A hope note
You wonder what effect the publication of Mother Teresa’s private letters will have on her admirers. Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world have held her in highest esteem for so many years.
In those letters (that she asked to be destroyed after her death), she confesses that for the last several decades of her life she experienced the absence of God. In correspondence with her spiritual confidants, she writes of ‘dryness,’ ‘loneliness’ and ‘torture’ in her soul, comparing it to the experience of hell. She confesses to doubting the existence of heaven and God. She writes: ‘There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead.’
Time magazine deemed this ‘bombshell’ the number one religious story of 2007.
Having always admired her, I now admire her more. She persevered at serving the poor, even when warm feelings of religious fervor were missing. She got up every morning at 4:30, even when she felt sick-unto-death spiritually. Beset by questions and doubts, she soldiered on and did the magnanimous thing ‘ embracing and comforting the teeming masses of Calcutta poor.
What if we only got up and went to school or work or church on days when we felt like it? What if we only treated other people right when we felt like it? What if we sat up all night with a sick child only when we felt like it?
How common St. John of the Cross’s ‘dark night of the soul’ experience is; how real the psalmist’s cry of abandonment, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ for us common folk; how human, how like us Mother Teresa turns out to be.
Maybe she will become the saint not just of the poor but of doubters and assorted other tortured souls.