MOTHER TERESA’S FAITH: HITCHENS STILL DOESN’T GET IT
Catalyst October Issue 2007
In September, Doubleday released a book by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. Father Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for Mother Teresa’s sainthood cause, has collected her writings into a volume that shows the intensity of her holiness. Particularly revealing are the sections that highlight the “dark night of the soul” that haunted Mother Teresa for years.
An interesting article in Time on August 23 quoted noted atheist author Christopher Hitchens, who said of Mother Teresa, “She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself.”
Hitchens still doesn’t get it. While others are awed by Mother Teresa’s life of good works and love for the Lord—even during the years she felt distant from Him—the famed atheist sees even more to loathe. But this is no surprise coming from Hitchens, whose book ranting against the saintly nun, The Missionary Position, contained not one footnote to support his charges.
Hitchens can rage all he likes. Most people will not be swayed. As Father Kolodiejchuk told Time, “The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on…And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t ‘feeling’ Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”
After all, as Mother Teresa herself wrote, “I accept not in my feelings—but with my will, the Will of God—I accept His will.”
On August 28, in a debate with Bill Donohue, Hitchens said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that “Mother Teresa did not believe that Jesus was present in the Eucharist….” Donohue denied this was true.
Hitchens was relying on the Time article, which said that “for the last nearly half-century of her life she [Mother Teresa] felt no presence of God whatsoever.” (Our emphasis.) Mother Teresa’s nonbelief in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist, Hitchens asserted, was supported by Father Kolodiejchuk.
We called Father Kolodiejchuk in San Diego; a nun to whom we spoke (Father Kolodiejchuk was traveling) confirmed what we thought was the case: there is a profound difference between “feeling” and “believing.” Did Mother Teresa not always feel the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Yes. Did she therefore not believe in the Real Presence? Nonsense.
On p. 213 of the book, it talks about Mother Teresa’s “early love of the Eucharist.” She shared her thoughts about this matter with Father Joseph Neuner, who wrote, “Though she no longer felt Jesus’ presence, she ‘would not miss Holy Com. [Communion] for anything.’”
On the same page are the reflections of a senior sister in her order, the Missionaries of Charity. Here is what she said:
“Mother received Holy Communion with tremendous devotion. If there happened to be a second Mass celebrated in Mother House on a given day, she would always try to assist at it, even if she were very busy. I would hear her say on such occasions, ‘How beautiful to have received Jesus twice today.’ Mother’s deep, deep reverence for the Blessed Sacrament was a sign of her profound faith in the Real Presence of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Her adoring attitude, gestures such as genuflections—even on both knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and that well into old age—her postures such as kneeling and joining hands, her preference for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue all bespoke her faith in the Eucharist.”
Looks like Hitchens got it wrong again. Mother Teresa loved the Eucharist and passionately believed in the Real Presence.