By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Special Contributor | Published March 17, 2005
A REVOLUTION OF LOVE—THE MEANING OF MOTHER TERESA, by David Scott. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2005); 160 pp.; $18.95 hardcover.
If you only read one book about Mother Teresa in your life, this is the one.
“A Revolution of Love” by David Scott is no ordinary biography, but rather a meditation on questions more spiritual than historical. It is a truly soul-stirring read.
Scott starts from the assumption that God sends us saints with messages we need to hear at a given point in history. He then goes on to explore the messages Mother Teresa brought us.
The details of her life are well known. She was born in Albania and decided at age 18 to join a convent and become a teacher in India. And many years later, on a train in Calcutta, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her to leave her religious order and serve the poor.
What is not well known is that, in letters to her spiritual directors, Mother Teresa described visions that prompted her decision to follow that voice.
In one vision, she saw Jesus on the cross and Mary a little distance away. She saw herself as a child in front of Mary and heard Jesus ask her to take care of the poor.
Scott’s portrayal of her ministry is refreshingly down to earth. He does not assume that she was a goody two-shoes figure who refused to stir things up.
For example, one of her messages involved sharp criticisms of people with wealth. In a statement that rings frighteningly true of our consumer culture, Mother Teresa predicted that, as our needs increase, we shall be condemned to “endless dissatisfaction.”
Scott writes: “In the poor, she believed, we meet Jesus—not a reminder of Jesus, not a symbol of Jesus, but Jesus himself, face to face, hungering for our love.” And she was adamant in her belief that, for everyone, “salvation is bound up in some mysterious way with our love of the poor.”
Mother Teresa’s critics attacked her for not preaching about the need for a revolution to overthrow the political structures responsible for extreme poverty, but Scott defends her by pointing out that she was indeed a revolutionary.
But her revolution was based on changing hearts.
She saw poverty as the result of the world ignoring Christ’s story about the Good Samaritan’s compassion for his neighbor, and believed that if wealthier people would begin to truly sacrifice for the poor, an earth-shaking revolution would follow.
“When all recognize that our suffering neighbor is God himself … on that day, there will be no more poverty,” she said.
Some readers may find her criticism of our materialistic society uncomfortable, but this book shows that Mother Teresa often delivered messages that shook up the status quo.
When she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, for example, she startled the audience by devoting her speech to abortion, which she called the “greatest destroyer of peace today.”
“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars,” she said. “If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”
The book’s final chapter, ominously titled “Mother Teresa’s Long Dark Night,” reveals that a woman whom the world heralded as a living saint was, for many years, in a panic that God had rejected her.
“In my soul I feel just this terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me,” she wrote to her spiritual director.
Perhaps one of the greatest tests of what makes a saint is how they react to the inevitable suffering that will befall them. Mother Teresa gracefully met that harsh challenge.
“I have begun to love my darkness,” she later wrote, “for I believe now that it is a part, a very small part, of Jesus’ darkness and pain on the earth.”
In answering the question about why God sent us Mother Teresa, this book reveals much about the world we live in.
She was a messenger of hope for Christians who no longer recognized Jesus in their suffering neighbors. She was an apostle of life sent to a culture that often saw death as a solution.
And, despite her own spiritual suffering, she came to us, writes Scott, in the “dark night of our times to … prove to us that we had not been orphaned by God.” She really was our mother.
Lorraine V. Murray is an author and a regular columnist for The Georgia Bulletin and the Faith and Values section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.