Towering Blue and White Controversy

The Catholic League has been on a tear about the decision of the owners/operators of NYC’s Empire State Building not to illuminate the uppermost part of the famous skyscraper in blue and white for the 100th Birthday of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity.

They were perfectly willing to illuminate the tower with red and yellow light in honor of the "birthday" of the People’s Republic of China, under whose rule millions have died due to oppression and poor judgment in governance, and where there are still grave human rights questions.

Today I read this story from CNA.

New US stamp honors Mother Teresa, admirer and critic of American society

Mother TeresaWashington D.C., Sep 5, 2010 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa on August 26, the United States Postal Service is honoring her with a new 44 cent stamp. It was issued in a special ceremony today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Postmaster General John Potter dedicated the stamp Sunday along with other officials from both the postal service and the Catholic Church, including the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Auxiliary Bishop of Washington Barry Knestout, Monsignor Walter Rossi of the national shrine, and Sister Leticia, MC, provincial superior of the Missionaries of Charity.

During the ceremony, Potter explained that it is important for the government agency to “focus attention on subjects our country regards with respect and affection, and that is certainly true of Mother Teresa, who believed so deeply in the innate worth and dignity of humankind and worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor, sick, orphaned and dying.”

The postmaster added that he is “very proud” for the U.S. to be “honoring Mother Teresa with such a lasting memorial.” Collectible first-day postmark editions of the new stamp will be available directly through the U.S. Postal Service.



For the last couple days here in Manhattan, this is what we have been seeing at night.

Empire State Building


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. TNCath says:

    It looks like the Post Office must have put the pressure on. Interesting.

  2. TNCath says:

    It just occurred to me, however. Could it be that the blue and white lights are in honor of Labor Day, signifying blue and white collar workers? I hope not, but is it possible?

  3. ErnieNYC says:


    Unfortunately, yes. The blue/white/blue is in honor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, famous for this weekend’s Jerry Lewis Telethon. Good news, however: later this week, the lights will be green/green/green, in commemoration of, wait for it….Muslim holiday Eid al Fitr.

  4. Father G says:


    The official website of the Empire State building states that the blue/white/blue lights are for the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

  5. William says:

    ((#Confirmed. The official website of the Empire State building states that the blue/white/blue lights are for the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Comment by Father G — 6 September 2010 @ 9:35 am ))

    Here’s a case of the Divine sense of humor! The official website can state whatever it wants to state but the ESB is aglow in blue and white–and at just the right moment. Put that in your pipe, Stephen Hawkings, and smoke on it!!

  6. NDPhys says:

    Considering that Mother Teresa is one of two (if memory serves me) persons ever given honorary US citizenship by acts of congress (Churchill being the other), this clearly indicates that she is specially deserving of secular honors (such as a stamp or the special lighting of a building). To deny such is really to show one’s true colors.

  7. Lisa Graas says:

    Isn’t this amazing? Wow. Thank you, God!

  8. Mitchell NY says:

    I will just tell people blue and white stands in honor of Mother Theresa, most will not check a website to verify. Then next year I will revert to it being in honor of Muscular Dystrophy. ANd then MT again. Catholics in the area should easily understand this as Year “A” and Year “B”. LOL

  9. MikeJ9919 says:


    You are correct in that Blessed Mother Teresa and Sir Winston Churchill are the only ones honored during their lifetimes. However, five others have been honored posthumously, including William Penn and the Marquis de Lafayette.

  10. PomeroyJohn says:

    What about Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and his big campaign push for the past three or so months. He seemed to get everyone involved in getting the lights the right color for Mother Theresa.


  11. David Collins says:

    We are a Christian minority living in a heathen empire. Why waste time trying to convince the heathens to light up the Empire State building in honor of one of our own?

  12. Cathy says:

    It’s very tempting to feel like we’re wasting our time with this sort of thing, but I used to be one those heathens and I can say from personal experience that these things aren’t a waste of time. Every time I saw evidence of Christian faith it was a seed planted in my heart – every nun in habit, priest in clerical garb, crucifix hung on a wall was a testimony to me. I once heard William Bennett interviewed on CNN. I don’t remember the story, but something he said stuck with me. He said “The Church is about universal truth”. At the time I wondered how the Catholic Church thought they might have possession of universal truth, but even so I respected them for standing up for what they believed. That idea stayed hidden in the back of my mind and helped me be open to God’s grace to be converted. Lighting up the Empire State building to honor Mother Teresa will put her message of faith in Christ in the hearts of many people, even if we can’t see it.

  13. Good, good, green for eid, I can’t wait to see it lit up purple for Ash Wednesday, and white for Easter. Get on it boys and girls.

  14. Beginning with the risible syntax error in the opening line of the C.L. protest letter, this whole project seems poorly thought-out. If the building is privately-owned, and its lighting scheme on any given night is neither criminal nor dangerous, who is the C.L. to demand that it be lit in any certain way for any certain purpose? One might use one’s property for a bad purpose and thus be subject to criticism for it, but declining to use it for any given good is not an evil.

  15. The Egyptian says:

    Lynn Knapke, daughter of friends of ours joined the Missionaries of Charity. This young woman is very happy, enjoying her vocation. She is currently in Mexico City helping with the orphanage for children with birth defects there. She receives letters from her friends regularly but is allowed only two pages to write home once a month and she fills all the paper and writes in the margins to get all of her experiences in, she is allowed one phone call every several months. She says that being restricted to two pages really concentrates you focus and makes the writing a joy. she will not see her family for at least 10 years unless they come to see her. To listen to the trendy critics she should be miserable, but the contrary is true, more proof that the strict orders are attracting the young and growing, while the polyester nightmares and sister pantsuits are dying out

  16. C. says:

    I didn’t think Catholic social teaching allowed us to make much distinction between public and private property when considering the use to which they should be put.

  17. Bob says:

    Perhaps we should publicly thank them to secure future cooperation?

  18. M Heller says:

    Dr. Peters, With all due respect, I don’t believe that the Catholic League was claiming that the owner of the Empire State Building was engaging in an evil. The Empire State Building is known these days throughout New York as the building that lights up to celebrate an important event. Such “important” events have included celebrating the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Simpsons, the anniversary of the Communist Chinese revolution, etc., etc.

    When Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, submitted the application to the building for the lighting in honor of Mother Teresa, it was summarily rejected with no explanation. When pressed for an explanation, the building owner stated that it did not honor religious personages. This was outright untrue, as religious figures and groups had been honored in the past. The Empire State Building subsequently amended its application to prohibit religious honorees.

    So, yes, while the building is a private enterprise, it solicits attention and p.r. by accepting requests from the public for lighting. And you are right, there was no evil, just poor judgment. It seems that Mother Teresa is not trendy enough for the building’s new owner.

  19. Yes MHeller, I see that, it’s not an evil decision, but that’s why I question lauching a protest of it. Seriously, with the blink of an eye, C.L. could have justa s easily argued that lighting up the building would be an insult to M. T. by putting her in the same category as the Communist Party, etc.

    If somebody wants to celebrate Ninja Turtles, I might think , “Get a life”, but there’s nothing to protest there. If someone doesn’t want to celebrate M. T. (or the Jesuit Martyrs, or J23 ascension, or JP2’s birthday, or VE Day, or about one million other good things) I say, so what?

    Save the protests for something that matter. That’s my only point.

  20. Luke says:

    All I know is that I’m going to buy some of those stamps! We’ve been waiting all year–or at least since the Post Office began advertising its 2010 stamp series. I hope that my local PO has some left.

  21. If you stop New Yorkers from mouthing off about stuff that displeases them, you are showing horrible disrespect of their arts and culture! :)

  22. mdsmelser says:

    Mother Theresa didn’t receive the Nobel Peace Prize for being a Catholic, but for her great life’s work, so, to pick out her religion as a Reason for refusing to honor her is the problem, and that is the reason the CL was disputing with ESB’s new owner. They have honored many others of other religions who have done great work in helping people, and didn’t refuse to honor Them because of their religion. Mother Theresa was an exception, and Catholicism being her religion was the sole reason she was rejected for this honor, in reality – of course, they didn’t openly say that.

  23. marthawrites says:

    Earlier today I ordered some first day of issue envelopes/stamps from the National Shrine gift shop, another source if your local post office runs out. Of course, this special format is more expensive than simply buying 44-cent stamps, but they’ll make memorable gifts for family members.

Comments are closed.