Pope Francis is about to declare the sainthood of a small, bent woman who took the entire world by the lapels and shook it. St. Teresa of Kolkata woke us up to the duty and beauty of radical love. For a lot of reasons, she’d be a fine patron for Oregon.
First, the new St. Teresa appeals to people who are not part of the Catholic faith. What a blessing for evangelization. Here was a woman whose unfathomable love and energy had their source not in spirituality, but in religion. She attended Mass, prayed the rosary until her knees had calluses and engaged in Christian community. Oregonians who prefer to practice a self-designed spirituality might want to study this woman who was as devoted to the church as she was to the poor. For her, there was really no distinction, since prayer, Eucharist, doctrine and service all had the same source and same end — union with Jesus Christ.
The second reason St. Teresa is a good patron for Oregon is that, like many people in our state, she experienced a crisis of belief. It’s easy for denizens of secular culture to reject our faith when they believe the caricatures they have formed of priests, religious and lay Catholics. But we are not shallow and not gullible. We have come to faith after discernment and experience and sometimes darkness. Like St. Teresa’s, our belief is the genuine article.
Third, Portland has a crisis of homelessness and we have long dreamed big and then floundered. City Council now wants to shelter 400 people in a warehouse, which may be a good-hearted plan but seems poised for disaster. The missing piece, something St. Teresa of Kolkata had in spades, is the act of telling the truth in love. Perhaps we in Oregon need to look at how our permissive culture has contributed to homelessness. How is it that we have so many lost and hurt people?
On a visit to America, St. Teresa saw abortion and aisle upon aisle of junk to purchase. She observed a prevailing shallowness and saw how miserable we are. She challenged us for our own good, particularly on our zeal for convenience at the expense of human life. She called us out on euthanasia and abortion and our treatment of the poor and that was a rebuke that still stings. But here’s the thing. She knew the truth would in the long run lead to our thriving.
We in Oregon should take her advice.