09/06/2016, 17.31
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Pune Bishop says love and humility were Mother Teresa’s special attraction

by mons. Thomas Dabre*

Mgr Thomas Dabre met the saint of Calcutta when he was young. In his diocese, the Missionaries of Charity run three homes. Mother Teresa remained humble despite the glory and fame. She showed that religion is not an abstract concept, but that it is way of knowing how to live and act according to one’s faith.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people in Maharashtra took part on Sunday in a service in honour of Mother Teresa, who was canonised only a few hours earlier by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The faithful came from various parishes in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad, gathering in St Ignatius Church in Khadki, where Mgr Thomas Dabre celebrated Mass.

In his message below, the prelate speaks about Mother Teresa’s “special attraction” for people who met her. Mgr Dabre also takes apart some of the best known criticism addressed to the Mother.

Special attraction of Mother Teresa

It is very fitting that Mother Teresa will be consecrated on 4th September, 2016 on the eve of her death anniversary.

Mother Teresa is special to us because she is an Indian Saint, she worked in India well over 60 years and most of us have been her contemporaries. We witnessed her life and activities. Many of us were privileged to meet her personally, I being one of them.

Humility of Mother Teresa

She was among the best known faces in the world. Her mission and members of her Missionaries of Charity Congregation are spread well over 100 nations of the world. She established over 700 institutions (Houses) of charitable activities. She received the highest national award, the Bharat Ratna and the Nobel Peace Prize and several other meritorious awards from various countries of the world. She could find easy access to the world’s mighty and powerful. But with all this glare, glitz and glory she remained ever humble, modest and unassuming all along. Genuine humility is an unmistakable mark of sanctity and spirituality.

In secular terminology she can very well be regarded a great social worker. In truth, however, she was a woman of God, a God-filled person.

Religion is not just a matter of convictions, ideas, concepts and thoughts

Mother Teresa teaches us that religion is not just a matter of convictions, ideas, concepts and thoughts. Of course, all these are important and are part of authentic religion. But pre-eminently religion is a matter of living and acting according to concepts and ideas we have of our religions. Mother lived her faith.

She showed her love of God by loving the lonely, the abandoned, the destitute, the least and the last. She touched them, embraced them and kissed them, seeing God in them.

With many of us, however, religion and life are separate and they do not correspond and harmonize with each other. Such fragmented lives are not true witnesses and representatives of any religion.

Unjustified ideological criticism

There have been intellectuals and thinkers who criticized Mother Teresa. I would have no hesitation to say that intellectuals and scholars can certainly debate the thoughts and writings of Mother Teresa. That is quite in order. But Mother was not a systematic intellectual or thinker. She was a woman of insight, intuition, wisdom and prudence to which her ideas bear witness. She was a woman of passionate and overriding commitment to God and to her faith.

Justice-charity: Dilemma or complementarity?

There are also thinkers who have criticized her emphasis on charity and compassion. These people believe that we need a societal restructuring. They demand justice and just social structure. This emphasis on creation of a just society is wholly justified. That however, does not mean that compassion, mercy and charity are not important. These are essential aspects of human life too.

Absolutisation of justice to the exclusion of mercy and compassion is short-sighted and betrays a myopic view of human life with all its complexities.

Karl Marx

The philosophy of Karl Marx has many good features. However, its one-sided emphasis on justice and fight against injustices led to the underestimation of justice and compassion. He dubbed religion as the opium of people. History as it unfolds before our very eyes has relegated Marx’s communism to the archives of history in the Western Hemisphere where it originated.

Mother Teresa admitted to the essential role of justice. Her life-long opposition to abortion was her demand for justice. She also acknowledged that those who are called to struggle for justice should go on with their mission. But her own mission in life was to carry out humbly, simply and with utmost devotion the work of mercy and compassion.

Interreligious Dialogue

The Church in contemporary society emphasizes interreligious dialogue in accordance with the vision of the Second Vatican Council. The Church cannot live in a ghetto. Jesus is for all with His all-embracing love. Mother Teresa’s charitable activities were for all. People of all religions and cultures were the beneficiaries of her work. In fact, almost all are those of other faiths and religions.

She cared for everybody in need. With all my work in the area of interreligious dialogue and my long experience of it, I can unequivocally state that Mother Teresa was one of the best examples of interreligious Dialogue. The criticism of Mother Teresa by RSS - Chief Shri Bhagwat and some others that she was doing it for conversion is false and ill-motivated. Let us be proud of this new Saint, our Saint Mother Teresa. And let us embody her spirit, values and way of life in our own lives.

* Bishop of Pune

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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