I found this book (Something Beautiful for God: The Classic Account of Mother Teresa’s Journey into Compassion) at the Calgary Reads Book Sale in early summer. I’ve always been fascinated with Malcolm Muggeridge since reading about him in the Diaries of Adrian Mole and then his short story of the leprous heart. I learned he was a popular personality on the BBC, a commentator, interviewer, maybe someone like today’s Charlie Rose. So it is interesting to me that it is he who brought Mother Teresa into the fame she and the Sisters of Charity gained in the last half the 20th Century. This book is a collection of four chapters:
- The account of Muggeridge encountering, visiting, interviewing, and then corresponding with Mother Teresa (his TV interview and then the BBC documentary is what launched her name into the airwaves)
- Topical quotes by Mother Teresa
- The transcript of their TV interview
- Muggeridge’s very thoughtful essay on Christianity as informed by his encounters and witness of Mother Teresa’s work
Most of this book was read peacefully under a hot sun at a New Brunswick beach. I was carried away to the sweaty, desperate slums of Calcutta, India as I learned more and more of the good and powerful work of the Sisters of Charity. This book was published in 1971, so the ministry grew from that time, but already much had been done to serve the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa began with 10 sisters – most of whom were former students when she was a teacher – once she received permission from her superiors to set up a new order committed to living with the poorest and serving them. They scooped up the tens of thousands of people from the street and gave them medical attention and if they passed away, a dignified death. They housed and cared for thousands of abandoned children. They provided a home for 10,000 lepers in a new colony where the people received treatment and means of employment.
Over and over again, I was reminded of the principles I learned in Walking with the Poor (Myers) who after 30 years with World Vision outlines Christian principles of development and relief. Decades earlier, Mother Teresa was already practicing these very same principles of living among and as the poor. She was already identifying Christ in the people she served. She was already serving them with no compulsion to convert. She found joy in suffering. She drew people into her ministry carefully training and screening them.
I was deeply challenged by her words. I will likely have to read this again.