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Get to Know Us. English Choose a language for shopping. The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the "dark night" of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters.
Teresa's may be the most extensive such case on record. The "dark night" of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.
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Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John's context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act. Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor.
It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone. Not all atheists and doubters will agree.
Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith
Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Come Be My Light is that rare thing, a posthumous autobiography that could cause a wholesale reconsideration of a major public figure--one way or another.
It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind great achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. That it does so not in any organized, intentional form but as a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight should leave readers only more convinced that it is authentic--and that they are, somewhat shockingly, touching the true inner life of a modern saint.
You have become my Spouse for my love--you have come to India for Me. The thirst you had for souls brought you so far--Are you afraid to take one more step for Your Spouse--for me--for souls? Is your generosity grown cold? Am I a second to you? You are I know the most incapable person--weak and sinful but just because you are that--I want to use You for My glory.
She had been working herself sick, and her superiors ordered her to relax during her annual retreat in the Himalayan foothills. On the ride out, she reported, Christ spoke to her. He called her to abandon teaching and work instead in "the slums" of the city, dealing directly with "the poorest of the poor"--the sick, the dying, beggars and street children. It was wildly audacious--an unfunded, single-handed crusade Teresa stipulated that she and her nuns would share their beneficiaries' poverty and started out alone to provide individualized service to the poorest in a poor city made desperate by riots.
But her letters to him, preserved, illustrate two linked characteristics--extreme tenacity and a profound personal bond to Christ. And when she felt all else had failed, she revealed the spiritual topper: It ended with Jesus' emphatic reiteration of his call to her: Mother Teresa had visions, including one of herself conversing with Christ on the Cross. Her confessor, Father Celeste Van Exem, was convinced that her mystical experiences were genuine.
Teresa later wrote simply, "Jesus gave Himself to me. And Jesus took himself away again. Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love--and now become as the most hated one--the one--You have thrown away as unwanted--unloved. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart? In the first half of , Teresa took a basic medical course before launching herself alone onto the streets of Calcutta.
She wrote, "My soul at present is in perfect peace and joy. Then we went to Taltala Bazaar, and there was a very poor woman dying I think of starvation more than TB I gave her something which will help her to sleep.
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The more success Teresa had--and half a year later so many young women had joined her society that she needed to move again--the worse she felt. It has been like this more or less from the time I started 'the work. You have exterior facts enough to see that God blesses your work Feelings are not required and often may be misleading. How can you assume the lover's ardor when he no longer grants you his voice, his touch, his very presence?
The problem was exacerbated by an inhibition to even describe it. Teresa reported on several occasions inviting a confessor to visit and then being unable to speak. Eventually, one thought to ask her to write the problem down, and she complied. A year later she sounded desolate: At the suggestion of a confessor, she wrote the agonized plea that begins this section, in which she explored the theological worst-possible-case implications of her dilemma. That letter and another one from "What do I labour for? If there be no God--there can be no soul--if there is no Soul then Jesus--You also are not true" are the only two that sound any note of doubt of God's existence.
But she frequently bemoaned an inability to pray: As the Missionaries of Charity flourished and gradually gained the attention of her church and the world at large, Teresa progressed from confessor to confessor the way some patients move through their psychoanalysts. Joseph Neuner in For these confessors, she developed a kind of shorthand of pain, referring almost casually to "my darkness" and to Jesus as "the Absent One. Teresa prayed to the deceased Pope for a "proof that God is pleased with the Society.
And although, as we shall see, she found a way to accept the absence, it never lifted again. Five years after her Nobel, a Jesuit priest in the Calcutta province noted that "Mother came It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years. Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?
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Why did Teresa's communication with Jesus, so vivid and nourishing in the months before the founding of the Missionaries, evaporate so suddenly? Interestingly, secular and religious explanations travel for a while on parallel tracks. Both understand although only one celebrates that identification with Christ's extended suffering on the Cross, undertaken to redeem humanity, is a key aspect of Catholic spirituality. Teresa told her nuns that physical poverty ensured empathy in "giving themselves" to the suffering poor and established a stronger bond with Christ's redemptive agony.
She wrote in that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus' life that she was interested in sharing: Kolodiejchuk finds divine purpose in the fact that Teresa's spiritual spigot went dry just as she prevailed over her church's perceived hesitations and saw a successful way to realize Jesus' call for her. As proof that it worked, he cites her written comment after receiving an important prize in the Philippines in the s: And yet "the question is, Who determined the abandonment she experienced?
Gottlieb notes that Teresa's ambitions for her ministry were tremendous. Both he and Kolodiejchuk are fascinated by her statement, "I want to love Jesus as he has never been loved before.
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Rather than simply giving all credit to God, Gottlieb observes, she agonizes incessantly that "any taking credit for her accomplishments--if only internally--is sinful" and hence, perhaps, requires a price to be paid. A mild secular analog, he says, might be an executive who commits a horrific social gaffe at the instant of a crucial promotion. For Teresa, "an occasion for a modicum of joy initiated a significant quantity of misery," and her subsequent successes led her to perpetuate it.
Gottlieb also suggests that starting her ministry "may have marked a turning point in her relationship with Jesus," whose urgent claims she was finally in a position to fulfill. Being the active party, he speculates, might have scared her, and in the end, the only way to accomplish great things might have been in the permanent and less risky role of the spurned yet faithful lover. The atheist position is simpler. In , Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: It means my life is meaningless.