Speaking of the admiration of people, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is true crucifixion.” (Come Be My Light)
She had been asked by Father van der Peet, a priest who knew her well, how she handled her celebrity. He said that she gave him various answers, but the most beautiful for him was an acknowledgement of the recognition of her nothingness. That God had given her a great grace in this awareness.
It may be difficult to understand how the admiration of others can be a crucifixion, but it is important to realize that this is not a false piety. When others give you credit, and your primary concern is giving glory to God, it is very easy to slip into pride. The problem of pride runs very deep and touches many facets of our life. It cannot be avoided—temptations are, and will continue to be, with us daily. The best we can do is pray for resistance to them and protection from them, because the trail they set us upon can lead us farther away from God. And that is the scary part.
From a gleeful moment of self-satisfaction it is a very short trip to pain. Blessed Teresa was fortunate to have the gift of conviction of her nothingness.
In Come Be My Light, she painfully understood that “The work is God’s work and not our work, that is why we must do it well. How often we spoil God’s work and try to get the glory for ourselves.”
“This possibility frightened her,” the author says, noting that “she prayed constantly to be protected from this presumption.” The awareness of her nothingness was her protection,” according to Father van der Peet.
Whenever our thoughts dwell on the goodness of our action, or whenever we internalize the praise we receive, very soon, we can be sure, self-adoration, or at the very least, self-absorption, will follow. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the model Jesus left his Apostles to follow. There is no room for self-righteousness in the plan of God in spreading his message of salvation for all.
To imagine that the possibility of this frightened Blessed Teresa, is to understand the great danger pride can be to our holiness and the success of evangelization. We would be wise to follow her lead and pray against it, because it does not lead to God, but a self-determined alienation from God.