Mother Theresa was an atheist!?

Say what?

Suddenly she is so much more interesting– to have made her life living in Calcutta watching homeless people die and taking care of down-syndrome street babies that will never walk, without even the conviction of the will of God behind her.

Which does, in a way, make her seem more saintlike. Her charities are not the change-the-world vareity. I don’t know whether or not they purport to be. It makes little difference to more than a few people if a given mentally challenged street child lives to be ten years-old or dies at five, and she may not even have the faculties to be aware of how much her own life matters to her, but that’s what they do. Work that is useless, in a way, because it doesn’t change anything, but is at the same time Good. Or at least that’s question. Is it good or not if it only copes with the status quo?

I was told that people go into Nirmal Hriday, the home for the destitute and dying, and actually come out alive these days. But there are also families living on the street outside of the home for the children who were found jobs, but went back to begging because it’s more lucrative. On orientation days there are orientations given in at least half a dozen languages. Japanese, French, Americans, lots of people come to volunteer for the memory of Mother Theresa. I was the first in our study abroad group called to sign up and there was no free space at Nirmal Hriday and only a few spaces at Shishu Bhavan. I said, “Actually, it doesn’t look like you need me,” and volunteered somewhere else instead.

One of our professors did tell a good story: A girl some years back was going to miss the first few days of graduate school in order to finish her program in Kolkata, so she got a note from Mother Theresa excusing her from class.

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