In a new book about the life of Mother Teresa, startling revelations are made about the years of darkness where she did not feel God's presence in her life. Doubters and believers alike will find something to hold on to in her confessions.
As the 10-year anniversary of the passing of Mother Teresa approaches this week, a new book containing many of her personal writings is being released, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday). The letters cover a 66-year period in which Mother Teresa corresponded with her superiors and a select few others. The secret letters reveal that Mother Teresa did not feel the presence of God in her life for nearly 50 years.
This news is astounding to all those who knew of her and her self-less devotion to caring for the sick and poor in India through her Missionaries of Charity. In public, her mood was described as "perpetually cheery", but in private, her letters show that she "lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain." The book's editor, the Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk, believes that releasing her letters will help people understand her in a very different way.
Mother Mary Teresa spent 17 years in Calcutta, teaching with a group of uncloistered Sisters, before traveling to Darjeeling in 1946, at the age of 36. During that trip, she believed that Christ spoke to her and called her to work with the sick, the poor, and the dying. Mother Teresa was able to recount conversations she had with Christ, and even recounted her visions of him. Based on her revelations to her Mother General, her confessor, and even the Pope, she was granted permission to begin her one-woman crusade. It was then that Mother Teresa felt Jesus leave her and stop speaking to her.
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. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
— addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated
According to her letters, Mother Teresa felt Christ did not communicate with her for the next ten years. It wasn't until after the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, when Teresa prayed that God would give her some proof that he was "pleased with Society", that she felt the long years of darkness end. It was only to be for a brief time, no more than five weeks, before her period of spiritual darkness returned, and continued until her death on Sept. 5, 1997.
Atheist and doubters will certainly see the darkness in Mother Teresa's life as proof that there is no God. They will argue that she finally realized this, but could not change her path to admit the truth, and so she continued to deceive others with her words and work.
Believers, however, can find encouragement in Teresa's torment, that the absence of Christ's voice in her life never swayed her from her mission. She remained committed to him and the work he gave her, faithfully and without question. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at Ave Maria University, says this about the book's impact on society:
"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? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone."