By John D. Pierce

MotherTeresaAn ecumenical service to honor the remarkable life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta was held in an Atlanta-area Baptist church soon after her death in 1997. It was a fitting tribute — that included sisters from her Missionaries of Charity — to the generous woman who followed Christ to places most Christians dare not go.

The service was in contrast to much of the anti-Catholic rhetoric I heard and read (Chick tracts) during my youth. Likewise, my relationships with many Catholic Christians through the years belie those earlier misrepresentations.

However, there are places where my Baptist-infused ways of understanding and practicing faith diverge from Catholic teachings and practices — as well as from those of other Christian groups including many (perhaps most) other Baptists. My support for the full equality of and opportunities for women and my distrust of hierarchal structures of human authority are two of the more obvious ones.

Like with various traditions within the diverse Body of Christ, however, there is much I admire and affirm — including the appealing, reforming leadership of Pope Francis.

With those qualifying words, I turn to the news that Mother Teresa is moving toward sainthood in deservedly expedient ways. What intrigues (and, yes, somewhat confounds me) is the “miracle” requirement.

Two confirmed “miracles” are needed, in fact. And according to news reports, the beloved nun, first credited with the healing of an Indian woman, has a second miracle attributed to her now: a Brazilian man’s brain infection cleared after his wife sought the intercession of the Blessed Mother Teresa.

But I keep wondering:

What could be more miraculous than a tiny Macedonian woman investing her life in serving the poor and suffering?

What could be more miraculous than choosing to be among the deathly ill and often unloved people of Calcutta’s slums?

What could be more miraculous than touching with care and compassion those considered by the rest of the world to be untouchable?

What could be more miraculous than the love and self-denial required to truly follow Jesus’ call to serve the least of these?

It is much easier to count miracles than to be one.

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