Who shall find a valiant woman? far, and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her (Proverbs 31:10).
St. Bonaventure comments on this passage of Sacred Scripture in the context of his exposition of the Gift of Fortitude, and applies its interpretation to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. She is the valiant or strong woman, who stands at the foot of the cross and is worth the price of Redemption. She bore that price in Bethlehem, offered that price on Calvary and possesses that price now in heaven.
The interesting thing here is that St. Bonaventure uses a woman, the Woman as a matter of fact, as the icon of Courage. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta follows in the Blessed Mother’s footsteps.
The recent flap over Mother Teresa’s private correspondence affords an opportunity to reflect on the nature of faith and its relation to Fortitude or Courage. Was she a hero or a coward? It is a sign of the times that this question is for many anything more than a no brainer.
Christopher Hitchens would have us believe that faith is so patently contrary to reason that a person can only kid themselves for so long until they finally collapse under the weight of the evidence for atheism. Accordingly, Mother’s expressions of temptations to doubt God’s existence, and her feelings of abandonment by God, Hitchens interprets as her descent to closet atheism. Not only was she an atheist, she was intellectually dishonest about it and continued in the charade for the whole world to see until her death .
Interestingly, a talk show host and Baptist pastor by the name of Paul Edwards blogs on the subject of faith versus reason in Mother Teresa’s interior trial and favorably quotes Christopher Hitchens, the atheist!
In spite of his agenda to demonstrate the futility of belief, Hitchens has made an astute observation when he says,
It seems, therefore, that all the things that made Mother Teresa famous—the endless hard toil, the bitter austerity, the ostentatious religious orthodoxy—were only part of an effort to still the misery within.
Edwards asserts that Mother relied on reason instead of faith, on her good works rather than the gift of God, and when her own power to believe betrayed her, she threw herself into her work with even greater gusto–all as a result of her pride and her exlcusive trust in her own powers!
Now I have heard everything. Something is up when an atheist and a Baptist preacher double team a dead nun who did nothing her whole life but help the poor for the love of God.
In an interview, Mother recalled the first time she picked up a dying man and took him home to care for him.
Such a beautiful day . . . to meet Christ face to face in the poor. He was there — the hungry, the sick, the naked Christ — and the thought of Him in this distressing disguise gave me great joy, peace and strength.
The fact that the tiny little woman had the strength to carry the man home is a miracle in itself. This was just the first of thousands of miracles that would take place over then next half century.
Come on guys, have a little humility. Mother Teresa, did not rely on her own strength, nor was she intellectually dishonest. The plain truth is that she manifested the power of God made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What then of her inner turmoil? It is not incompatible with faith, nor is faith under such circumstances contrary to reason. The proof is in the pudding. No one could sustain the uninterrupted life of heroic charity that belonged to Blessed Mother Teresa apart from the grace of God. Hitchens I can understand, but that a believing Christian would ignore the overwhelming historical evidence of Mother’s heroic charity is stunning. Mother was not a social worker, she was a woman of prayer who was compelled to come to the aid of God’s children.
The Blessed sustained her life of faith and charity in spite of the intense internal suffering and feeling of isolation. Perhaps she was making reparation for those who do not believe, like Christopher Hitchens, or those who scoff at the works of God, like Paul Edwards, or for you and me, who have led lives of ease while so many suffer intense poverty, especially the spiritual poverty of our secularized, godless and unfeeling world.
One thing is for certain, Mother Teresa had the courage to persevere and do the right thing no matter what the obstacle, and to keep her hand to the plow for the love of God, no matter what the cost.
Hitchens has tauted reason over faith to the prejudice of reason itself. We are on the brink of unreason when we can no longer distinguish right from wrong, when we defend sodomy as no different from monogamous heterosexual marriage.
Edwards has abandoned reason and the works of justice that accompany reason elevated by faith, in favor of the most contrived defense of the indefensible. He should take an unprejudiced look at the life of this Saint of charity and the true motivations behind it.
In the end, Benedict XVI ‘s warning to both Islam and the West of their compartmentalizing of faith and reason, respectively, proves to be truly prophetic. In Blessed Mother Teresa we see a right ordering of the natural work the mind elevated to the heavens by the gift of faith.
A honest and reasonable look at Mother Teresa’s life will show that she did what we all know is right. Through the lens of faith, and in the midst of our own trials, we will realize that her perseverance was heroic.
She puts us all to shame.