New USPS stamp … surprise!

In the now defunct but still relevant series The West Wing there is an episode in which the staff must chose figures for new US postage stamps.  Witty political correctness ensues.

At the time of the actual run of the series, the staff of the The West Wing seemed pretty far to the left.  These days, however, Pres. Bartlett and helpers seem like right-wing extremists compared to the present denizens of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Well… maybe not Josh….

You might have seen the episode in Season 2, "Galileo"….

Chief of Staff Leo is walking with the darkly snarky Toby, Communications Director and amped-up terrier Josh, Leo’s deputy.  There is going to be a landing of a Mars probe called Galileo

LEO: Walk me out.
Josh and Toby get up and follow Leo.
JOSH: Oh Leo, ask me how long a Martian day is.
LEO: No, I don’t think I will. Toby, do you know how a stamp is chosen?
TOBY: A stamp?
LEO: Yeah.
The three walk out of mess.
LEO: You’re gonna learn.
TOBY: Why?
LEO: The Postmaster General needs your help.
TOBY: Why?!
LEO: The Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee has…
JOSH: There’s a Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee?
LEO: Yes.
JOSH: Made up of members of the There-But-For-The-Grace-of-God-go-I Club?
LEO: You want to mock people or let me talk to Toby?
JOSH: I want to mock people.
LEO: The Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee has recommended to the Postmaster General that
Marcus Aquino be put on the next stamp issue.
TOBY: You know who he is?
LEO: He’s a former Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico and a Korean War hero.
TOBY: Then what’s the problem?
JOSH: He advocated statehood, right?
LEO: Strongly advocated it.
TOBY: Give it to somebody else!
LEO: No.
TOBY: Please?
LEO: This is a public face thing, and the Postmaster General wants your help!
TOBY: Well he can wait on a line around the block! Even while I have two of my 20 teller windows are open!
LEO: Make a recommendation by the end of the day.
TOBY: Yeah.
They stop walking.
LEO: [to Josh] What are you smiling at?
JOSH: Nothing, I just… Toby got the stamp assignment. [chuckles]
TOBY: Leo, I might need some help.
LEO: Take Josh. [goes into an office]
TOBY: Thanks. [to Josh] Congratulations, you’re choosing the next stamp. [leaves Josh alone]
JOSH: Wow, that happened fast.

His rebus gestis, a reader sent me a link to the site of the United States Postal Service where, lo and behold, we find this surprise about a new stamp for 2010.

Mother Teresa.

She is right up there with actress Katharine Hepburn, Negro Leagues Baseball and the Cowboys of the Silver Screen, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Gene Autry and William Hart. 

You ask: William Hart but no John Wayne?!  I guess the Duke has a stamp already.

The USPS explains (with my usual … but this time a little more skeptical… treatment):

With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service recognizes Mother Teresa, who [and here I think we have the true reason for the stamp…] received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work. Noted for her compassion toward the poor and suffering, Mother Teresa, a diminutive Roman Catholic nun and honorary U.S. citizen, served the sick and destitute of India and the world for nearly 50 years. Her humility and compassion, as well as her respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind, inspired people of all ages and backgrounds to work on behalf of the world’s poorest populations.  [It is probable that two things are going on here.  First, the Obama Administration is continuing its in efforts to suborn Catholics.  Second, in honoring a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the President is honoring himself.]

Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, in Skopje in what is now the Republic of Macedonia. [A fact Macedonians always point out.] Drawn to the religious life as a young girl, she left her home at the age of 18 to serve as a Roman Catholic missionary in India. “By then I realized my vocation was towards the poor,” she later said. “From then on, I have never had the least doubt of my decision.” Having adopted the name of Sister Mary Teresa, she arrived in India in 1929 and underwent initial training in religious life at a convent in Darjeeling, north of Calcutta. Two years later, she took temporary vows as a nun before transferring to a convent in Calcutta. She became known as Mother Teresa in 1937, when she took her final vows.

Following a divine inspiration [Surprised at the language?  Remember: This stamp might not really be about Bl. Teresa after all.] and deeply moved by the poverty and suffering she saw in the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa left her teaching post at the convent in 1948 to devote herself completely to the city’s indigent residents. [Sorta like a community organizer!] Two years later, she founded her own congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. Like Mother Teresa, the nuns of the new order wore white saris with a blue border rather than traditional nuns’ habits. In addition to the traditional vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty, they took a fourth vow of wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. “In order to understand and help those who have nothing,” Mother Teresa told the young women, “we must live like them.”

When Mother Teresa accepted the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize—one of her numerous honors and distinctions—she did so “in the name of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the lonely,” and convinced the organizers to donate to the needy the money normally used to fund the awards banquet. Well respected worldwide, she successfully urged many of the world’s business and political leaders to give their time and resources to help those in need. President Ronald Reagan presented Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, [And now a different President gives her a stamp!] the same year she began work on behalf of AIDS sufferers in the U.S. and other countries. In 1997, Congress awarded Mother Teresa the Congressional Gold Medal for her “outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities.”

Mother Teresa died in Calcutta on September 5, 1997, and is buried there. She had been a citizen of India since 1948.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress awarded Mother Teresa honorary U.S. citizenship. [I didn’t know that.] As of February 2009, the honor has only been bestowed on five others. Winston Churchill received it in 1963, Raoul Wallenberg in 1981, William Penn and Hannah Callowhill Penn in 1984, and the Marquis de Lafayette in 2002. With the exception of Hannah Callowhill Penn, each of these figures has also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp: the Marquis de Lafayette four times (1952, 1957, 1976, and 1977), William Penn in 1932, Churchill in 1965, and Wallenberg in 1997.  [Well!  There’s the reason she is on the stamp, right?]

The stamp features a portrait of Mother Teresa painted by award-winning artist Thomas Blackshear II of Colorado Springs, CO.

Okay, folks, there’s my cynical reading of the story.

I am still glad to see Bl. Teresa on the stamp.

His rebus gestis, quidquid id est timeo Albae Domus adiutores et dona ferentes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I’m not so cynical about their motives. I do not, however, see anything in that USPS press release about Mother Teresa’s passionate opposition to the sin of abortion.

    Must have been a oversight….

  2. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is going to get “into” all kinds of things, despite the intentions of those involved.
    She was/is quite a crafty lady. Her love for Jesus, the Church, for life (esp. the unborn) is eternal…and she is going to find every way possible to make this known!

  3. Marius2k4 says:

    Haha; Nice Aeneid reference, Father.

    How’s my translation? “This things done, whatever it is, I fear the helpers of the White House even when they bear gifts.”

  4. PeonyMoss says:

    I believe that a person must have been dead 10 years before he can be honored with a stamp (with the exception of former U.S. Presidents.) If that is still the rule, then Blessed Teresa would have only recently have become eligible. (And we will have to wait till 2019 for a stamp honoring the late Senator from Massachusetts. Alas.)

    Also, how long does it take for a stamp to be produced? The subject has to be nominated, then approved; the release has to be scheduled, and then there’s the art to be commissioned, completed, and approved….

    I agree with nazareth priest — I’d bet this is Bl Teresa’s doing, not the White House’s.

  5. Jayna says:

    Do you think a lot of people are going to read into the exact reasons the USPS has decided to make a Mother Teresa stamp, though? I’d wager that the vast majority are just going to see Mother Teresa on a stamp without knowing about all the politics behind putting her there.

    By the way, “I want to mock people” is one of my top 10 favorite lines in the entire West Wing series (and that was a solid episode all in all). One of the few from Josh, though. Toby is hands down my favorite character on that show.

  6. Paul says:

    Father, it is a beautiful stamp that may inspire people, non-Catholics and Catholics alike, to learn more about her and her faith. I’m very happy this is happening. Honestly, it would have never occurred to me to attack the president over it. Guess I’m just not that cynical. [Yah… I admitted that I was being cynical. One of those days.]

  7. Nan says:

    It’s actually 5 years and there’s a civilian panel that takes submissions from the public.

    They prefer submissions to be at least three years from proposed issue date and one of the possibilities is an anniversary of person’s birth. The stamp will be released on the 100th anniversary of Blessed Teresa’s birth.

    I attended Mass in Sept. for Blessed Teresa’s Feastday (the local Missionaries of Charity had requested the Mass otherwise it would be an optional memorial only in those dioceses with permission to put her on their calendar) and at the time we were told there would be a big celebration next year in honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth; it seems more likely that they or someone with a strong devotion to her put forth her name as a candidate for having a stamp.

  8. PeonyMoss says:

    Hmmmm… Has Fulton Sheen ever been on a stamp?

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