Let me start off by saying that I am not Catholic, and in no way am I commenting on practices validated by the Church. I have been to Mass exactly one time, and I was berated for trying to eat a package of Oreos out of my purse.
My experience with the Church has been minimal, and my behavior frowned upon, but I feel wildly compelled to discuss the backlash that ensued after Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016.
The Pope, in an effort that may have unintentionally internationalized Labor Day, celebrated one of the most revered figures in human history, known universally for her influential labors of love.
Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, is now to be eternally remembered as Saint Teresa—except for the 42,000 tweets (and counting!) that declared her a fraud. To them I say:
First of all, how dare you?
Critics are questioning the validity of her miracles, accumulation of funds, implementations of medical care, emphasis on human suffering and motivations for conversion. Do they not realize what the purpose of missionary work is? This is not news.
Getting canonized is no easy feat. Saint Teresa did not sit around posting indignant comments advocating for social justice; she physically did something about it—a lot of things, in fact.
“She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created,” said Pope Francis during her canonization.
Regardless of your agreements with the Church or her interpretation of Christianity, it is impossible to ignore her bravery, humility or perpetual state of service.
And yet, the Internet could only manage to focus on the controversy over whether she actually cured the cancer of a woman who claims to be the recipient of Saint Teresa’s famous miracle.
People are so quick to take down historical do-gooders: founding fathers who also owned slaves, the Gandhi everyone loves to hate. Yes, all of these humans had flaws, even when accounting for what practices were socially acceptable and which resources were publicly available during their lifetimes. However, they still created change, and left legacies that inspired humanitarian works well beyond the date of their death.
Your tweets cannot change this, which brings me to my second point:
Who the hell do you think you are?
We ask millennials this question a lot. And though the entire demographic lacks a cohesive answer, they are quick to organize a chorus of indignant complaints (see also: me, every time I have to do adult things like pay bills/reschedule canceled flights/etc). I’m not immune to the adversity of adulthood, but I recognize the appropriate time and place for respect and reverie—i.e. the canonization of Mother Teresa.
Have we really settled on complaining as a coping mechanism? I would like to re-introduce a narrative that has plagued the self-worth of millennials across the world: this isn’t about you. If you are not the Pope, or a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (that’s right, I googled Catholicism, and there definitely isn’t any literature prohibiting Oreos), then do yourself a favor and find a real hobby—running a Facebook discussion thread doesn’t count.
Just like many states require a primary form of photo ID to cast your vote, I hereby declare that you must present a solution if you’re going to cast your opinion (or at least that will be my first executive order when I am president in 2028). Sound unfair? You’re not the only ones to notice—get in line.
There is work to be done, but there is also limitless inspiration, not to mention proof that dedication pays off. Yes, this is a tall order, but if you’re reading this right now, you’re way ahead of the 781 million adults in the world who cannot read or write. You actually don’t have an excuse.
I’m not saying we have to pursue works that get us canonized. I’m telling you to pursue something that matters to you. Critics never die (seriously, Ann Coulter, take a hint), but good works can live forever.
No one can fault you for making an effort toward something you genuinely believe in.
Don’t have something that matters to you? You’re not looking hard enough. And if you can’t see beyond a person’s faults to the impact of her life’s work in charity and human relief, then you need to get your eyes checked.