The one in my arms
Good Pope Francis has proclaimed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to be a Saint. I shouldn’t think there is a living soul who would quarrel with that decision. The simple, touching ceremony in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican was more than Mother T would have wanted but less than she deserved. In other words, they got it about right. Those who saw the event will have been struck by the contrast between the glitterati of the Vatican and the strong, determined picture of Mother T that dominated the scene.
The artist had captured the essence of Mother T perfectly. This plain little Albanian nun had lived a life of such service and love that her face, etched with lines from years of suffering, shone with a beauty that left all the gold, silver and pomp as secondary and unnecessary. Whether a soul or a spirit, her beauty was beyond Botox or the work of a plastic surgeon and far exceeded the skills of the greatest cosmetician.
Stories about her are legion. The one I like best is when she was asked – often – by a journalist how many people she had helped she would reply “one”. The enquirer invariably misunderstood this. “No. Mother, I am not talking about you. You have helped thousands of people. Do you know how many?”
“I help the one in my arms,” was her reply.
In a world where the Economist can publish an article on The Art of the Lie and the employees at Wells Fargo Bank can open 2 million phony accounts for existing customers without their permission in order to claim a bonus, the spirit of that reply is badly needed.
There are many good people trying to live up to it. Let us hope that each of them will be one of those in her arms. Saint or no, Mother T is Mother T, and always will be.