The article focuses on the emergence of Mother Teresa as a religious visionary and the hostile treatment she received at the Loreto order in the late 1940s. Mother Teresa’s early career as an ‘independent’ nun is a useful case study to look afresh at some traditional views on the revolutionary nature of charisma, the initial reception of the ‘natural’ and charismatic leader, mainly the ‘deviant type’, and the ‘proofs’ expected from and provided by the ‘bearer of charisma’ in modernity. This article contends that approaching Mother Teresa’s charism/a from a sociological and public theology perspective reveals both the potential and the need for interdisciplinary research to explore the publicness of religion and engage further the academy with the life, work and legacy of this twentieth century religious leader.
Albert Huart, ‘Mother Teresa: Joy in Darkness’, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflections, 64:9 (2000), 645–59; Joseph Neuner, ‘Mother Teresa’s Charism’, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflections, 65:3 (2001), 179–92; Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the ‘Saint of Calcutta’, ed. B. Kolodiejuchuk (New York: Doubleday, 2007); Teresa, Where There Is Love, There Is God.
See Kathryn Spink, For the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God: Mother Teresa of Calcutta, her Missionaries of Charity and her Co-Workers (Godalming: Colour Library International, 1981), pp. 16–18; Kathryn Spink, Mother Teresa: An Authorized Biography (New York: HarperOne, 1998), p. 3; and Anne Sebba, Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image (London: Orion, 1997), p. 13.
In December 2011 and January2012, I contacted several individuals who knew Mother Teresa in person to inquire whether ‘charism’ or ‘charisma’ is the most suitable term to apply to her. They all believe that a distinction needs to be made between Mother Teresa and celebrities in general and that one way of doing this is through employing ‘charism’ and not ‘charisma’ to distinguish what was unique about her personality and why her order, the Missionaries of Charity, was successful from the start.
See Charlotte Gray, Mother Teresa: The Nun whose ‘Mission of Love’ has Helped Millions of the World’s Poorest People (Watford: Exley, 1990), p. 20; Doig, Mother Teresa, p. 53; and Edward Le Joly, We Do it for Jesus: Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1977), p. 18.