St. Teresa of Calcutta, saint of darkness

Mother Teresa was canonized on Sunday, officially declared to be a saint.  It isn’t necessary to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate this woman, who ministered to the poor and the dying on the streets of Calcutta.

Her example and the sense of holiness she conveyed persuaded many, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, to become a Christian.  Nevertheless, it is said that she experienced spiritual doubt and depression, a “dark night of the soul” that lasted some 50 years.

She wrote, “If I’m going to be a saint, I’m going to be a saint of darkness, and I’ll be asking from heaven to be the light of those who are in darkness on Earth.”  According to a priest involved with her canonization, she experienced both the physical poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

I have heard this period of darkness referred to as evidence that Teresa “was not perfect,” but I think it makes her holiness more believable.  The life of faith is not “perfection,” nor constant joy; rather, it often involves what Luther called “tentatio”–struggle, conflict, agony of conscience–and her descriptions of her depression shows that her faith was in Christ and not her own good works, which she had in such abundance.

In honor of her canonization, I will link and excerpt the speech she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, in which she gave a compelling critique of abortion.  Afterwards, she received a standing ovation, with President and Mrs. Clinton, also on the dais, staying in their seats.

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Christianity & taxes

At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama suggested, as some have put it, that Jesus would tax the rich:

President Barack Obama on Thursday tied his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to his faith, telling leaders gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast that Jesus’s teachings have shaped that conclusion.The rich should pay more not only because “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” Obama said at the Washington Hilton, delivering remarks at an annual event that every president has attended since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

via Obama: Jesus would tax the rich – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com.

I like the response by Mary Theroux of the Independent Institute:

Yes, that Jesus was always looking for ways to make Rome more powerful!

Here we see two different ways of looking at taxes and at government:  Liberals think taxation is virtuous because the government is always helping people, so in order to help people more we need to give the government more money.  Conservatives think government basically exerts power over people, so giving it more money makes it even more powerful and lessens the liberty of its citizens. 

The text that the president cites (Luke 12:48), in context, does not refer to taxes, but it can apply to money as to everything else.  A person who has received much FROM GOD has much that is required BY GOD.  Not the federal government!   The president here is putting the federal government squarely in the place of God!

A person who has been blessed with lots of money should indeed do good with it, including helping those who lack money.  But it isn’t necessary to go through the federal government to do that.  The wealthy person can and should help people and organizations directly.

At the same time, Christians should remember that just about every time the New Testament teaches something about our obligation to our governments, including that of the Roman Empire, it includes an exhortation to pay our taxes.  I worry that our anti-tax rhetoric may sometimes violate the spirit of those teachings, which impose upon us a cross and a discipline that we must submit to, whether we like it or not.