So Mother Theresa is now officially a saint. I had not been following the canonization process, mostly because I think the whole sainthood business needs a serious overhaul in this most modern of ages, if not to be dispatched entirely. I have respect for some saints of the past, but what are they, really, but flawed fellow human beings lucky enough to have gotten the attention of the Church? Still, I guess the best of the best deserve a fuss, some kind of recognition, though this miracles business absolutely has to go. It’s medieval. Why can’t we look up to the saints for what they did with their lives, not for some supernatural, superstitious nonsense ascribed to them after their death?
But something I found interesting in the news accounts this morning was that so much was made over her predilection toward doubt, expressed in many letters to friends and mentors. We’re supposed to admire people whose faith in God is absolute and without hesitation, so what to make of all this doubting? The apostle Thomas is singled out for his healthy skepticism, forced to poke his own fingers into Christ’s wounds to assuage his faithlessness. Yet it seems, in the more intelligent saints, faith and doubt go hand and hand, tightly entwined. Does a serious believer, then, have an obligation to doubt? Do unbelievers fight inner battles against the incursion of belief, yearning to be churchgoers again?
So this is what I’m doing over my Labor Day weekend, when everyone else is at the beach or at cookouts: Holed up in my messy office on a stunningly beautiful September day (even with Hermine the Hurricane spinning just offshore New Jersey). Thinking about doubts, and my own, which are considerable. Is extreme doubt simply a form of clinical depression? How much of what we consider spiritual is really emotional? And here lies the dangers of overthinking. Maybe doubt doesn’t matter so much (although I worry that it’s a triumph of rationality, proof that belief in God is a fictional construct after all). Perhaps our lives should be judged not by what we believe or don’t believe, but by what we do. But then, what do writers do? Write about what we think, our beliefs…So we are going to be judged, no matter what. Get used to it!
So choose those words wisely…That’s advice to myself. The rest of you may be as wonderfully unwise as you like–I’ll be delighted to read the results!