The following comes from a September 3 Fresno Bee article:
If only in passing on Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown’s mind surely will wander to the 3 1/2 weeks in 1988 he spent in the fetid slums of Calcutta, back when he was trying to find his way.
To sort things out, Brown spent six months in 1992 studying Zen Buddhism in Kamakura, Japan, then turned to his Catholic roots by traveling to the heavily Hindu and Muslim nation of India. There, he spent time tending to destitute, disabled and dying people at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity home. Mother Teresa will be the focus of the Catholic world on Sunday when Pope Francis canonizes her.
Brown remembers her for her leadership, her authority and her commanding presence, perhaps a reflection of who he is and what still interests him.
“She would say, work at the home for the dying, or work at the home for kids with disabilities. It was not like a discussion. She was a person of command,” Brown said the other day. He also recalled her deeds. When she saw the least of humanity on the ground, she would pick the person up: “ ‘What you do to him is what you do to Christ.’ ”
A reporter friend of mine, Rone Tempest, was based in New Dehli and got Brown on the phone in 1988. He had been staying in a $15 a night hotel, spending his days comforting and bathing patients, many of whom suffered from malnutrition. He would have witnessed open sewage in the streets, my friend said, and flies, horrible smells, oppressive heat, and legless and armless mendicants.
“I don’t think I understand well enough the suffering that is going on in the world,” Brown told him back then.
Three decades later and 19 years after Mother Teresa’s death, Brown cannot say he thinks of her as he goes about the daily business of running the state, though she does cross his mind whenever he walks past the small statue of the Virgin Mary she gave him; he kept it in his home in Oakland, which he recently sold.
“It may not sound like much, but in comparison to all the hundreds of people I meet, she stands out, in the confidence, the directness, the clarity, the simplicity, of what she was doing, what she was saying, and how she was able to inspire volunteers,” Brown said.
Brown met Mother Teresa in later years, at the Vatican, in San Francisco and in Tijuana. Hers was a strict, orthodox view of Catholicism, one “quite at variance with today’s feminism.” She had a “spiritual resonance” that attracted and inspired followers.
“If you look at churches, they are shadows of what they once were,” Brown said. “Look at the religious orders, the virtual disappearance of the nuns, the diminishment of the Christian brothers … and yet you see the Missionaries of Charity are quite vigorous. That reflects the prophetic spirit of Mother Teresa.”