Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fr. James Martin, S.J. On Padre Pio And Mother Teresa

Fr. James Martin, S.J. the public face of America, the leading Jesuit publication in the English speaking world recently was interviewed on an Australian radio show entitled the Spirit of Things hosted by Rachel Kohn on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation  network.

Rachael Kohn: Well I have to admit that the story of Padre Pio is a little disturbing to me. I know that he was someone kind of tortured about his sinful past, he was very ill, and then he had these marks of stigmata on his hands. I've read a very critical analysis of his life, and I must say it sounded plausible. What do you think of Padre Pio?
James Martin:Well you know, the stigmata is a pretty big mystery. It's the wounds of Christ that appear in a person's body. St Francis of Assisi was the first one to have that phenomenon. 
I haven't read that much on Padre Pio. He was a very holy man, he was a very good confessor and from what I understand even correct me, he really suffered from those wounds, and was quite embarrassed by them. I go on the testimony of people that I know who knew him or who met him, because you know, he only died a few years ago. 
I mean I see him as a holy person but once again I don't know a whole lot about his life actually.
Rachael Kohn:Well saints' lives are examined medically, but what about psychologically?
James Martin:Well the question is can a neurotic person be holy?
Rachael Kohn:Yes, that is -
James Martin:And I would say yes. It's why people say, Well you know, if they were neurotic or sort of obsessive-compulsive, well then I say, Well so God can't work through that? I think God can work through anything. 
I think you have someone like Mother Teresa who I'm not saying is neurotic, but there's someone who's a very strong-willed, forceful, some might even say not intransigent, but just determined woman. And some might say Oh, you know, you're not open to self-doubt, you're not open to criticism, and you see the person in her life. But then you read her journals that came out, that she had lots of struggles with her faith and with her prayer, and you realise that she was struggling that whole time. 
So a lot of times we look from the outside in, and we might not really know what's going on inside. So I think you can say that God can work through all sorts of personalities, even neurotic personalities.
Rachael Kohn:So it really then does depend on the actions, on the holy actions. It almost doesn't matter that Mother Teresa had doubts about her faith?
James Martin:Well I say I think it makes her a greater saint because frequently we look at people like Mother Teresa and we say Oh, you know, she never had doubts, she never struggled with her prayer, things were easier for her. But you read her journals and you realise that she was doing all of these actions, working with the poorest of the poor, with very little in prayer. 
She had a very intense prayer experience early in her life that sort of was the engine of all of this, and she was faithful to that. So here's this woman , has this one experience in the late 1940s, has very dry prayer for the rest of her life and continues on. So there's this great sense of fidelity. So in that case I think it's both, and I really think in all cases with the saints, it's not only their actions but their personal prayer life. 
But Mother Teresa, there's another example of someone who I think is a great saint, perhaps one of the greatest because of the difficulties she had to endure. It's like Mary MacKillop. I mean there are plenty of foundresses of religious orders, right; there are not many foundresses of religious orders who were excommunicated. So for me that raises her in my eyes as an amazing saint, and all the saints were pretty amazing.
Rachael Kohn:Well who's your favourite saint? I have a suspicion you might say Ignatius of Loyola.
James Martin:I should say Ignatius of Loyola who's the founder of the Jesuit order of which I'm a member - and I just wrote a whole book about him. I have to say it's Therese of Lisieux, the French Carmelite. She is known for what's called 'The Little Way', which is doing small things with great love. And there's a person who I think everyone can relate to because really, very few of us are called to start a religious order like Mary MacKillop or Mother Teresa or Francis of Assisi, right? I mean very few of us are going to be Popes like Blessed John XXIII but all of us struggle and can do little things for God, so Therese is just for me an amazing saint. But I would say No.2 is St Ignatius Loyola as you correctly divined. No pun intended!

Link (here) to read the transcript and listen to the whole video.


Maria said...

"Well the question is can a neurotic person be holy"? So Padre Pio, a Saint, is neurotic? I mean this without malice: I find this comment very distubing. What on earth can he possibly mean?

Anonymous said...

Maria, many canonized saints would be considered neurotic in the light of c20 and c21 psychology. Take St Teresa of Avila, for instance. I doubt if, these days, she would ever be admitted to a Carmelite noviciate.

Anthony Symondson said...

And while on the subject, there were episodes in the life of St Ignatius Loyola when he would be deemed barking mad. For instance, what do you make of the period when he refused to cut his hair and finger nails?

Joseph Fromm said...

The interviewer has a hard time understanding Catholicism and that was self-evident in the interview.I think Fr. Martin was a little shy in his views on Padre Pio, but considering that the question was hostile Fr. Martin would problem answer it in a different way if he had a chance.