“She was an incredible person,” said President Clinton of Mother Teresa.
I disagree. Bill Clinton is an incredible person. Mother Teresa was perhaps the most credible person on the face of the earth. One can only wonder what her departure from this earthly plane might mean for the fate of the world.
After all, God has taken home the world’s leading exemplar of moral authority, courage and obedience. She has left us at a time when there is arguably more spiritual confusion than at any time since the Tower of Babel.
Is there a message to mankind in the proximity of the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa?
Both have touched the lives of millions around the world, but, despite the fact they both had hearts for children and the poor, their lives reflect a sharp contrast.
Diana, partying until the end, died an untimely death at the age of 36. She is said to have been dabbling in the occult and New Age philosophies and considering a conversion to Islam. Even after being booted from the royal family, she lived on a stipend of $11 million dollars a year. Apparently that was not enough. She was considering marrying an Egyptian mega-millionaire. No wonder she was an icon in this age of moral relativism, muddled thinking and misplaced priorities.
Mother Teresa, on the other hand, never rested, wavered or wallowed in self-pity once she was called by God during a train ride in 1946.
“The message was quite clear,” she said. “I was to help the poor while living among them. It was an order.”
What she achieved, with God’s help, during the next 50 years should be as illustrative of His power in our times as any biblical teaching. Without using government to coerce other people to pay for her work, she set up programs for the impoverished in more than 90 countries — including some effective ones right here in the wealthiest, most compassionate land on earth.
She established orphanages, slum schools, hospices, homeless shelters, mobile health clinics, centers for the malnourished, rehabilitation centers for lepers, homes for alcoholics and drug addicts, AIDS clinics.
This was not symbolism, it was substance. Her accomplishments would seem to be impossible, if it were not true that, with God, all things are possible.
She started her order with 62 sisters in 1957. By the time she won the Nobel Prize, she had attracted 1,800 nuns and 120,000 lay workers, running more than 80 centers in India alone and more than 100 others worldwide. Four years later, 4,000 nuns and novices were members of her order, 400 priests and brothers and hundreds of thousands of lay volunteers had joined her work at more than 450 sites.
Politicians and government bureaucrats could learn much from her simple teachings.
The poor “don’t need pity, they need love and compassion,” she explained. “If you don’t know them, you don’t love them and don’t serve them.”
This was no starry-eyed dreamer, either. The Nobel Committee honored her as much for her managerial skills as for her devotion to the poor. A Red Cross observer once said: “What stunned everyone was her energy. We didn’t expect a saint to be so efficient.”
Even after she was stricken with heart ailments and old age, this 4-foot-11-inch dynamo never tired, never compromised her beliefs, never backed down from her faith.
In accepting the Nobel Prize, she remained politically incorrect: “To me the nations with legalized abortion are the poorest nations. The greatest destroyer of peace today is the crime against the unborn child.”
In 1994 she appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast with President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. What did she tell them?
“Do not abort the children … give them to me!” she said staring into their eyes. There was no question whom she was lecturing. She refused even to be seated with the Clintons and Gores.
During coverage of her death, I heard her referred to on CNN as the world’s most well-known “humanitarian.” She wasn’t a humanitarian; she was a God-itarian. No human attributes can possibly explain her devotion to helping the helpless — only her complete submission to God’s will.