I have been thinking a lot lately about "Mother Teresa" after reading the cover story about her in the last edition of TIME Magazine. The article is based on a forthcoming book that maintains this modern-day saint endured decades of "The Dark Night of the Soul."
The book ("Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light") includes letters written by Mother Teresa in which she describes no longer being able to truly pray and feeling a great spiritual "silence" and "emptiness." The book was edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa's cause for sainthood.
From David Van Biema's article:
That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'"
Learning that Mother Teresa likely lived through this great spiritual struggle makes her more of a saint in my eyes. Despite the loneliness, she persevered in her work helping the poorest of the poor.
One of my favorite moments in the life of Mother Teresa was chronicled is this essay by Peggy Noonan about the day Mother spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast during the Clinton years and boldly stood up for Life.
You can read the entire address here.
Mother Teresa may have felt abandoned at times by God. But, I feel strongly that the Holy Spirit was certainly with the brave woman who spoke these prophetic words.
The photo above from TIME.com is credited to Daniel Kramer / Sygma / Corbis.