Recently I picked up this book (published in 1995) from a second-hand store. I had never read a book about Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Calcutta) and was intrigued. The work is a compilation by a spiritual writer named Lynda Vardey. It is primarily a collection of stories from those who work with the Missionaries of Charity, as religious or volunteers, and then a “path” to peace and love that anyone can follow.
No one can doubt the good works of the Missionaries of Charity; it is world renowned. And this review, much like the book itself, is not about them, but Ms. Vardey’s interpretation which I found to be disquieting. After reading the book twice, I was dismayed by the humanistic and pantheistic emphasis she placed on the outlined six-fold “path” inspired by Mother Teresa. She appears to praise the Charity for showing love-in-action without “preaching” religion (i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Ms. Vardey’s proposed “path to peace” ignores the centrality of the gospel and from there she slides down the slippery slope of pantheism.
Excluding the Gospel
In a world that now professes, “Love is Love” we must otherwise protest, that God is love and love is not subjective. As Catholics, we know that the greatest love that can be shown to humanity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His life, death, burial and resurrection is God’s love story to humanity. It also happens to be the only way of reconciliation for a fallen humanity with God. Yet, in Ms. Vardey’s compilation, we find the following:
- "For many non-Christians, Mother Teresa represents a form of Christianity they can wholeheartedly respect.”
My observation: This is in keeping with the book's tone of a “gospel-less” form of Christianity.
- “The Christian way has always been to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself. Yet Mother Teresa has, perhaps with the influence of the East, distilled six steps to creating peace in ourselves and others that can be taken by anyone – even someone of no religious beliefs or of a religious background other than Christian…when reading Mother Teresa’s words…we may, if we choose, replace the references to Jesus with references to other godheads or symbols of divinity.”
My observation: By paraphrasing the “Christian way” she dilutes the love of God to just another positive moral teaching that does not require Christ, or belief in One God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Exodus 3:14), as originally revealed to the Hebrews and maintained by Catholics.
Echoes of Pantheism
In her chapter The Fruit of Prayer is Faith she states “God is everywhere and in everything and without him we cannot exist.” And later, that “There are many religions and each one has its different ways of following God.”
Press “pause” for a moment.
Firstly, God is indeed everywhere (omnipresent), but he is not in everything – that last addition is called “pantheism.” Pantheism, very simply, is the philosophy that God IS the universe – like a cosmic force. It tolerates the belief in many gods or no god(s) at all. However, God’s revelation (his Holy Word) tells us, and the Church teaches, that there is ONE God, who transcends his creation. As a belief, pantheism makes people feel good about themselves while skirting objective truths.
Secondly, yes there are many religions and each one has it’s different ways of following God, but that is merely a statement of fact used to promote pantheism. All roads do not lead to heaven.
Or did Jesus say in vain, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father except by me…”
Ms. Vardey ends her book with the sentence “I have only one message of peace and that is to love one another as God loves each one of you. Jesus came to give us the good news that God loves us and that He wants us to love one another.”
My Observation: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news, but Jesus wasn’t just a messenger from God; he came to die. By sacrificing himself on the cross as the perfect lamb of God he showed God’s great love for us and provided the way for reconciliation between a Holy God and fallen humanity.
The world would be a much sweeter place if everyone just got along to get along and all roads eventually led to heaven. But Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” There is no real peace in the absence of truth.
Mother Teresa – A Simple Path is a humanist/pantheist feel-good-about-yourself-for-loving-another-human book that seeks to create a spiritually all-inclusive path to internal peace by using Saint Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity as a platform.