Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Passion of Mother Teresa

Out of the effort to gather the writings of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in accord with the cause for her canonization has come a collection of her journal entries and correspondence with a variety of spiritual directors. They reveal the startling news of her lengthy and very deep 'dark night of the soul'. For forty to fifty years she lacked any felt sense of the presence of God or assurance of the intimacy of her Spouse, and questioned the existence of God.

This is the topic of the cover story in the August 23, 2007 issue of TIME MAGAZINE. One wonders not only at the profound mystery of God's work in the soul of such a servant as Teresa but also at the respectful and lengthy consideration of such revelations in the secular press.

This great woman who ministered to the most abandoned languishing in the streets of India has now become REAL to me, and her reality is both consolation and encouragement for all who struggle at the depths of the human condition - weakness, lack of courage, depression, and the struggle to maintain energy for perseverance in the journey.

With the help of one of a long line of spiritual advisers, Mother Teresa came finally to see that this stark and painful reality was the answer to the sincere desire she uttered in prayer, "I want to give all." With nothing material left to give and spending all of her energy on God's "little ones", the last gift she had to give was the consolation found in certainty. In another sense, as she experienced greater and greater success in her mission she was provided with the corrective to any tendency to cater to the ego.

With this in mind, I now experience Mother Teresa as a flesh and blood figure, no longer a one dimensional caricature of the perpetually joyous and perpetually certain. Out of this revelation of her truth she emerges as an even more heroic figure yet, at the same time, also more accessible. Is a fearless soldier ever truly brave? He has no inner struggle to conquer before stepping into the line of fire. How much greater the the bravery and achievement of the one who must acknowledge and overcome paralyzing fear and revulsion in the gut in order to enter into battle?

Mother Teresa, we now know, overcame more than we ever imagined and persevered in spite of harsh interior desolation. How much more heroic she appears in a three-dimensional portrait!
How does this news hit you?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insight.Indeed giving all is what she did..including not having consolation nor a sense of support. This perspective helps.

I know people shouldn't have to apologize for feelings, but when I initially heard this over the radio/ t.v. somehow it disturbed me.I don't know why.

Thanks!

Barbara said...

I second your thoughts, Sister! Too often sanctity is portrayed in terms of superhuman activities and glorious mystical experiences. Hagiography has far too often neglected the struggle with God in the poverty of one's soul. Her ability to continue despite the darkness she felt, makes her more admirable to the modern person than any number of miracles.

Anonymous said...

What disturbed me was her questioning the excistence of God. And the length of her doubting the existence. I just can't imagine her doing the work she did with that kind of doubt. It must have been terribly painful for her...

Contemplative Woman said...

I also felt very encouraged by the Time piece. Faith in what is not seen or felt, and daily acts of life-giving presence in the midst of darkness...
St. Silouan (100 yrs ago on Mt Athos) "Keep your mind in hell, but despair not" Meanwhile his prayer -for all of creation, for the whole world... Mary