Mother Teresa

Has this author no shame?

By  Maria Di Paolo, Catholic Register Special
  • December 14, 2014

Love  The Saint and the Seeker by Christina Stevens (Hay House, 328 pages, softcover, $16.95)

The cover to Love — The Saint and the Seeker shows a photograph of Blessed Mother Teresa with her head slightly bent, listening attentively, perhaps even submissively, while Christina Stevens, the author, speaks to her, script in hand. The look is distinctly collaborative. The title is writ large across the photo. The subtitle, somewhat more discreetly placed at the bottom.

From the get go, this whole project smacks of unashamed commercial exploitation. I say project because this is not just a book about Stevens’ very, very brief encounter with Mother Teresa in 1993. Quite frankly, there is not a whole lot about the encounter towrite about. Nor is it about some deep insight and conversion she might have experienced after- wards. It is the twisted selling of Mother Teresa beyond the grave by Christina Stevens & Co. to as many gullible folk as she can find to buy into the whole dubious deal.

The book, all 300-plus pages, hangs on the few snatched minutes that Stevens had with Mother Teresa. Stevens was trying to make a short promotional video to bring Mother Teresa’s message to the world. The two-minute video is available on YouTube and also on Stevens’ web site. Most of the 15 minutes of actual taping ended up on the cutting room floor becauseof technical problems with light and sound. What is left was simply spliced, salvageable bits padded out with Calcutta street scenes to cover obvious breaks in continuity. We have no idea what Mother Teresa said as there was no usable transcript. The message became whatever Stevens could make Mother Teresa say coherently from whatever was audible on the tape. In short, it was a rescue job. The film is amazingly amateurish and the message is simplistic and cloying: “Let us begin a revolution of love.”

And it is this tag line that Stevens is determined to sell by swamping the Mother Teresa storyline with a jumbled and distracting narrative of scenes from her dysfunctional childhood and family life interspersed with bizarre examples of her visions, second sight and healing gifts. You see where this is leading?

What is really exasperating is that Stevens claims Mother Teresa is the one who pleaded with her to write all this drivel down. It apparently was so important that Mother Teresa stopped off in Stevens’ bedroom in Californiaon her way to Heaven on Sept. 5, 1997, the date of Mother Teresa’s death, pleading, “When are you going to write?”

By co-opting Mother Teresa for her own narcissistic ends, Stevens is extremely disrespectful to all that Mother Teresa represented. Stevens couldn’t even be bothered to get right the details of her first in-the-flesh encounter with Mother Teresa on Good Friday 1993.

The errors are glaringly obvious to any Catholic. The chapel at the Missionaries of Charity mother- house is decorated with white and the priest is robed in purple and gold. He consecrates the bread and wine ... except, wait a minute ... it’s Good Friday and the colour should be red, not white, and there would have been no consecration. Clearly, Stevens has confused Good Friday celebrations with Easter Sunday, because on Easter Sunday she describes a ritual that can only have been the Good Friday veneration of the Cross.

Another error: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is not yet a saint, but I guess saints sell better than mere ordinary folk or even blesseds.

Mother Teresa’s love wasentirely relational. She lived to love God and love her neighbour. She was only there for the people she served — the poor, the unloved, the abandoned of the world. Stevens’ love is entirely self-referencing in the extreme. She concludes her book with a story about the death of her beloved dog, Thunder. She writes: “I got it. His adoring gaze, his love, was his great teaching. In his eyes I saw how magnificent I am, how perfect, how fantastic, how overwhelmingly captivating, how blessed and loved, truly loved, I am. And how did it make me feel? Fearless. And powerful! So powerful nothing could touch me. It prodded me that right there was where I needed to ramp up my love, for myself.” Ouch.

Words can be well used and they can be grossly misused. I suspect that Mother Teresa would be turning over in her grave right now if she knew how Stevens has so grossly misused the words she spoke to her that day in Calcutta more than 20 years ago.

(Di Paolo is freelance writer in Toronto.)

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