COME BE MY LIGHT
A DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL...FOR 50 YEARS. This morning, a friend spoke of the profound impact an article in the most recent Time magazine had on him. So, I picked up the current issue with a photo of a pensive Mother Teresa on the cover and discovered what he was talking about. A new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, contains unpublished letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to her confessors and counselors across many years. They reveal an inner life that was characterized by an absence of a feeling of the presence of Christ for 50 years. This is an extremely long experience of what St. John of the Cross described as a "dark night of the soul."
OUTWARD COMPASSION, INNER DRYNESS. This inner struggle is to be grasped in juxtaposition with her outward ministry of profound compassion and healing. While Mother Teresa is following through on her commitment to be Christ's hands and feet in serving the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, she is experiencing inner dryness. While she walks as a literal presence and beacon of "What Would Jesus Do" to the onlooking world, she is bearing an inner cross of the experience of absence. Even as she receives accolades for her persistent work among lepers and the dying, she not only shuns the praise but suffers as it echoes in the emptiness she feels.
LIVING FORWARDLY AMID DOUBT. Mother Teresa's life is apparently a testimony of perseverance and fulfillment of promise and devotion without the slightest inner reciprocation of divine affection. It is a life lived in Christian devotion amid the deepest doubts and heart anguish. Even the snippets of letters contained in the article reveal a Mother Teresa who is more real and more accessible to us than we ever thought. Instead of her compassionate work flowing out of experiences of ecstasy and constant assurance or repeated spiritual revelations, it flows out of a readiness to be and do what Christ asked her to do, day in-day out, year in-year out, without what most of us experience as basic spiritual assurance. Amid doubt, she still served.
HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO EXPERIENCE JESUS. Mother Teresa's experience makes her much more accessible to "ordinary" Christians, who experience such doubts and absence of "the glow" of God's presence more than they usually admit. Knowing that a so-called "saint" struggled with the very issues that so many others grapple with is both comforting and compelling. It is compelling that after accepting this extended spiritual trauma, she bore it with grace, all the while continuing to fulfill what she perceived to be an unequivocal calling to serve the Jesus that she was not able to experience in her heart but that she was able to experience in the poor.
Read the Time article here.