Monday, June 11, 2007
When all that glitters may not be gold
"It is in the hope that others may see the fallacy of this purported way
to holiness that I tell a little of what I know. Although there are
relatively few tempted to join Mother Teresa's congregation of sisters,
there are many who generously have supported her work because they do not
realize how her twisted premises strangle efforts to alleviate misery.
Unaware that most of the donations sit unused in her bank accounts, they
too are deceived into thinking they are helping the poor.
"As a Missionary of Charity, I was assigned to record donations and write
the thank-you letters. The money arrived at a frantic rate. The mail
carrier often delivered the letters in sacks. We wrote receipts for
checks of $50,000 and more on a regular basis. Sometimes a donor would
call up and ask if we had received his check, expecting us to remember it
readily because it was so large. How could we say that we could not
recall it because we had received so many that were even larger?
"When Mother spoke publicly, she never asked for money, but she did
encourage people to make sacrifices for the poor, to "give until it
hurts." Many people did - and they gave it to her. We received touching
letters from people, sometimes apparently poor themselves, who were
making sacrifices to send us a little money for the starving people in
Africa, the flood victims in Bangladesh, or the poor children in India.
Most of the money sat in our bank accounts.
"The flood of donations was considered to be a sign of God's approval of
Mother Teresa's congregation. We were told by our superiors that we
received more gifts than other religious congregations because God was
pleased with Mother, and because the Missionaries of Charity were the
sisters who were faithful to the true spirit of religious life.
"Most of the sisters had no idea how much money the congregation was
amassing. After all, we were taught not to collect anything. One summer
the sisters living on the outskirts of Rome were given more crates of
tomatoes than they could distribute. None of their neighbors wanted them
because the crop had been so prolific that year. The sisters decided to
can the tomatoes rather than let them spoil, but when Mother found out
what they had done she was very displeased. Storing things showed lack of
trust in Divine Providence.
"The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no
effect on our ascetic lives and very little effect on the lives of the
poor we were trying to help. We lived a simple life, bare of all
superfluities. We had three sets of clothes, which we mended until the
material was too rotten to patch anymore. We washed our own clothes by
hand. The never-ending piles of sheets and towels from our night shelter
for the homeless we washed by hand, too. Our bathing was accomplished
with only one bucket of water. Dental and medical checkups were seen as
an unnecessary luxury.
"Mother was very concerned that we preserve our spirit of poverty.
Spending money would destroy that poverty. She seemed obsessed with using
only the simplest of means for our work. Was this in the best interests
of the people we were trying to help, or were we in fact using them as a
tool to advance our own "sanctity?" In Haiti, to keep the spirit of
poverty, the sisters reused needles until they became blunt. Seeing the
pain caused by the blunt needles, some of the volunteers offered to
procure more needles, but the sisters refused.
"For years I had to write thousands of letters to donors, telling them
that their entire gift would be used to bring God's loving compassion to
the poorest of the poor. I was able to keep my complaining conscience in
check because we had been taught that the Holy Spirit was guiding Mother.
To doubt her was a sign that we were lacking in trust and, even worse,
guilty of the sin of pride. I shelved my objections and hoped that one
day I would understand why Mother wanted to gather so much money, when
she herself had taught us that even storing tomato sauce showed lack of
trust in Divine Providence."
The book of Revelations?