Books

Christmas seen from Calcutta
Mother Teresa on Advent and Christmas by John Scally (Columba Press, €9.99/£7.99)

Mother Teresa.

Anthony Redmond

Mother Teresa was being  interviewed on a particular occasion on TV and there was a break for advertisements for various inessential, unimportant things.

“I see that Christ is needed in television studios,” she muttered. Malcolm Muggeridge said about her, “she sees in each sorrowing, suffering human being neither a body surplus to a population norm, nor a waste product, but the image of a sorrowing, suffering Saviour, so that in solacing them she had the inestimable honour and joy of solacing him. A Via Dolorosa that was also a Via Gloriosa”.

Mother Teresa was a person of transparent goodness and this is something that the secular atheistic cynic just cannot take. The cynic cannot believe in genuine, pure goodness and Godliness. He has to look for a hidden selfish motive, for the feet of clay.

Muggeridge tells us that when a young reporter who followed Mother Teresa as she washed her lepers said to her, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars,” she replied, “Neither would I, but for God, yes.”

Interview

John Scally is the author of over 30 books. He managed to get an interview with Mother Teresa when she came to Ireland in 1993. He tells us that his enduring memory of her was of an incredibly energetic woman with the most radiant smile and a warm voice.

Her faith was clearly a consolation and it animated her every waking moment. John Scally writes: “I have to confess, I did feel a strong pang of jealousy when I met Mother Teresa. Her God was different from mine. She had stumbled on a God who dances and astonishes.

Her love of God had transported her, shattered her and consumed her like a fire. Hers was a passionate, heart-battering God, a God who swept her up to the heights in a blaze of flame, whose face wasfull of the beauty of all creatures, a God of incredible power and glory. Such was the beauty of this God that we can only partially taste its essence.”

The book deals with her reflections on two major feasts in the Church’s year, Advent and Christmas. It is a delightful, thought-provoking book, deeply moving and inspiring.

Among the many stories Mother Teresa relates is one where a young Hindu couple come to her and give her a large amount of money.

She asked them where they got this money. They told her that they’d got married two days earlier. They both decided not to have a big wedding feast or buy special wedding clothes. They decided to give the money they saved to feed the poor. They loved each other so much that they wanted to obtain a special blessing from God by making a sacrifice. There are lots of touching stories like this in this book.

Importance

The world attaches so much importance to material things, like flash cars, big houses and expensive jewellery. We have become shallow and cold in our love of materialism. But what really matters is love, compassion, sensitivity and concern for others, not material things. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul?”

Malcolm Muggeridge wrote of her: “In India of all places, considered by the consensus pundits to be a hotbed of overpopulation, she and her helpers go to infinite trouble to salvage abandoned babies, and to bring in dying derelicts from the streets of Calcutta to give them love and care, if only for a quarter of an hour before they finally leave a world that rejected them. What a wonderful alternative to the grisly panaceas – sterilisation, abortion, euthanasia – whereby contemporary man is induced to express his compassion.”

John Scally’s excellent book will make an ideal Christmas gift.