Saint Teresa of Calcutta, more widely known as Mother Teresa, was canonized Sunday. No other contemporary canonization, with the exception of Saint John Paul II, was met with such heightened expectation and fanfare.
Like St. John Paul II, St. Teresa represented the modern Catholic Church and its mission after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. She embraced Christ's message of caring for the spirit and the body of the poor, dedicating herself to a lifestyle of modesty and humble service.
By turning against modernity, she set herself up for criticism by the hypocrites and the elite alike. As she comforted the sick and dying, well-off academics complained from their cushy offices that she didn't do enough to give money to the poor. The worst attack came from the constantly vitriolic Christopher Hitchens, who claimed that she encouraged poverty because she refused to give up God for the promises of progressivism.
Even with the nasty attacks, she proved she was a follower of Christ in her every action. She advocated for the truth of the word as she comforted those in need. She gave succor and support to those crying out for help. She did not sit idly by, acting smug or superior. Instead, she was constantly out in the world, living her faith.
Her critics' biggest complaint was that she refused to accept the practice of abortion. Christ warned against expedient actions taken to provide comfort in this life, and she refused to budge on the issue. Instead, she knew that it was the devaluation of human life, not a prohibition on the murder of the next generation, that was the source of poverty.
As Pope Francis pointed out in his homily during her canonization Mass, "She made her voice heard before the powers of the world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes of poverty they themselves created."
Pope Francis connected her life with the command in Sunday's Gospel reading of Luke 14 to give up our previous life and possessions and instead bear our cross. He explained, "In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather, they renounce all this because they have discovered true love."
St. Teresa fought against materialism because it interfered with following Christ. Her life was an example of true charity, the kind that expresses true love for our fellow man by direct service to their needs.
It is not an attempt to appease our egos or satisfy some internal desire to seem like a decent person. Instead, it is a selfless dedication that focuses on spreading love and compassion rather than trying to further material attachments.
The Hitchens of the world could not understand St. Teresa because they could not understand love. They see people as commodities and happiness as a monetary figure.
However, most people see through the hypocrisy of the armchair philanthropists who make grand statements about public policy without ever lifting a hand to help.
It is easy to criticize while sitting from the sidelines, but sainthood is not easy.
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Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at email@example.com.