Graduate theology students and faculty learn from the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta
“If I ever become a saint–I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from Heaven–to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta
In honor of newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, and in the spirit of the University’s “A Year for Mother,” the Graduate Theology Programs are conducting an extra-curricular seminar course, reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, a collection of the private letters of St. Teresa, with commentary by Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. This course, led by Dr. Steven Long and Dr. Michael Waldstein, is an opportunity for all members of the Graduate Theology Programs to come together and discuss important questions together with multiple faculty members.
One may wonder why, or even how, the letters of St. Teresa would be an object of academic inquiry. She is not known for her theological writings or doctrine, but is known for her life of service, and particularly service to the poor. Can such a work as Come Be My Light be suitably treated in a graduate seminar? Is it not inappropriate to drag this series of letters of a woman who dedicate her life to a decidedly active apostolate, and lay them before a bunch of academics for analytical scrutiny?
In answer, we must say, yes, this book can be treated of in a graduate theology seminar, and it is perfectly appropriate that we do so. The life of St. Teresa challenges us in many ways. Her powerful example of radical dedication to the service of the poor challenges us to reevaluate our own priorities and our own awareness of the poverty around us, material and spiritual. Further, her perseverance in faith, even when she was in the midst of the most profound spiritual darkness is a challenge to us to endure in the face of our own challenges, spiritual or physical. Additionally, the mysterious character of her interior life challenges our understanding of mystical theology and inspires important questions, as we consider the more formal aspects of mystical theology, especially in light of the tradition.
The selection from this work for the seminar is in consonance with the reminder Fr. Andrew Hofer, O.P. gave the graduate students and faculty at their retreat at the beginning of the year: Theology is not simply an academic pursuit. It is of course this, but it is also much more than this. It is, therefore, most appropriate, and even necessary that the Graduate Theology Programs encourage the reading of such texts. As theologians we aim to help the world better to know and love God. To lose sight of this is to kill theology.
As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, theology is not just one among the other philosophical disciplines, but it stands above all of them (Summa Theologiae I, Q.1, a.1). Further, he teaches us that “although among the philosophical sciences one is speculative and another practical, nevertheless sacred doctrine includes both” (ST I, Q.1, a.4), and it does so, because the whole purpose of our study is to know God, and teach the world about him. To know God, though, is to love Him. In this way, though we work in classrooms and libraries, while St. Teresa worked in alleys and gutters, we all have the same task: to know and love God, and to help the world do the same. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you” (1Cor. 12:21).
St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!