Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Perfect People Allowed

Mother Teresa - a Catholic figure I grew up with and who many others knew almost intimately by hearing about her ministries or reading her books. Many grew to admire her, Protestant and Catholic alike.

But eventually, I think our view of her turned supernatural. We started to say things like "Well, I'm no Mother Teresa..." or "I could never be like her..." Without meaning to (hopefully), we turned Mother Teresa from an imperfect human being to a sinless supernatural almost-deity.

But guess what? Mother Teresa was human. She was amazing and wonderful and admirable...but human, nonetheless. She was holy...but, just like all the other saints in heaven, she sinned, just like the rest of us. She was imperfect, just like the rest of us.

People were shocked when a book called Come Be My Light came out, containing excerpts from Mother Teresa's journals. We found out what few knew during Mother Teresa's lifetime - for the last 50 or so years of her life, in all the time we knew her, she was going through a period of spiritual darkness - a period in which she felt spiritually empty, in which she felt as if God had abandoned her, in which she felt deep and agonizing pain. We saw her humanity up close and personal for the first time.

I think we tend to have almost the same view of Sisters (or nuns, if you want to use that term) as we did of Mother Teresa - sinless, perfect, unlike one of us in every way, almost not even human. I have to admit that, during the beginning stages of my discernment, I fell into this exact same fallacy and it took me a long time to recover...I still fall into this fallacy sometimes, wondering "am I really worthy to be a Daughter of Charity?" But once you get to know Sisters (of any congregation)....and I mean really know Sisters, not just meet one on the street...that view comes crashing down. You find that they are human, not just mindless sinless drones. They cry just like you, they laugh just like you, and they make mistakes, just like you.

Thomas Merton, a monk/priest and a great spiritual writer, once said in his journals:
My vocation does not really make me any different from the rest of men or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race, and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!
If you're discerning religious life, please don't fall into the fallacy of thinking that you "could never be perfect like them" or you aren't "worthy enough to join them". It is unfair to yourself to think this...you're a loved daughter of God and you're just as imperfect as all of your other Sisters in Christ. Even if you're not discerning religious life, don't fall into this fallacy either...it was unfair to Mother Teresa to assume she was perfect and it is the same for all the other religious out there.

Religious life is a holy and great life, no doubt, but not one made up of perfect people...because otherwise, what a boring life that would be!

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