Disparaging the compassion of Mother Teresa


Acquiring greatness is a long and arduous journey. A journey for which acquiring greatness may not be a goal at all. People have devoted their entire lives to various causes and still remain unknown or less known. I feel disturbed about two trends which seem to be quite prevalent today. One, greatness is being equated with being famous and powerful. And two, disparaging people with a reputation of greatness is becoming increasingly acceptable.

The recent comment by the RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat on Mother Teresa is a case in point. What he said was “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.”

Disparaging is the mildest adjective that can be used for the remark. Mr Bhagwat is not alone in his view point. From across the world people have raised doubts about the beatification of Mother Teresa. Western author and journalist Chistopher Hitchens  used the words “fraud” and “fanatic” for her way back in 2003. These words can be mildly called  polemical but are nothing short of being iconoclastic.


I don’t want to debate the factual grounds on which such criticisms for Mother Teresa are based. Neither do I have any right to infringe on their freedom of free speech.

My point is quite simple. Man is a bundle of errors with a potential for greatness which is rarely realised. The greatest persons that have lived on  Earth have had their share of flaws. When a person acquires fame both – the virtues and the flaws – are magnified by the lens of public scrutiny.

There may be some truth in the allegations against Mother Teresa that she was a glorified missionary. There may be some logical justification in the objections to her beatification. But should that allow us to question her tireless work for the destitute? Did Mother Teresa ask to be beatified?

If she was just another glorified missionary then why in the last so many years the world has not been able to “create” another Mother Teresa?

This is because the principal ingredient that goes into the making of such greatness is passion – undying, lifelong passion – to think about and work for mankind. And such passion is the rarest of rare virtues. No wonder we have so few Gandhis, Mandellas, Irom Sharmillas, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irom_Chanu_Sharmila)  Martin Luther Kings, Baba Amtes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Amte)  and Mother Terasas.

Today people-  especially politicians and journalists – never waste any opportunity to tarnish the revered images. This they may do for various reasons and interests which may be personal or societal.

But I believe that greatness attached to the names of such great people should be preserved. There are so many young impressionable minds who imbibe a sense of responsibility towards the weaker sections of the society by knowing and reading about them. And it’s not only the children but also the grownups with not-so-radical outlook who feel disillusioned with such attacks.

For so many years Mother Teresa has symbolised compassion, service and kindness. Her legacy is ever so important in today’s world marked by expanding corporate influence and contracting sensitivities. To dismiss her service as being solely driven by the motive of a missionary would be an example of narrow mindedness.

I wish we all believed in just celebrating greatness of people as dedicated and committed as Mother Teresa  and believing in the fact that despite and amid all evil,  good exists.

One response to “Disparaging the compassion of Mother Teresa”

  1. Sometimes it’s just best to let sleeping saints lie. And the same holds true for dead polemicists as well. It is rather quite hilarious and ironic that Hitchens is being cited to cavalierly reduce Mother Teresa’s entire life’s work to a mere bean counter. I wonder if Hitchens is turning around in his grave on being used as a validation by a religious right wing organization. The political timing with the upcoming elections in Bengal may be a mere co incidence.. 😛
    Her actions may be open to criticism cos saints are as equally tainted as all of us after all. The media and the Vatican made her into something larger than life is not entirely her fault after all. She should be criticized for all the awful things she did but this does not take away from the fact that she did take dead and dying from the streets and allowed them a bit of dignity in life. One may disagree with terming her a saint but is that the objective being aimed at here.?
    There is a popular line in an animated series – Avatar , The Last Airbender which says “Holiness must dwell in a tarnished temple”.. & as a society, I feel that is what should matter after all.
    It is easy and convenient to be led astray by such debates with an inherent voyeur and shock value. This article succeeds at its attempt to find order in the prevelant chaos.
    Very well articulated ….

Your comments are welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: