"Oh, when the saints go marching in Oh, when the saints go marching in Oh Lord I want to be in that number When the saints go marching in."
A Black gospel song with different variations, the lyrics express the singers' wish to attain Heaven, walking alongside the saints entering the Pearly Gates on Judgment Day. It is also sung at funerals. Missionaries of Charity (MoC), the organisation founded and funded by Mother Teresa, could be on its way to Heaven, its foreign funding stopped. The Home Ministry had discovered irregularities and opaque accounting practices in its books.
A news report in 1991 in the respected German magazine Stern estimated that only seven percent of the millions of dollars MoC received were used for charity. The unaccounted rest has not even been quantified. Nirmala Joshi, Mother Teresa’s successor, shrugged when asked, "God knows. He is our banker." Since God is not mentioned in RBI rules, Joshi’s funds await divine intervention.
One man’s saint is another man’s devil. Every faith has unique instruments to push its philosophy, make friends and influence people. Islamic evangelism operates through Arabian petrodollars, used to construct mosques and madrassas. India's Muslim conquerors brought Islam through the sword and courtly inducements. Saint-making is the Catholic Church’s strategy to attract neglected lambs to the flock, by bestowing divine glamour on helpful missionaries.
Mother Teresa was one. By fast-tracking her canonisation, Pope John Paul II sent a powerful message that in Hindutva-dominated India, Christian hagiography will be the beacon of hope and divinity among the heathen. Ironically, the qualification for sainthood is what the Church of the time demands: the 16th century Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier initiated the Goa Inquisition which murdered, burned at the stake, tortured, maimed and converted thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Jews.
He is the patron saint of Roman Catholic missionaries in foreign lands. Does Mother Teresa, with such a sadistic patron saint, deserve a sainthood for charitable work, unlike many of the sisters who work selflessly there tending to the dregs of humanity? Documentaries and books record horrors in her charitable homes - injections with non-sterilised needles while HIV/AIDS patients live on the same premises. Expired drugs given, or not given at all. Children and the mentally ill are tied up for ease of handling.
The New York Times wrote that the saint was "less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs". Does St Teresa's unsmiling visage, puckered mouth and sunken eyes hide a noble Christian heart? In response to criticism, she reportedly replied, "There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering." Really, mummy?
Hinduism has no saints on its shelf in the Catholic sense. There are great gurus and thinkers such as Shankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi and Sree Narayana Guru. Mata Amritanandamayi is the patron of hospitals, educational institutions and charity. Perhaps the time has come for Hinduism’s own canon. Not to call for genocide or auctioning women online, but to spread the faith's effulgent glory, deep spirituality and wisdom among the people. To expose the false prophets and ignoramuses amongst us. Let the persuasion of the soul’s eternal sweetness and God’s mercy mark this generation’s darkest hour.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)