Our correspondence 24 years ago shows what motivated her – love
I see that my last blog about Mother Teresa has excited some debate about whether abortion is really “the great destroyer of peace” as Mother Teresa asserts. For “Sceptic” is seems a ludicrous assertion, for “Mike” an obvious one. Perhaps the question should best be seen through her Catholic faith that inspired everything Mother Teresa said or did.
I wrote to her before Christmas in the year 1990. She sent me a personal message more or less by return of post, typed out on an obviously old typewriter. This is what she said:
“…I think today, more than ever the world is upside down and is suffering so much because there is so little love in homes, and in family life people have no time for each other, and I feel if we could only bring back into our families and homes the life that Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, I am sure that peace and joy will be there.
“During this coming Christmas let us pray more fervently for peace, so that there will be peace that comes from respecting the rights of everyone – even the unborn child. Today Jesus comes to us as the unborn child and His own receives Him not. Let many of our Catholic families help young [the] mother-to-be, to welcome the baby in her womb as the gift of God’s love for her and for her family.
“Keep the joy of loving ever burning in your heart and share this joy with others by your love and service. Allow God to use you as His instrument to bring this peace and joy in the lives of all you meet during this coming Christmas.”
Needless to say, although addressed to me Mother Teresa would have written the same to anyone who wrote to her. The crux is “love”: essentially the love of Christ, who invites us to respond by the love we show others: at first in our own homes because we cannot help the world (as Dickens’ immortal Mrs Jellyby insisted on doing) unless we love those closest to us. The Holy Family is the supreme yet human example here, of loving self-sacrifice. From this love – that embraces the unborn child as Our Lady embraced her own unborn child – comes true peace. As Mother Teresa infers, there can be no “peace” in the world if there is hidden violence at the start of life. Finally, she reminds us that the peace and joy we all long for, Christian and non-Christian alike, comes from loving service to others. This is primary; everything else – marches, blogs, politics, pressure groups – is secondary.
It’s a tough message, whether you are a Christian or not – but then Mother Teresa was a saint and so she didn’t pull her punches. Incidentally, I have read several of Christopher Hitchens’ books and always found him an honest, serious and engaging writer – except when it came to religion. Here, as was demonstrated by his attitude towards Mother Teresa, he had a definite blind spot, although I understand he did engage in a frank and warm dialogue with the genome scientist and Christian, Francis Collins, before he died of throat cancer. I like to think that Mother Teresa would have interceded for him when he arrived at the pearly gates.
Furthermore, they did have something in common: Hitchens saw abortion for what it was: in his column for the Nation magazine in 1989 he wrote, “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or has spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that… in order to terminate a pregnancy you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain… break some bones and rupture some organs.”
It is not a big jump from this statement to recognise that abortion is indeed “the greatest destroyer of peace” – as Mother Teresa asserted.
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