By Tracy Grant
Mother Teresa must be spinning.
Catholic organizations are sniping at each other over the best way to honor the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth on Aug. 26. The controversy started when Catholic League president Bill Donohue called on the management of the Empire State Building to light the building in white and blue to honor the Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Missionaries of Charity.
When building management declined–perhaps thinking that most New Yorkers would see a blue and white edifice as being symbolic of the New York Giants or Yankees instead of someone who fits most definitions of “saint”–Donohue berated building management as “bigots.” He apparently has no sense of irony for he has called on Catholics nationwide to sign petitions to get the woman, who spent much of her 87 years humbly serving the poorest of the poor and the least of our brothers, up in lights as if she were “Mother Teresa–the Musical.”
But now “progressive” Catholic organizations are getting into the act. A press release signed by 13 Catholic groups last week said that “Mr. Donohue dishonestly claims to represent Catholics” and encouraged the Empire State Building to stand by their decision. Which of course, really only serves to elevate the the controversy as the anniversary approaches next week. It’s a pervision of the classic playground taunt “My dad is stronger than yours” but this time the chant goes something like “My group is more Catholic than yours.”
Did I mention that Mother Teresa must be spinning?
When Mother Teresa received permission from the Vatican to start her order in 1950 she said that their mission would be to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
Instead of wasting time trying to decide which group is the holiest of the holy when it comes to deciding how Mother Teresa should be honored, why doesn’t the Catholic League and the progressive signatories of the latest press release (which include Call to Action, Catholics for Choice and the Women’s Ordination Conference) simply decide that they will quietly–that would mean without issuing press releases–make Aug. 26 a day of service. A day when the homeless on the street aren’t passed by but are given a sandwich, a cup of coffee and a few minutes of conversation; a day when those who have outlived family and friends have their hands held and their hair combed; a day when a book is placed into the hand of a child who has never held one before.
That, just maybe, would make Mother Teresa smile.