Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Something Beautiful for God

Something Beautiful for God by Malcom Muggeridge

This book was originally published in 1971 and, apparently, was one of the very first books documenting Mother Teresa's work in Calcutta. It was republished in 2003 when she was beatified and I picked it up at a store-closing sale. (I hate when bookstores close, but I do like to buy their books when they do.) It's a short book and fairly easy to read, though there is much to ponder so it's worth spending some time on it.

The author quotes Mother Teresa "On Silence:"
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to the poor in the slums? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within -- words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
This is a succinct explanation on why we need to pray and that the result of prayer is the ability to better do God's work on earth.

In an interview with the author, she says:
I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual. To get to love the person we much come in contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person to person; every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is only one person in the world for me at that moment.
In a world where everything must be supported by data, it's refreshing and important to remember that people are not numbers. Each person is loved into existence by God and must be greeted and loved and respected.

Blessed Teresa is not universally respected (though she perhaps is the closest person we have to such a thing in modern times), but there is no doubt that reading about her life is inspiring.


  1. I read this, I'm trying to think of when, I believe in the past year, and it was definitely a worthwhile read. Lots of good nuggets to ponder.

    I never knew there was anyone who didn't like Bl. Teresa until I came upon a scathing blogpost I wish I hadn't read.

    But anyways, glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I'm sure there are people who say horrible things about Blessed Teresa because there are people and beings that hate all good in the world, but I also think there are some good people who have questions about how she and her order do their work.

      There are some that say the people who go to her could be saved if they went to a hospital, especially a hospital like we have here in the States. It's important to note that is true. I think this is personally a harsher criticism of the neighborhoods in which the Order serves, rather than the Order itself. (In the book, Bl. Teresa said they only accepted people in the House for the Dying if they had been turned away from the hospital; I don't know if that is still true.)

      There are some that criticize them for not registering as a non-profit, for not tracking the funds they receive and providing proof they are being used for the poor and not lining someone's bank account somewhere. These are valid concerns, especially given the level of fraud found in "non-profits" around the world. They have refused to do this in order to avoid paying someone to do that work with money that could help the poor and because they are more interested in each individual person than in building a non-profit that supposedly could expand and help larger numbers of people. But I understand this criticism as I am very careful to research the financial standing and reports of any charity to which we might donate. That could exclude sending money to the Missionaries of Charity.

      A third criticism I've seen briefly is the idea that Bl. Teresa discouraged the use of pain medication because she believe pain was spiritually beneficial. I don't actually know anything more than that statement, whether it's true or how the Order responds to it.

      My point is not to agree with the critics or to properly defend the Order because I haven't done that very well. I just wanted to note that there could be reasons for good people to choose another way of giving and serving than that of Bl. Teresa. The important thing, I think, is to allow her love and her life to inspire us to do something, whatever God is calling us to do, to show our love for others. It could be joining her order or sponsoring a child with CFCA (and actually writing letters to become a friend of the family) or scrubbing a kitchen floor for a pregnant woman on bedrest. Bl. Teresa shows us how to do more than write a check or give material things to the poor; she shows how we can love another person as we love Christ, even those the world tells us are unloveable.


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