This week, three thoughts for the same bargain price as one:
▪ Before Pope Francis could complete Mother Teresa’s canonization on Sept. 4, the late nun’s critics were already howling.
CNN.com reported on those opposed to her sainthood.
Hemley Gonzalez had once volunteered at her religious order’s Nirmal Hriday home for the dying in India. He told CNN he was troubled by the poor hygiene and lack of medical care he found.
“It was a scene out of a World War II concentration camp,” he was quoted as saying.
A local volunteer explained the home wasn’t designed to provide state-of-the-art medical treatment, but to offer simple comfort to the poorest of the poor.
Others criticized a lack of financial transparency by Mother Teresa’s religious order, the Missionaries of Charity. Still others questioned her opposition to abortion, contraception and divorce. Some charged she’d tried to convert non-Christians to her faith (duh — she was a nun). Some took issue with the two miracles attributed to her.
Mother Teresa’s flaws, whatever they were — she also wrestled with profound doubts about God’s existence — are what I love. She was so complex, so human.
Yet, despite her blind spots and soul-haunting questions, she kept plodding on for decades, changing soiled bedclothes and applying bandages to the sores of the dying.
To me, she’s not a saint because she never fell short. She’s a saint because she fell short pretty much every day, as you and I do.
Except in her case, she never quit trying to do good anyway. She got it wrong again and again, for all I know. But until the end, she kept trying to walk out the best precepts of her Catholic faith.
▪ I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed, by the hysterical criticism recently aimed at San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem as a means of protesting what he sees as racial injustice and unfair treatment of black people by some members of law enforcement.
The quarterback was booed from the stands. The American Family Association claimed he’d broken a federal law. Pundits accused him of being unpatriotic and of insulting our armed forces. A police union threatened to withhold police protection from 49ers’ games.
Frankly, I thought Kaepernick’s protest, while probably sincere, felt self-aggrandizing.
Also, I’m not a Kaepernick fan generally. I had him on my fantasy roster last season, and he didn’t do me a solid there. So just as a player, he doesn’t make my cut.
But I wouldn’t boo him. I don’t question his right to take a knee during “The Star Spangled Banner.”
This is the United States of America, the land of the free. The guy doesn’t have to stand for the national anthem if he doesn’t want to.
His actions weren’t unpatriotic or insulting to our service members. In fact, our soldiers have fought for more than two centuries to guarantee Kaepernick the right to do exactly what he did: demonstrate for an unpopular belief.
They’ve given us all the right to stand or not stand. To worship or not worship. To salute or not salute. To be entirely obnoxious, if we so desire.
That’s what sets us apart from ISIS. Try not standing for its anthem (if it has one) or not saluting its black flag. Try voicing any contrary opinion. You’ll get your head sawed off.
This is America. You can do or say any durned fool thing you want to here. That’s the beauty and wonder of this place.
Yeah, I know, the booing fans and the cops and all the rest were exercising their rights, too. I get that.
But instead of hissing Kaepernick, they would have done better to cheer his inalienable right to be a naysayer.
▪ It’s unimaginable, but today marks 15 years since the 9/11 terror attacks.
That morning, I was finishing a jog at our town’s park when a friend pulled into the parking lot.
“Have you heard?” he said.
He told me a plane had hit a World Trade Center tower, and then another hit the second tower. And one had hit the Pentagon. Nobody knew what was next.
I thought he was joking — there was a punchline coming.
“No,” he said. “It’s real. I swear.”
I rushed home to my wife, who was battling cancer. I turned on the TV. We hardly left our den for days. Morning to midnight, we stared at the screen.
I’m so grateful that, whatever their shortcomings, two successive administrations have managed to protect us from further cataclysmic attacks. God bless them.
I still mourn for all those poor souls, nearly 3,000 of them, murdered through no fault of their own, as well as for the first responders whose lives were cut short by the toxins they encountered while searching for victims. God bless their surviving families.
But there is something I miss about the days and weeks that followed 9/11.
In my life, I’ve never felt such a sense of e pluribus unum. We Americans were all one, whether men or women, black or white or brown or yellow, Democrats or Republicans, rich or poor.
We were all friends then, however briefly.
Today, we seem more divided than ever. I wish we could recapture that camaraderie without having to endure another tragedy.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.