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Mother Teresa and the Path of SaintHood

Updated on March 4, 2020
AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

Ashutosh enjoys writing on a variety of subjects including politics, current affairs, social and religious issues.

Saint Teresa

4th Sep'16, the 19th death anniversary of Mother Teresa and much awaited big day as thousands of pilgrims, believers and the faithful gathered at St Peter's Square in the Vatican to witness the birth of a 'saint'. Pope Francis himself presided the canonisation mass. Francis said "after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (now Kolkata) to be a saint, and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole church."

Who is a Saint?

A saint is not someone equivalent to god, instead, a believer who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. When the Church declares that a person is a saint, it means that this person is with God, that she or he has the power to intercede with God on behalf to perform 'miracles'.

Formally declared saints are chosen by the pope, but only after a thorough investigation of the life, writings, and legacy of the saint candidate.

Saint worship or adoration among the Catholics is often debated, as a prayer to anyone other than god is considered anti-biblical. However, for the Catholics, the saint worship or more specifically prayer to a saint is considered as a request to intercede - quite similar to a friend or family member praying on behalf of their loved ones. This again is a line of thought that is challenged for not having any biblical basis.

What is Beatification and Canonisation all about?

Both beatification and canonisation are acts of the Roman Catholic Church declaring that a deceased person led a holy life. People still living can then request the blessed (if beatified) or saint (if canonized) to intercede with God on their behalf.

Beatification is an administrative act whereby a nominee is authorized to have a 'cultus' or a specific group of people who identify with, and request favors from, the beatified. The nominee can be a martyr killed in the service of Christ or a confessor. A confessor’s life and writings must be inspected for heroic virtue (bravery and distinction marked by godly motives and not human desire), sanctity, and adherence to Roman Catholic doctrine. The deceased confessor must also have had part in a verifiable miracle. Five years or more (earlier 50 years), post the death of the person can the beatification commence. A beatified person is labeled 'blessed'. Another verifiable miracle proving the intercession by the beatified is then needed to confer sainthood.

Canonisation is a decree announcing a person has qualified for sanctification. The decree publicly declares the nominee is holy and in heaven with God. The name of the person is then included in the canon, or list, of recognised saints.

All Paths Lead to God

Mother Teresa to the millions of followers in India and abroad has been a humble and revered personality. An Albanian by birth and a Catholic nun; she set course for India upon realising her inner calling to serve humanity and then there was no looking back. Mother Teresa set up Missionaries of Charity in the slums of Kolkata in 1950. When she passed away in September 1997 in Kolkata, her mission already had achieved a global outreach. Around 4,000 sisters worked under her at 610 foundations in as many as 123 countries. Her order Missionaries of Charity attended to the needy under probably some the most extreme conditions both in India and around the world. That's perhaps what fetched her the title 'saint of gutters'. She has also been referred to as the 'apostle of the poor'. A saint not for her beliefs but primarily for her selfless act, for her care and concern for the poor and the destitute and that has been her legacy.

For her dedication towards the noble cause, she was even felicitated with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She also became the recipient of India's highest civilian honor - Bharat Ratna and numerous other recognition.

Thou Shall Not Sin

Alongside all the love, respect, admiration and praise, there have been plenty of detractors too. On her part Mother Teresa's silence to many of her critics during her lifetime has remained the bone of contention. Whether it's her questionable associations with tainted leaders and businesses or her work and practices at the Missionaries of Charity. The critique however goes beyond, with her being accused of carrying ulterior motives behind her selfless act. Some accuse her of proselytising or converting the destitute Hindus of India to Christianity.

Her orthodox beliefs and regressive outlook has often been discussed and debated. Be it her opposing stance towards divorce and remarriage among women or the fight against contraception and abortions. Her receiving top notch medical care whether in India, US or Switzerland also appears as a stark contrast to what she usually advocated making her the false prophet.

Over the years the living conditions and the quality of care at her hospices have remained substandard and poor. However, the charity money that her mission recieved grew in leaps and bounds. In terms of financial transparency, no disclosures or a white paper on the donations and expenses has been made available. Hence it's alleged that large chunk of that money went directly to the Vatican bank. Mother Teresa's association with tainted money has often raised the credibility question. In the 90's when the Charles Keating savings and loan fraud shocked the US, it was revealed that Keating gave her USD 1.25 Million of that stolen cash.

Some of her staunch critics include author and columnist, Christopher Hitchens, Irish investigative journalist Donal Macintyre and even some of the nuns of her own order like Colette Livermore. Hitchens regarded Mother Teresa as a proselytiser for Roman Catholicism rather than saint or a charity worker. He expresses similar thoughts in his book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Dr. Aroup Chatterjee, the author of Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, has remained quite vocal about the condition of medical care at the hospices operated by Missionaries of Charity in India. Specifically the reuse and lack of sterilization of medical kits.

In July 2018 her mission was at the centre of a baby-selling scandal when a nun of Nirmal Hriday, a shelter home run by Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand state of India, confessed to selling three children for money. The incident has since reaffirmed the doubts on the some of the previous allegations.

The Road to Miracles

The so-called miracles and the whole concept of journey to sainthood is yet another area of disconnect among the critics.

Here's a little insight into how this all started, post the demise of Mother Teresa. A brief account of the two miracles associated with Mother Teresa. In the year 1998, there was news that Monica Besra, a farmer's wife in a village Nakur in West Bengal, India was miraculously cured of her cancer (a tumour). It was said that she had a tumour in her stomach for last 20 years and had lost hope in the doctors and the medication she had been administered. That's when her sister took her to Missionaries of Charities near her village. She describes, “I was too ill to move, but two Sisters supported me there. There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there. When I entered the Church a blinding light emanated from Mother’s photo and enveloped me. I didn’t know what was happening and returned to my bed at the centre as I was too ill." She recalled that in the night one of the sisters brought a medallion of the Mother and tied it to her abdomen after saying a prayer. She further goes on, "At about 1 am, I woke up and saw that my stomach was flat and the tumour was gone. There was no pain. I was so surprised that I woke up the woman in the next bed and told her what had happened. In morning I told the same to the sisters." While Pope John Paul II declared this a miracle in Dec 2002, the doctor treating Besra claimed that the healing was the result of the ongoing treatment.

Similarly, the second miracle revolves around a Brazilian engineer Marcilio Haddad Andrino who was cured out of his brain infection in December 2008. Andrino had been sick for two years before it was discovered he had brain abscesses. He had a supposed miraculous recovery after his wife, prayed to Mother Teresa for help as she watched her husband clinging to life. For both of them, it was the intercession and not the surgery in the intensive care unit that saved his life.

The Skepticism

One can agree to disagree but this is exclusively the domain of faith. For a sane mind or anyone with a scientific/rational outlook, such miracles are simply hard to comprehend. Most likely they tend to be rejected not because they seem unpalatable but because they cannot be proven and lack credible evidence. How on earth, does one justify emergence of a divine light or sudden disappearance of a chronic disease upon reciting a prayer? Even if these persons involved the miracles were suddenly healed, it may very well have been due to the ongoing treatments. But that very fact conveniently gets sidelined. This is the reason why these so-called miracles even though embraced by many, have been rubbished by most rationals as a confusion between religion, faith, superstition, and science. The concerted efforts or the emphasis on such fanciful stories as is often seen, creates a sort of deception which impacts one's thought process as well as judgement. Although there's absolutely no harm in certain beliefs or having faith but where do we draw the line is really a thought to ponder? But then again it's all a matter of faith and that's how the story concludes.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Ashutosh Joshi


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    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I understand, I don't write much and most of my hubs are not that popular either. It may be my writing style or the topics I choose but english is definately not the reason :) For being a third language, its an acquired skill that I continue to polish. You'll notice the difference in your own rightups in just about few months and that kind of helps.

      Coming to the topic, as far as Mother Teresa or rather Saint Teresa is concerned, the good she did will always be acknowledged and appreciated but that doesn't mean, take away the space for critic or us making her a demigod based on some preposterous ideas. Anyway, that's my own understanding. Besides I dont write to please the fanbase.

    • Roohi Bhatnagar profile image


      2 years ago from Himachal

      Hmm. When in your spotlighted articles, i spotted this one. I felt... Oh !! There is one topic i can relate to. So intrigued i read this one. :)

      Don't want to comment about whether miracles happened or not. That's a decision for each individual's perceptions on faith or no faith. I can't even comment on Grammar :D

      For me your English was good enough. Lolz... Coz i know where i stand. Verbs and tenses are always beyond me,.

      But as for Mother Teresa. I respect her as an exceptional human being. Her Spiritual Views -- i don't always agree with all of them. But choosing the tough life, that she did. And living up to the demands of that kind of life. While never giving up. Is something not many human beings can do. Personally i have read her letters. And know how many times she struggled with her decision and apparent spiritual dry periods. Still she kept hanging on. To be able to give certain happiness and alleviate loneliness of one single person. Is something beyond ordinary human capability. And she showed much perseverance. For that , I respect her immensely.

      Nice research by you ..

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thankyou for your comment. Agree with the controversy bit and at the same time I also genuinely appreciate the great deal of humanitarian work she did, especially for the poor and desperate lot.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      I like the reasoned way you approached this. Your arguments are persuasive. I admire Mother Teresa's devotion to the poor, but even in her lifetime she stirred up a number of controversies. Interesting read.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      @Yves thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Your words are truly encouraging.

    • savvydating profile image


      3 years ago

      I believe it is important to question everything and I am glad that you do so...

      I appreciate Mother Teresa.

      I appreciate her because, after all, how many people choose to live a "poor man's" life when they don't have to?

      That being said, perhaps not all perceived miracles are true miracles. That I can agree with. In any event, you have done this article justice and I enjoyed reading about your views.

      BTW, don't pay any attention to Oztinato; he insults everyone.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Miz, Appreciate your views, a much more balanced persepective. Thanks!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      4 years ago from Beautiful South

      Ashutosh, your hub is not poorly written. I am an editor of 33 years, and I might knit-pick out some small errors like comma usage and verb tense, but I'm not going to do that.

      We have to remember that the "saints" of the Catholic Church are just the way of recognizing a job well done in the eyes of the church. Unfortunately, help from organized religion comes with a price. An example is the homeless shelters in the U.S.A. If they are Christian sponsored, a homeless person "pays" for his or her help by listening to a sermon from that church. Some are converted, but a good many are not.

      As far as heavenly intercession goes, I think a person who is strong spiritually usually does not need a personal intercession. However, right now with the condition of the world, we all need to combine our efforts with the heavenly spirits to improve our world. BTW, I am a student of Djwhal Kuhl, whom I understand was a student of Lord Kuthumi, so I hope you know where I am coming from.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I don't see the reason why people get all worked up when their faith is questioned directly or otherwise. I mean, if it is that weak than what's the point. Raising a question cannot be seen an attack on faith or religion whether its your or mine.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      4 years ago from Brisbane


      If you want to question your own faith that's fine. Go ahead. Each of us can only focus on our own faith not someone else's faith. As they say you can't eat for someone else; so why try?

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Poorly written or not, that's not the concern but Questioning Faith surely is. The sole purpose was not try and be offensive or derrogatory towards an individual but rather question the intent of this so called farce of miracle that has been constructed and much hyped for some ulterior motives.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Andrew Petrou 

      4 years ago from Brisbane

      A poorly written hub filled with grammatical errors. The line of reasoning fails quickly and suddenly as the hub is way too brief.

      It seems you have faith in your own writing abilities that is not warranted and is " faith beyond a limit of exaggeration".


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