.”

Francis DS April 3, 2006 at 11:50 pm

“St. Theresa of Calcutta.”
Mother Teresa might not like the trendy extra ‘H’ in her name.

Jeb Protestant April 4, 2006 at 5:16 am

Here is an interview with Mother T in which says she loves Hinduism and uses her notorious “be the best that you can be line” —
I read a biography of Mother T by a follower in which she said Mother T encouraged her sisters to attend a Hindu ashram.
A Christian’s heart should break when he thinks of the countless millions enslaved to the worship of the father of lies in Hinduism.

Tim J. April 4, 2006 at 5:44 am

I agree, Jeb.
I have wondered if what MT hoped was that, by engaging people of other faiths in this way, she would encourage them to begin seeking out and responding to the most Christian aspects of their own faith, thereby preparing them for – and leading them closer to – conversion.
It seems her ministry was to demonstrate Christian love to those of other faiths by caring for the poor, sick and dying. This could, and did, result in conversions. People were moved by her compassion.
As St Francis said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words”.

Tim J. April 4, 2006 at 5:48 am

Also, given her circumstances, open proselytizing might have made MT’s ministry impossible. I am aquainted with a few people (protestants) who have worked as missionaries in some notoriously closed societies, and they did much the same.
People knew they were there to help them, and knew they were Westerners, and probably Christian. These “missionaries” did not hide their faith, but didn’t advertise it either, or openly proselytize. This would have made them unwelcome in the host country, and would have also put them in danger of arrest.
They were content to arouse the curiosity of those who were open to conversion, and to be available to answer questions. I admit, I don’t know how effective this is, but it isn’t a uniquely Catholic way of modern evangelization.

Sean S. April 4, 2006 at 6:32 am

When someone obviously much wiser and holier than I am says or does something I don’t understand–say, JP II or Mother Teresa–I prefer to assume that my understanding, not theirs, is what’s at fault. Mother Teresa probably knew more about holiness than I ever will.

Jeb Protestant April 4, 2006 at 1:19 pm

‘As St Francis said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words”.’
I see this quote a lot, but I’m not sure if Francis said it. In any event, according to the Bible the normal way people come to faith is through hearing the word of God and Christians are never instructed to omit preaching the Gospel.
“Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the word of God.” “Always be ready to give an answer . . .” In Act 3 people saw the power of God, but the Apostles preached as well. Peter made the statement that “there is no other name by which we may be saved.”

Inocencio April 4, 2006 at 1:36 pm

For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without a preacher?
And how can men preach unless they are sent?
Rom 10:13-15

mt April 4, 2006 at 3:27 pm

How I love saint-bashing! Especially since all of us did and do so much more for Christ!
Sorry, but I hate this. Mother Teresa has been ripped to shreds by the vicious British press, which claimed she had a “monstrous ego” and was a “publicity hound” out for her own “self-aggrnadizement.” I don’t see any reason whatsoever for Christians to bash her. A woman I know worked with her in India several times and finally became a Sister of Charity herself. Mother Teresa has brought many, many people to Christ.
In addition, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if we ever are so fortunate as to see her in the afterlife, she will impress us as a majestic mountain, while the vast majority of us will be teeny anthills (no flames – yes, I know that Teresa of Lisieux said that even Christ’s tiniest flower is just as loved by God as His most beautiful).
I would rather thank our heavenly Father for the incredible witness Mother Teresa was to His love. She saw His face everywhere, and she did everything in her power to answer His cry, “I thirst.”
She was indeed a saint.I think the saint-bashing should be left to the Brits.
PS I can predict the next batch of posts: “It isn’t bashing her! Can’t we merely DISCUSS whether she was a good Christian?” blah blah blah ad infinitum. ANd so it goes. The blazing glory of sainthood is beaten down by the wet blanket of naysayers. Yawn.

Jeb Protestant April 4, 2006 at 4:00 pm

What does what you say have to do with Mother T’s Catholic faith, or lack thereof?
I don’t profess to be an expert on the life and theology of Mother T, but why is question about this woman’s doctrine out of bounds?

Ryan C April 4, 2006 at 6:08 pm

I think Mother Teresa’s comments in the interview and the Catechism blend nicely. For example, when Mother Teresa says she loves all religions, I suspect she loves the fact that, as the Catechism states, there are “in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved.”
And when she says that they should find Jesus if they want peace and joy, and that if they become more virtuous in their own religions something will stir within them I think she’s paraphrasing the Catechism’s words that: “Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preperation for the Gosepl and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.” (844) Which is what I think Tim J was saying.
I also think Mother Teresa would also agree with the next paragraph of the Catechism, which describes the error that has affected those without the light of the Church.
I’m reminded of Chesterton’s quote that “All roads lead to Rome, which is why some people never get there.” In evangelizing we need to recall that there is some truth and a searching in other religions, “among shadows and images.” It’s a fine line to walk and I admire her for doing so in an interview – as well as for mentioning Our Lord so many times and stating the obvious about the West and abortion!

Anonymous April 4, 2006 at 6:15 pm

mt, you make a fine fortune teller. Your prediction came true.

Jeb Protestant April 5, 2006 at 3:55 am

I don’t think the Catechism says Christians should “love” non-Christian religions. Am I supposed to love the rat-God religion sect within Hinduism where people believe in an honor to live in a temple with rats and eat from the same bowls they do?
Nor does the Catechism tell people to take part in non-Christian events, so I think MT’s sending her sisters to a Hindu Ashram might be out of bounds.

Ryan C April 5, 2006 at 6:12 am

I wasn’t trying to suggest that that’s what the Catechism said, I was trying to understand what Mother Theresa was saying – and I think if there is truth in other religions, and if that truth can prepare people for the Gospel, and if that’s what Mother Theresa was addressing (which the rest of her comments and the context seems to to indicate she was), then there’s not really an issue in her comments. But that’s just me.
I don’t know about the temple thing, but here’s what Nostra Aetate said about relating to non-Christian religions:
“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)
The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”
That’s really all I see MT doing.
I also think it’s prudent to give a holy person like MT the benefit of the doubt, especially when looking at such a brief interview. The holy work she did throughout her life and her witness to the world speaks more about her Catholic faith and her orthodoxy than quotes without their context.
As for sending her sisters to a Hindu ashram, I wasn’t responding to that as I don’t know what the original source says. I’d like to see that story in its original context too, though you’re right that it might have been out of bounds. But there also might be an explanation.

Jeb Protestant April 5, 2006 at 4:19 pm

I’m familiar with the quotes from Vatican II and also the section concerning Hinduism.
Based on my reading on Hinduism and my discussions with missionaries to India, I find the RC view of Hinduism and non-Christian religions way too optimistic.

steve September 3, 2007 at 8:49 am

If Mother Theresa said she loved all religions. That would be be like saying she loved all error because all religions bedsides catholic are error in one way or another. I can’t image the present pople or jimmy saying they loved all reogions is such a clear statement of heresy modernism on top the today list especially good thing I came to this site and found that now I know the truth about her

bill912 September 3, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Of course. You didn’t come here with that atttitude.

bill912 September 3, 2007 at 12:05 pm

You read something out-of-context (and possibly unconfirmed) that reinforced your prejudices. Congratulations.

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