Mother Teresa A crisis of Faith or A crisis of the Imagination from Brian Kolodiejchuk?
All the letters of Mother Teresa and others below are taken from Brian Kolodiejchuk’s book “Mother Teresa—Come Be My Light,” published in 2007.
The Terrible Darkness Within Disclosed
… Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started “the work.” Ask Our Lord to give me courage.
Please give us Your blessing,
Your devoted child in J. C. [Jesus Christ].
M. Teresa, M.C [p.149]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, March 18, 1953)
* * *
I am very grateful to Your Grace for coming—I always feel the burden a little lighter after you have been.—I don’t know, but there is such a deep loneliness in my heart that I cannot express it.—For months I have not been able to speak to Fr. Van Exem and I find it harder and harder to speak. How long will Our Lord stay away?
Please pray for me.
Your grateful child in J. C.
M. Teresa, M.C.[p.158]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, January 21, 1955)
* * *
I want to say to you something—but I do not know how to express it. I am longing—with a painful longing to be all for God—to be holy in such a way that Jesus can live His life to the full in me. The more I want Him—the less I am wanted.—I want to love Him as He has not been loved—and yet there is that separation—that terrible emptiness, that feeling of absence of God.—For more than four years I find no help in the direction of Rev. Fr. C. Van Exem. Yet I obey him blindly. Often I have gone to the confessional with the hope of speaking and yet nothing comes.—Sometime last year I told Father about this—and he told me that this should be put before you.—I am not complaining—I only want to go all the way with Christ. I am not writing to you as to His Grace—but to the father of my soul—for to you & from you I have not kept hidden anything. Tell me what your child should do—I want to obey at any cost—and if you tell me to continue like this till the end of my life I am ready to obey cheerfully….
Please Your Grace pray for me—that I may draw very close to God.
Your devoted child in J C. [Jesus Christ].
M. Teresa, M.C. [p.164]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, February 8, 1956)
* * *
Please pray for me, that it may please God to lift this darkness from my soul for only a few days. For sometimes the agony of desolation is so great and at the same time the longing for the Absent One so deep, that the only prayer which I can still say is—Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee—I will satiate Thy thirst for souls. [p.165]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, March 27, 1956)
* * *
Why is it that everybody is so good to us?—I have no answer but one deep gratitude….
There is so much contradiction in my soul.—Such deep longing for God—so deep that it is painful—a suffering continual—and yet not wanted by God—repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal.—Souls hold no attraction—Heaven means nothing—to me it looks like an empty place—the thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God.—Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His—so He has every right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody even to God….
Your devoted child in, J. C. [Jesus Christ]
M. Teresa, M.C.[pp.169-170]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, February 28, 1957)
* * *
Pray for me, pray that I may have the courage to keep on smiling at Jesus—I understand a little the tortures of hell—without God. I have no words to express what I want to say, and yet last First Friday—-knowingly and willingly I offered to the Sacred Heart—to pass even eternity in this terrible suffering, if this would give Him now a little more pleasure—or the love of a single soul. I want to speak—yet nothing comes—I find no words to express the depths of the darkness. In spite of it all—I am His little one—& I love Him—not for what He gives—but for what He takes.... [p.172]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, September 12, 1957)
* * *
Please pray for me—the longing for God is terribly painful and yet the darkness is becoming greater. What contradiction there is in my soul.—The pain within is so great—that I really don’t feel anything for all the publicity and the talk of the people. Please ask Our Lady to be my Mother in this darkness.[p.174]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, January 29, 1958)
* * *
Knowing how very overworked you are I have not written.— …
The other day I sent the Sacred Returns* to Rev. Mgr. Barber. I could not but just kneel and thank God for all. Ten years ago “the call” was but a longing—today it is a real living reality. The Society lives with His life—works with His power.—I love the Society with all the powers of my soul—yet the conviction that it is wholly His own keeps me in the spirit & feelings that I am His little instrument—His little nothing. That it is He and not I that works.
The conditions under which the leper families live are terrible.—I would like to give them better homes—uplift them close to the Sacred Heart—make them know that they too are the loved children of God & so give them something to live for … I want slowly to build like a little town of their own where our lepers could live normal lives….
If Our Lady really wants it—she will see to it.—I would like to call it “Shanti Nagar” (City of peace). All this only if Your Grace approves.
If you only knew what goes on within my heart.—Sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains.
Pray for me, please.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M.C [pp.175-176]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, July 15, 1958)
(*Sacred Returns were the statistics of the religious activities submitted each year by parish priests or religious superiors to the bishop or his vicar general.)
* * *
Our Lord thought it better for me to be in the tunnel—so He is gone again—leaving me alone.—I am grateful to Him for the month of love He gave me. Please ask Our Lady to keep me close to herself that I may not miss the way in the darkness.[p.177]
(Mother Teresa to Archbishop Perier, November 16, 1958)
I want to express my thanks—not for what you gave but the way it was given….
Forgive me for asking you—Does Our Lord not wish you to speak to my soul? Your encouragements in confessions have been a help—but I am ready most willingly to give up even this—for souls.
No priest* except Fr. Van Exem & you have known the darkness in me.—If you think silence will please Him more, I am most happy to keep it for the rest of my life.
Pray for me.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa M. C. [p.179]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, August 15, 1957)
(*Mother Teresa did not include Archbishop Perier here, as he was the bishop and her religious superior.)
* * *
My heart is so empty.—I am afraid the retreat will be one long suffering—but we better not think of this.—I want to make a
fervent retreat.. . .” [p.182]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, March 7, 1959)
* * *
Please Father pray very much for me, that I may not spoil His work.
Pray for me that I may forget myself completely in that absolute surrender to God’s Holy Will.—I use the retreat resolution as a prayer.—I do not know how deeper will this trial go—how much pain & suffering it will bring to me.—This does not worry me any more. I leave this to Him as I leave everything else. I want to become a saint according to the Heart of Jesus—meek & humble. This is all that really matters to me now.
SM. [Sister Mary] Agnes does very well—and they have all taken the appointment beautifully.* Thank God. She is a holy child. God will do great things through her.
The Sisters made a real fervent retreat—now the fruit is coming.—One virtue that is coming very much forward—since the retreat is humility. Thank you Father, for all you did.— The only way I have to show you my gratitude is by offering everything in me for your intentions. The darkness—the loneliness & pain—the loss & the emptiness—of faith—love trust—these are all I have and in all simplicity I offer them to God for your intention as a token of gratitude.
Pray for me—that I may not “refuse God”—to accept anything & everything in absolute surrender to God’s Holy Will—now—and for life.
Please destroy any letters or anything I have written.—God wants me to open my heart to you.—I have not refused. I am not trying to find the reason—only I beg you destroy everything.
Don’t take the trouble to write—” [p.185-186]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, April 26, 1959)
(* Sister Agnes became the assistant general and local superior of Motherhouse)
* * *
In the darkness …
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. The darkness is so dark—and I am alone.—Unwanted, forsaken.—The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable.—Where is my faith?—even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness.—My God—how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing.—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—I am afraid to uncover them—because of the blasphemy—If there be God,—please forgive me.—Trust that all will end in Heaven with Jesus.—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.—Love—the word—it brings nothing.—I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Before the work started—there was so much union—love—faith—trust—prayer—sacrifice.—Did I make the mistake in surrendering blindly to the call of the Sacred Heart? The work is not a doubt—because I am convinced that it is His not mine.—I don’t feel—not even a single simple thought or temptation enters my heart to claim anything in the work.
The whole time smiling—Sisters & people pass such remarks.—They think my faith, trust & love are filling my very being & that the intimacy with God and union to His will must be absorbing my heart.—Could they but know—and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness & misery.
In spite of all—this darkness & emptiness is not as painful as the longing for God.—The contradiction I fear will unbalance me.—What are You doing My God to one so small? When You asked to imprint Your Passion on my heart—is this the answer? If this brings You glory, if You get a drop of joy from this—if souls are brought to You—if my suffering satiates Your Thirst—here I am Lord, with joy I accept all to the end of life—& I will smile at Your Hidden Face— always. [pp.186-188]
(Mother Teresa to Jesus, undated letter)
* * *
As resigned to this interior trial as she was, Mother Teresa could not help asking Father Picachy:
Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul? Sometimes I find myself saying “I can’t bear it any longer” with the same breath I say “I am sorry, do with me what you wish. [p.189]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, August 2, 1959)
* * *
Last time when I spoke to Your Grace—I understood—that you think I have been acting on my own—I sincerely can tell you that my conscience does not blame me—for I know for certain that since
17th Aug ’48 I have tried to obey, not only to obey ordinary,—but with my mind and judgment.* If Your Grace has written to me as you spoke to me the other day—I would not have taken a single step. You approved everything.—You blessed everything.—You were pleased with every step I took.—I have your letters which have encouraged me and helped me when the cross was so heavy.
I have never told Your Grace the cause of my wanting to act at once.—In 1942—I wanted to give Jesus something without reserve. With the permission of my Confessor I made a Vow to God—binding under Mortal Sin—to give to God anything that He may ask—“Not to refuse Him anything.” For these 17 years I have tried—and this is the reason why I want to act at once.—It is for Your Grace to prevent me—and when you say “No” I am certain that my Vow is alright—for then I don’t refuse God my submission.—I have gone and am still going through hard spiritual trials—but in this point—there has never been a doubt in my soul—because I have always put them before you and Fr. C. Van Exem—and each time your “Yes” or “No” has satisfied me—as the will of God. Our claim on you is much greater—for to the other Congregations—you are their Ordinary—to us you are our father—for God used you for His instrument to bring to life this His least Society.—The exterior change that was made last April by Your Grace—has made no change in my attitude of action nor feelings.—To me and I think to every Sister in the Society. Your Grace remains the head—[The] father of the Society—as it has been since 10th Sept.’46.—All these years I have only wanted one thing—to know and do the Will of God. And now even in this hard and deep darkness—I keep on wanting only that. The rest He has taken all—and I think, He has destroyed everything in me. The only thing that keeps me on the surface—is obedience.—
Please, Your Grace, don’t be displeased with me, the mistakes I make are not willful—they are due to my ignorance.—I have to learn many things and this takes time.—From my childhood I have always been guided by my mother or confessor—now I have so many to guide….
On the 10th Sept. please pray for me.
Your devoted child in, J.C.
M. Teresa, M.C. [pp.190-191]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, September 3, 1959)
(*i.e., conforming her mind and judgment to that of her superiors, not just exteriorly performing commands)
* * *
“My God, How Painful Is This Unknown Pain“
Fulfilling her confessor’s request, she sent to him a letter addressed to Jesus, enclosing it with her letter dated September 3, 1959:
Part of My Confession Today
My own Jesus,
From my childhood you have called me and kept me for Your own—and now when we both have taken the same road—now Jesus—I go the wrong way.
They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God—they would go through all that suffering if they had just a little hope of possessing God.—In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss—of God not wanting me—of God not being God—of God not really existing (Jesus, please forgive my blasphemies—I have been told to write everything). That darkness that surrounds me on all sides—I can’t lift my soul to God—no light or inspiration enters my soul.—I speak of love for souls—of tender love for God—words pass through my words [sic, lips]—and I long with a deep longing to believe in them.—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.—Heaven, what emptiness—not a single thought of Heaven enters my mind—for there is no hope.—I am afraid to write all those terrible things that pass in my soul.—They must hurt You.
In my heart there is no faith—no love—no trust—there is so much pain—the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted.—I want God with all the powers of my soul—and yet there between us—there is terrible separation.—I don’t pray any longer—I utter words of community prayers—and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give.—But my prayer of union is not there any longer.—I no longer pray.—My soul is not one with You—and yet when alone in the streets—I talk to You for hours—of my longing for You.—How intimate are those words—and yet so empty, for they leave me far from You.
The work holds no joy, no attraction, no zeal. I remember, I told Mother Provincial, that I was leaving Loreto—for souls—for a single soul—and she could not understand my words.—I do my best.—I spend myself—but I am more than convinced that the work is not mine. I do not doubt that it was You who called me, with so much love and force.—It was You—I know. That is why the work is Yours and it is You even now—but I have no faith—I don’t believe.—Jesus, don’t let my soul be deceived—nor let me deceive anyone.
In the call You said that I would have to suffer much.—Ten years—my Jesus, You have done to me according to Your will—and Jesus hear my prayer—if this pleases You—if my pain and suffering—my darkness and separation gives You a drop of consolation—my own Jesus, do with me as You wish—as long as You wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am Your own.—Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your Heart. Don’t mind my feelings.—Don’t mind even, my pain. If my separation from You,—brings others to You and in their love and company You find joy and pleasure—why Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer—not only now—but for all eternity—if this was possible. Your happiness is all that I want.—For the rest—please do not take the trouble—even if you see me faint with pain.—All this is my will—I want to satiate Your Thirst with every single drop of blood that You can find in me.—Don’t allow me to do You wrong in any way—take from me the power of hurting You.—Heart and soul I will work for the Sisters—because they are Yours. Each and every one—are Yours.
I beg of You only one thing—please do not take the trouble to return soon.—I am ready to wait for You for all eternity.
Your little one. [pp.192-194]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, September 3, 1959)
* * *
She appreciated greatly the assistance Father Picachy provided:
I am grateful to you for all the kindness & help you give to my Sisters & me. My prayer though miserably dry & frozen is often offered for you & your work for souls. The conflict in my soul is increasing—what unspoken pain.—Pray for me—. ..[p.197]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, November 21, 1959)
* * *
Pray for me, Father—inside of me there is so much of suffering.—Pray for me that I may not refuse God in this hour—I don’t want to do it, but I am afraid I may do it. [p.198]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, December 13, 1959)
* * *
Thank God all went well yesterday, Sisters, children, the lepers, the sick and our poor families have all been so happy and contented this year. A real Christmas. Yet within me—nothing but darkness, conflict, loneliness so terrible. I am perfectly happy to be like this to the end of life—[p.198]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, December 26, 1959)
* * *
Dear Rev. Father,
Some years back when you gave the retreat to the novices—& I made it with them. Our Lord forced me to speak to you & open myself, and then as if to approve my sacrifice he made you our confessor.—I have opened my soul with all its trials & darkness–and the working of God as you say—to you. Each confession & writing or speaking to you has been a great sacrifice—only that I knew for certain that I could not refuse.—I spoke to you—and now I just want to thank you for all your kindness to me—and your patience—for you put up with all my trials—repeating myself each time—yet you never seemed tired of it all.
Keep my soul with all its darkness & loneliness, its longing and the torturing pain close to the altar. Pray for me—much & often—for now it seems He has cut off one more human help, and left me alone—to walk alone in darkness. Pray for me—that I may keep up the smile of giving without reserve. Pray that I may find courage to walk bravely and with a smile. Ask Jesus not to allow me to refuse Him anything however small—I [would] rather die.
I beg one favour of you, please destroy everything that I have written to you.—I wrote all these because I had to—but now they are not necessary any longer. Please Father, destroy them.
To ask you to come—I think that I will not do but if Jesus asks you to come—please come I will be grateful.
Thank you for all the good you have done to the Sisters and the wonderful way you have guided them always with your eyes fixed on Jesus & our rules.
My prayer for you will be a daily one that you may become more and more like Jesus—and bring many souls to Him.
God bless you, Father.
Yours in Jesus.
M. Teresa M C. [p.199]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, April 4, 1960)
* * *
Mother Teresa wrote to Father Picachy:
I am leaving alone with Jesus and for Jesus—on the 25th Oct. at 6 a.m. & will be in Los Angeles—on the 26th.—Miss Bracken will be there to meet me. On my way back I will stop in England, Germany & Italy.
Pray for me— . . .
I had to smile when I read that you make use of my resolution—Who makes it & who keeps it? How happy you are to be so much with Jesus—and so close to Him. I have been on the verge of saying—No. It has been so very hard. That terrible longing keeps growing—& I feel as if something will break in me one day—and then that darkness, that loneliness, that feeling of terrible aloneness. Heaven from every side is closed.—Even the souls that drew me from Home, from Loreto as if they don’t exist—gone is the love for anything and anybody.—and yet—I long for God. I long to love Him with every drop of life in me—I want to love Him with a deep personal love.—I can’t say I am distracted—my mind & heart is habitually with God.—How this thing must sound foolish to you because of its contradiction.—For my meditation I am using the Passion of Jesus.—I am afraid I make no meditation—but only look at Jesus suffer.—and keep repeating—“Let me share with you His pain”
When you go to Jesus—make one fervent act of love for me—since I can’t make it myself—
The words don’t come. I have nothing else to write—though I would have liked to write more—but nothing comes. [pp.202-203]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, October 20, 1960)
* * *
Dear Father Picachy,
I was looking forward to your visit—& then nothing.—Our Lord has taken even the power of speech. I don’t know what pleasure He can draw from this darkness—but as you said—I will let Him free.—I can’t express—but I want to want it as He wants it. Only pray that I keep up the joy exteriorly. I deceive people with this weapon—even my Sisters. Why I ever spoke to you—it is a mystery to me—but I know that I could not refuse.
You have your difficulties.—I don’t want mine to be a burden to you—so only pray much for me—and when you come the next time I hope I will be able to tell you more—and not just say nothing….
My table is full of letters to be answered.—Pray for me—that I may be Jesus to souls….
Pray for me much & often. If you have time, write—otherwise please do not take the trouble.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa M.C. [p.207]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, January 23, 1961)
* * *
In April 1961, Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner was invited to preach a retreat to the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Mother Teresa attended the retreat and spoke to him privately. He recalled the encounter:
In our meetings, Mother Teresa began to speak about the trials of her inner life and her inability to disclose them to anyone.
So I asked her to write down her experiences which she did more explicitly than I expected. She gave me the papers with the explicit request to burn them as soon as I had read them. I was deeply impressed by the honesty and simplicity of her account, and the deep anxiety she was going through in utter darkness: Was she on the right path or had she become the victim of a network of illusions? Why had God abandoned her totally? Why this darkness whereas in her earlier life she had been so close to God? She had to lead her Sisters, initiate them into the love of God and into a life of prayer, which had been wiped out in her own life as she lived in total emptiness: Had she become a shameful hypocrite who spoke to others about the divine mysteries which had totally vanished from her own heart?—It is all contained in the document, I need not explain it. [p.209]
(Testimony of Father Neuner, about Mother Teresa)
* * *
In Loreto, Father I was very happy.—-I think the happiest nun.—Then the call came.—Our Lord asked directly—the voice was clear & full of conviction.—Again & again He asked in 1946.—I knew it was He. Fear & terrible feelings—fear lest I was deceived.—But as I have always lived in obedience—I put the whole thing before my spiritual father—hoping the whole time that he will say—it was all devil’s deception but no—like the voice—he said—It is Jesus who is asking you.—& then you know how it all worked out.—My Superiors sent me to Asansol [in] 1947—and there as if Our Lord just gave Himself to me—to the full. The sweetness & consolation & union of those 6 months—passed but too soon.
And then the work started—in Dec. 1948.—By 1950 as the number of the Sisters grew—the work grew.
Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.—From my childhood I have had a most tender love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament—but this too has gone.—I feel nothing before Jesus—and yet I would not miss Holy Com. [Communion] for anything.
You see, Father, the contradiction in my life. I long for God—I want to love Him—to love Him much—to live only for Love of Him—to love only—and yet there is but pain—longing and no love.—Years back—about 17 year now—I wanted to give God something very beautiful.—I bound myself under pain of Mortal Sin not to refuse Him anything.—Since then I have kept this promise—and when sometimes the darkness is very dark—& I am on the verge of saying “No to God” the thought of that promise pulls me up.
I want only God in my life—“The work” is really and solely His.—He asked—He told me what to do—He guided every step—directs every movement I take—puts the words in my mouth makes me teach the Sisters the way.—All that & everything in me is He.—This is why when the world praises me—it really does not touch—not even the surface—of my soul. About the Work I am convinced it is all He.
Before I could spend hours before Our Lord—loving Him—talking to Him—and now—not even meditation goes properly—nothing but “My God”—even that sometimes does not come.—Yet deep down somewhere in my heart that longing for God keeps breaking through the darkness. When outside in the work—or meeting people—there is a presence—of somebody living very close—in very me.—I don’t know what this is—but very often even every day—that love in me for God grows more real.—I find myself telling Jesus unconsciously most strange tokens of love.—
Father, I have opened my heart to you.—Teach me to love God—teach me to love Him much. I am not learned—I don’t know many things about the things of God.—I want to love God as and what He is to me, “My Father.”
Very often I long to make use of the food I give my Sisters* but I can never do it—the same for spiritual books.
All these things were so natural to me before—until Our Lord came fully in my life—I loved God with all the powers of a child’s Heart. He was the centre of everything I did & said.—Now Father—it [is] so dark, so different and yet my everything is His—in spite of Him not wanting me, not caring as if for me.
When the work started—I knew what it will all mean.—But with my whole heart I accepted then everything.—Only one prayer I made—to give me grace to give saints to the Church.
My Sisters, Father, are the gift of God to me, they are sacred to me—each one of them. That is why I love them—more than I love myself.—They are a very great part of my life.
My heart & soul & body belongs only to God—that He has thrown away as unwanted the child of His Love.—And to this Father I have made that resolution in this retreat—
To be at His disposal.
Let Him do with me whatever He wants as He wants for as long as He wants. If my darkness is light to some soul—even if it be nothing to nobody—I am perfectly happy—to be God’s flower of the field. [pp.209-212]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, undated, most probably written during the retreat of April 1961)
(* Mother Teresa is referring to the instructions she was giving to the sisters, usually daily)
* * *
Years later, Father Neuner summed up his reaction to Mother Teresa’s self-revealing notes:
“My answer to the confession of these pages was simple: there was no indication of any serious failure on her part which could explain the spiritual dryness. It was simply the dark night of which all masters of spiritual life know—though I never found it so deeply, and for so many years as in her. There is no human remedy against it. It can be borne only in the assurance of God’s hidden presence and of the union with Jesus who in His passion had to bear the burden and darkness of the sinful world for our salvation. The sure sign of God’s hidden presence in this darkness is the thirst for God, the craving for at least a ray of His light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart. Thus the only response to this trial is the total surrender to God and the acceptance of the darkness in union with Jesus.” [p.214]
(Testimony of Father Joseph Neuner, S.J., about Mother Teresa)
* * *
“I Have Come to Love the Darkness”
Father Neuner was able to impart to Mother Teresa invaluable insight into her trial, which she appreciated greatly.
I can’t express in words—the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me.—For the first time in this 11 years—I have come to love the darkness.—For I believe now that it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a “spiritual side of `your work”‘ as you wrote.—Today really I felt a deep joy—that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony—but that He wants to go through it in me.—More than ever I surrender myself to Him.—Yes—more than ever I will be at His disposal.
Your instructions & meditations have also been a great strength for me.—For though my instructions to the Sisters are not so beautiful & full as yours—but it is the same food—that of love and trust—that of personal love for Christ.—Now I feel that it is He & not I who helps those Sisters.—Yes, they are my treasure—my strength and God’s gift to me.—They are His.
Thank you once more for your readiness to help.—I do not believe, Father, in that continual digging into one’s spiritual life—by long & frequent visits & talks. The help you have given me—will carry me for a long time.—Our spiritual life must remain simple—so as to be able to understand the mind of our poor.
It must have been very difficult for you to bring yourself to our level—and make things so beautifully easy for us to understand—God reward you.
Dear Rev. Fr. Neuner—I don’t know what the rules are regarding your expenses—but please accept this for your train journey.
My Sisters & I join to thank you for all the good you have done to us.
Pray for me.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M. C [pp.214-215]
* * *
Mother Teresa related to Father Neuner:
Your letter was an answer to a desire I expressed—“I wish Father would write since I have no time”—and here was a little token of His thoughtfulness….
The Internuncio* & our Archbishop want me to go to Bombay for the Superiors meeting. It is really an act of blind obedience for me, it is a very big sacrifice…. It would be wonderful if I could see you.
As for myself, Father—I have nothing to say—for the darkness is so dark, the pain is so painful. Sometimes the grip of pain is so great—that I can hear my own voice call out—My God, help me. When I help my Sisters draw very close to Jesus—when I teach them to love Him with a deep devoted—personal love—I long to be able to do the same.—The Sisters in front of my very eyes I see them love God—come so close to Him grow daily so much like Him—and I, Father—am just “alone”—empty—excluded—just not wanted. And yet in all the sincerity of my heart—I am happy to see Him loved—to see the Sisters grow like Him. I am happy to love Him through them.—Rev. Fr. Van Exem was here for 8 days giving the Superiors retreat—not a word came from me.—It hurt me—because I have never kept anything from him. But now I really have nothing to say.—And yet it is so painful to be lonely for God. Faithfully I have kept my retreat resolution—The greater the pain and darker the darkness the sweeter will be my smile at God.–-Pray for me that I may love Jesus.
Please ask your theologians to pray for your Missionaries of Charity. The Sisters were very happy to get your letter. [pp.221-222]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, October 16 1961)
(* Vatican Diplomatic representative, appointed by the pope to represent him to the government of the country to which he is assigned)
* * *
Dear Father J. Neuner.
Many thanks for your letter. I am glad you like our printed news.—You congratulate me on being elected Mother General.—you are the first one—and I hope you are the last. To the Sisters & to me it is only a title for the official documents, but to us it makes no difference.—I want to be to them what Mary was to Jesus—their mother.
I am looking forward to my visit to Bombay. Meetings have a terrible sickening effect on me.—It is a real sacrifice and an act of blind obedience to me.—I would gladly come to Poona to ask those 400 theologians to pray for me and our Sisters, but your proposal to speak to them makes me feel cold.—You have written not to say NO before I think it over. My thinking it over—is to ask His Grace what is his wish—If he says Yes—I will do what you want me to do—I will come and speak and tell them of God’s beautiful work.
No, Father, I am not alone.—I have His darkness—I have His pain—I have the terrible longing for God—to love and not to be loved. I know I have Jesus—in that unbroken union—for my mind is fixed on Him and in Him alone, in my will.
In case I don’t come to Poona—please don’t take the trouble to come to Bombay, as it is not worth your journey—if you come and I have nothing to say.—Nowadays He has taken this also. So I give Him a big smile in return. Thank God that He still stoops down to take from me.
I will send you a P.C. [post card] if His Grace says yes.
Pray for me.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M.C. [pp. 223-224]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, October 23, 1961)
* * *
Dear Father Neuner,
We got 13 new postulants last Jan. and they all already seem full of the joy of suffering for God’s poor.—We will have a nice group for May, please God.—And I just only look on and wonder. Nothing goes in. I have realised something these days. Since God wants me to abstain from the joy of the riches of spiritual life—I am giving my whole heart and soul to helping my Sisters to make full use of it. I see them grow day by day in holiness—see them grow in the love of God—and the seeing makes me happy. As for myself, I just have the joy of having nothing—not even the reality of the Presence of God.—No prayer, no love, no faith—nothing but continual pain of longing for God.–-These days I know Jesus has been giving to the Sisters such wonderful points.—After the Instructions I tried my best to recapture those very thoughts and words that passed through me—but I could not recall a single thought. I want to write—but I have nothing more to say—but ask you to pray for me.—With my whole heart I want it to be just like this—because He wants it….
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M. C. [pp.227-228]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, February 17, 1962)
* * *
Mother Teresa wrote to Father Neuner:
How very kind of you—to pray for me—and to write….
I have been reading “The Nun” St. Margaret Mary & the Sacred Heart by Margaret Trouner*—Her love for Jesus gave me such painful longing, to love as she loved Him. How cold—how empty—how painful is my heart.—Holy Communion—Holy Mass—all the holy things of spiritual life—of the life of Christ in me—are all so empty—so cold—so unwanted. The physical situation of my poor left in the streets unwanted, unloved unclaimed—are the true picture of my own spiritual life, of my love for Jesus, and yet this terrible pain has never made me desire to have it different.—What’s more, I want it to be like this for as long as He wants it.—
Maybe in June I will come to Bombay. If Nirmala still wants to see me—I will be most willing either to go to Poona or let her come to the convent in Bombay.—It would also give her a chance to see the work. Pray for me—that I may in Kindness and joy go about doing good.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M. C. [pp.232-234]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, May 12, 1962)
(* St. Margaret Mary (1647-1690) was a religious of the Order of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial (France). She was an apostle of devotion to th Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mother Teresa was referring to Margaret Trouncer, The Nun (New York: All Saints Press Book Guild Press, 1965).
* * *
In September 1962, writing to now Bishop Picachy, Mother Teresa emphasized how dark her interior state was. In the most critical moment, when she was on the verge of saying “No,” Mary, whom she often referred to tenderly as her “mother,” came to her aid.
My thoughts, prayers and sacrifices were all the time with you on the 9th. I would have loved to be there—but the Lord has His own plans. Thank you for the picture—. ..
Often I wonder what does really God get from me in this state—no faith, no love—not even in feelings. The other day I can’t tell you how bad I felt.—There was a moment when I nearly refused to accept.—Deliberately I took the Rosary and very slowly without even meditating or thinking—I said it slowly and calmly. The moment passed—but the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful.—But I accept whatever He gives and I give whatever He takes. People say they are drawn closer to God—seeing my strong faith.—Is this not deceiving people? Every time I have wanted to tell the truth—“that I have no faith”—the words just do not come—my mouth remains closed.—And yet I still keep on smiling at God and all.
Now that you are a Bishop—I must keep away—for you have many other more important works to do. I thank you dear Father—for all the help you have given me for all these years, and pray for me—even though I must keep away. [p.238]
(Mother Teresa to Bishop Picachy, September 21, 1962)
* * *
In April 1963 she wrote to Father Neuner:
How very kind of you to write. Yes, Father, Lent is nearly over.—The Passion of Jesus has passed by—without even touching my soul. My meditations like everything else—are so meaningless.—Day after day—the same thing I repeat—maybe only with my lips—“Make me feel what Thou hast felt. Make me share with Thee Thy pain.” I want to be at His disposal.
The opening went off very beautifully.—We have one brother—the 2nd is coming on Easter Sunday. It is wonderful to see & hear the reactions of the priests here.—Strange—but they all seem pleased & at the same time they were expecting this to happen one day. I am praying for Nirmala—Jesus will take care of her because she loves Him in His distressing disguise [of] His Poor. She may still go back to Poona one day as an M.C. & do great things for God—with her generous nature.
I am glad you are on holidays.—We began our spiritual holiday—retreat on the 15th for the novices & on the 16th for the professed & the Superiors. I will not make mine this time.—I wish I could go somewhere alone—to be alone with God even though He may not want to be alone with me….
Thank God you keep well.—My throat has been & is still giving trouble.—The best is that it does not pain when I talk—only when I drink—so I keep on all the talking—sometimes 3 or 4 or 5 instructions a day.—The Sisters were delighted with the instructions I gave them on chastity. I don’t know from where it all came–but it has made the vow of chastity the most lovable and the most natural vow for a religious to make. I wish I could feel what they feel.—Never mind—I am very happy & keep a big smile for all—
Pray for me—and ask the theologians to pray for me. [pp.242-243]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, April 11, 1963)
* * *
Many thanks for your kind letter—
I am very happy you are going to Rome and that you will pray for me & the Sisters & Brothers. You will be glad to know something else is going to Rome our Archbishop’s petition, the letters of all the Bishops where the Sisters are, my petition & the report on the life & work of the Society. The petition is to get the Pontifical rite for the Society. Father, don’t you feel happy? The God’s little seed is slowly growing—and yet it is all His. The only thing that keeps me on is the conviction that the work—the Sisters, the Society—all is His only—I claim nothing….
Everybody is well and doing their best. Pray that [He may] empty my emptiness.—He still plays His game—and I still keep smiling during His game. [p.244]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, September 3, 1963)
* * *
I can’t thank you & your people enough for all your & their kindness and affection you & they have shown our young Sisters.—I hope they will be a real cause of joy to you—and bring many souls to Jesus. Our Sisters are young—take care of them as they are His. Guide them to fervour & sanctity—& the holier they become the more they will be able to radiate God’s love among His Poor. I am very grateful to God to have given me the chance to work with you in your young diocese.
You must have prayed very fervently for me—because it is now about a month that there is in my heart a very deep union with the will of God. I accept not in my feelings—but with my will, the Will of God.—I accept His will—not only for time but for Eternity.—In my soul—I can’t tell you—how dark it is, how painful, how terrible.—My feelings are so treacherous.—I feel like “refusing God” and yet, the biggest and the hardest to bear—is this terrible longing for God.—Pray for me, that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness. I was looking forward to speaking to you. I just long to speak—and this too He seems to have taken the power from me. I will not complain.—I accept His Holy Will just as it comes to me. If you have the time please write & do not mind my inability to speak to you—for I wanted to speak—but I could not….
Please excuse paper & writing. Thank you for all your kindness to me & Mine. [p.245]
(Mother Teresa to Bishop Picachy, January 8, 1964)
* * *
The Sisters are in Carambolin & have already started work among God’s poor. Pray for them that they may do well & bring many souls to God. They are beautifully brave. I am happy to open all the houses the good God wants & light the fire of love in as many cities—but every time I leave the Sisters—a part of me as if is out from me & so causes great suffering.—Only God can ask sacrifices like this….
Pray for me—for the life within me is harder to live. To be in love & yet not to love, to live by faith and yet not to believe. To spend myself and yet be in total darkness.—Pray for me. [p.248]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, May 17, 1964)
* * *
After over fifteen years of darkness, she presented Father Neuner with this description:
As for me—what will I tell you? I have nothing—since I have not got Him—whom my heart & Soul longs to possess. Aloneness is so great.—From within and from without I find no one to turn to.—He has taken not only spiritual—but even the human help. I can speak to no one & even if I do—nothing enters my soul.—I was longing to speak to you in Bombay—yet I did not even try to make it possible.—If there is hell—this must be one. How terrible it is to be without God—no prayer—no faith—no love.—The only thing that still remains—is the conviction that the work is His—that the Sisters & the Brothers are His.—And I cling to this as the person having nothing clings to the straw—before drowning.—And yet, Father—in spite of all these—I want to be faithful to Him—to spend myself for Him, to love Him not for what He gives but for what He takes—to be at His disposal.—I do not ask Him to change His attitude towards me or His plans for me.—I only ask Him to use me—to teach & help my Sisters & Brothers & our Poor to love Him, since I could not love Him.—How beautifully the Sisters & the Brothers love God.—How much they try to live up to whatever He gives them through me.—[pp.249-250]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, before January 8, 1965)
* * *
It was very kind of you to come & give me so much of your time—for you have many more souls more worthy of your care and love than mine, which is so small & so empty & so weak.
Forgive me for asking you to come & then telling you nothing.—This shows you how terribly empty my soul is—but I am not afraid.—He has done marvels for me—Holy is His name—Pray for me that in this darkness I do not light my own light—nor fill this emptiness with my self.—I want with my whole will only Jesus.— Father, I wanted to tell you—how my soul longs for God—for Him alone, how painful it is to be without Him—how my thoughts are only the Sisters & the Poor.—Is this distraction [or] are these thoughts the cause of my praying?—They are my prayer they are my very life.—I love them as I love Jesus—& now as I do not love Jesus—I do not love them either. I know this is only feelings—for my will is steadfast bound to Jesus & so to the Sisters & the Poor.
You spoke of “the Father” in your instruction.—I could have sat there for a long, long time and just [listened].–Though very little registers within—yet if even for that time only.—
I am very happy the Sisters are in Poona—for they will get much spiritual help and also whenever I come I may be able to see you.—“Selfish motive.” There is beautiful work in Poona—& I think much good will be done both to the rich & the Poor.
I would be grateful if you let me know of some good books.—When I face our library—I just find it difficult to choose the book I need.
Father, can you explain to me—when you have time—how to grow in the “deep personal union of the human heart with the heart of Christ.” From childhood the Heart of Jesus has been my first love.—Every Friday is the feast of the Sacred Heart for me. I love the Mass of the S H [Sacred Heart]—for in the words of the offertory reecho the words of 10th Sept.—“will you do this for Me.” This M.C. [Missionaries of Charity] is only His work.
I only accepted to do it for Him.—I have tried to follow His plan of the Work—to the last word. Every foundation is each time another 10th Sept. for it is His doing. This [is] why I think whatever is said* does not register in my soul—because of Him—Please remember “His Work” on the 10th Sept.—I am sure that once more He will come—before I die & I will Hear His voice—
Our Sisters in Poona have a holy confessor. I am not afraid for them. They will do great work if they are guided properly.
I will be going to Amravati on the 26th night & from there to Bhopal, Jhansi, Agra, Delhi. Ambala & back home.—Pray for me—that I give Jesus everywhere I go.—If you write please write to Cal. [Calcutta] as I hope to be there the latest about the 10th Aug….
Please pray for me.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M. C. [pp. 256-258]
(Mother Teresa to Father Neuner, July 24, 1967)
(* Whatever is said in praise of her and the work)
* * *
Father van der Peet’s impressions from this and subsequent meetings with Mother Teresa leave no doubt as to the holiness and union with God that she radiated:
Whenever I met Mother, all self-consciousness left me. I felt right away at ease: she radiated peace and joy, even when she shared with me the darkness in her spiritual life. I was often amazed that someone who lived so much face to face with suffering people and went through a dark night herself, still could smile and make you feel happy…. I believe that I can say that I felt in God’s presence, in the presence of truth and love.
I could not help but think: Here is a person God dreamed of in Paradise, truly a touch of God. Yet I have to say at the same time that she was one of the most down-to-earth persons I have ever met. [p.269]
* * *
In September 1959 she had written to Jesus at the request of Father Picachy:
I don’t pray any longer.—I utter words of community prayers–and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give.—But my prayer of union is not there any longer—I no longer pray.—My soul is not one with You.—-[p.270]
(Mother Teresa to Father Picachy, September 3, 1959)
Dear Father Michael,
I hope all is well with you and that your love for Jesus keeps growing and bringing much fruit….
You must pray much for this that the Society be fully at the disposal of the Church. I enclose the Jesus prayer I wrote for our Sisters.—They are trying to put the music to it.—Maybe you could help them when you go in Aug.
My love for Jesus keeps growing more simple and more, I think, personal.—Like our Poor, I try to accept my poverty of being small, helpless, incapable of great love. But I want to love Jesus with Mary’s love, and His Father with Jesus’ love.—I know you are praying for me.—I want Him to be at ease with me—not to mind my feelings—as long as He feels alright—not to mind even the darkness that surrounds Him in me—but that in spite of everything Jesus is all to me and that I love no one but only Jesus.—Pray on the 25th.
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M.C. [p.174]
(Mother Teresa to Father van der Peet, June 19, 1976. Letter written “on my way to New York,” i.e., on the plane)
* * *
A few years earlier she had written to Malcolm Muggeridge, encouraging him in his spiritual struggle:
I think I understand you better now—I am afraid I could not answer to your deep suffering—. .. I don’t know why but you to me are like Nicodemus & I am sure the answer is the same—“Unless you become a little child.” I am sure you will understand beautifully everything if you would only “become” a little child in God’s hands.
Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you.—He must be forcing Himself to do so—because He loves you so much—as to give Jesus to die for you & for me.—Christ is longing to be your Food. Surrounded with fullness of living food, you allow yourself to starve.—The personal love Christ has for you is infinite.—The small difficulty you have re His Church is finite.—Overcome the finite with the infinite.—Christ has created you because He wanted you. I know what you feel—terrible longing—with dark emptiness—& yet He is the one in Love with you. [p.280]
(Mother Teresa to Malcolm Muggeridge, November 12, 1970)
* * *
Her letters to Father van der Peet revealed more about her humility than her suffering:
Dear Fr. Michael,
Forgive the long silence. I have received all your 3 letters. Your love for Jesus is so wonderful, so full of Mary’s pure love. I thank God and especially Our Lady for loving Jesus in you and, through you, all the people you come in touch with through your retreats. Last year we celebrated the silver jubilee of Jesus by giving Him 25 tabernacles. Beirut was the 25th foundation. I just understand less and less the humility of God made man for love
I know you pray much for me—I need Jesus’ love.
Let us pray—
Yours in Jesus,
M. Teresa, M.C. [p.287]
(Mother Teresa to Father van der Peet, April 30, 1979)
* * *
Dear Fr. Michael,
Your letter of May 28 was waiting for me and I believe somebody has already written to you….
Please pray to Fr. Leo Dehon for our Society—especially during these coming days when we are preparing for our Chapter. We shall have the Ch. Gen. [Chapter General] on the 21st Nov. Ask Our Lady to take care of our Society—which was born at Her pleading and grew under Her care.—I would love to be just a simple Sister.—I will not ask.—Let Jesus do whatever He wills without consulting me, for I belong to Him.—
I felt so bad on the day of the profession to have left you & the others.—It was really an act of perfect obedience to have to go with the Cardinal to the meeting re the boat people. The sea has become an open Calvary where the Passion of Christ is being relived. We have not been able to take any of them in India. In Manila our home for the sick and dying had a few suffering people.—You only wonder how people can suffer so much and never break. Looking at them I feel physical pain right in my heart.—The profession was really something beautiful for God—and now we have a Contemplative MC Community—a gift of God.
How happy you must be to have this wonderful gift of giving Jesus to souls through your retreats. How good your Sup. [Superiors] have been to have given you the permission to do so.
Jesus has a very special love for you—for you are so totally His that you live—not you—but Jesus lives in you and through you He proves His love for the world. As for me the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.—The tongue moves but does not speak.—Helpless yet daring.—I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand—and even if He chooses to cut me to pieces, that every single piece, however small, be only His—
At the M.H. [Motherhouse] we have over 300 novices so beautiful so full of joy.—It does one good to just look at them and enjoy the gift of God, their love.—I know you pray for me.—Ask Our Lady to take care of me as she took [care] of Jesus.
God bless you,
M. Teresa, M. C. [pp. 287-288]
(Mother Teresa to Father van der Peet, September 22, 1979)
* * *
It was at this time that Mother Teresa decided to share her interior struggle with another priest, Jesuit Father Albert Huart of the Calcutta province. He remembered:
It was very probably at the retreat previous to the General Chapter in 1985—Mother came … to speak about the excruciating night in her soul. It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years. What immediately struck me is what she added to the description of this painful and enduring night …:”Father, I do realize that when I open my mouth to speak to the sisters and to people about God and God’s work, it brings them light, joy and courage. But I get nothing of it. Inside it is all dark and feeling that I am totally cut off from God.” This sounded to me like pure John of the Cross.
The contrast between her inner night and her ability to communicate God in word and deed to others enabled me to do my best to reassure her that God was powerfully at work in her, and encourage her to accept the darkness as part of His work. But, in this kind of night, a few words well meant will not relieve the pain, or not much. [p.306]
(Testimony of Father Albert Huart, S.J., Calcutta, India, 15160, 15161, 15162, 15163)
* * *
Father William G. Curlin, then pastor of a parish in Washington, D.C., recalled:
I have been privileged to direct several spiritual retreats for Mother Teresa in Calcutta and again in the United States. I recall how intense was her hunger to deepen her relationship to Jesus Christ. I note in particular one evening when Mother Teresa and I were discussing spiritual aridity. One of her Sisters overheard our discussion and remarked, “Mother must have great consolation from God to support her mission to the poorest of the poor.” Later that evening during a Holy Hour one of the members of her religious family handed me a written note from Mother Teresa. I read her words and then looked to where she was seated in the Chapel. She returned my look and then knelt up and faced the Blessed Sacrament enthroned in the Monstrance. That gesture confirmed her words: “Dear Father, pray for me. Where is Jesus?” Throughout [the] years of my friendship with Mother Teresa, she frequently shared with me the spiritual dryness that accompanied her labors as a Missionary of Charity. [p.307]
(Testimony of Bishop William G. Curlin, Bishop of Charlotte, North Carolina)
* * *
My dearest Sr. M. Frederick and all in the Mother House and the world,
This brings you all Mother’s prayer, love, and blessing.
I hope and pray you are all one heart full of love in the heart of Jesus through Mary.
As this week is a special time for Jesus and for us of greater love and greater union, let us try in a special way to come as close as [the] human heart can come to the Heart of Jesus and try to understand as much as possible Jesus’ terrible pain caused to Him by our sins and His Thirst for our love.—He has never felt this pain so much as during this week so precious for Him and for us.—No wonder it came out so clearly in the last moments of His human life when He said “I Thirst.” Thank God Our Lady was there to understand fully the thirst of Jesus for love.—She must have straight away said, “I satiate your thirst with my love and the suffering of my heart.”
“Jesus, my Jesus, I love you”—how clear. Her total surrender, her loving trust must have satiated His Thirst for love for souls.—That is why it is very important to keep very close to our Lady as St. John and St. Mary Magdalen kept. Often I wonder what they felt when they heard Jesus say “I Thirst.” That is why, my children, this week is so important to the life of our Society and [this] reason for our existence as M.C., to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross for love, for souls, by working at the Salvation and Sanctification of the Poorest of the Poor.—Who are the Poorest of the Poor?—My Sisters, my Brothers, my Fathers, every member of our M.C. family.—That’s where this beautiful gift of love—of satiating the thirst of Jesus for love, for souls—begins.
That is why, my children, let us deepen our knowledge of the thirst of Jesus on the Cross, in the Eucharist and in every soul we meet, for this knowledge will help us to be holy like Jesus & Mary….
I hope you are all well wherever you are doing God’s work with great love.—I ask you again—please, for the love of God and the love of the Society take the trouble to be holy. All for Jesus through Mary.
Holy & Happy Easter to you all.
God bless you,
Mother [pp. 320-321]
(Mother Teresa to Sister M. Frederick, M.C., and the M.C. Sisters, March 29, 1994)
* * *
At the age o f eighty-five, Mother Teresa was still eager to receive advice and spiritual guidance with humility and simplicity. Bishop Curlin was a witness to this characteristic of hers:
I remember especially our last meeting together in Charlotte when she came here in 1995. That evening we spent an hour in private conversation discussing her spiritual life. When I suggested that she offer her spiritual dryness to God as a special gift, she reacted with enthusiasm. She repeated several times, “What a wonderful gift from God to be able to offer Him the emptiness I feel. I am so happy to give Him this gift.” . . .
In the telephone conversations that followed our last meeting, she invariably mentioned her continuing to make that inner and hidden gift. [p. 326]
(Testimony of Bishop William G. Curlin)
* * *
Mother Teresa’s letters reveal crises of faith
The Straits Times, Singapore—August 27, 2007
MOTHER Teresa, who is one step short of being made a Catholic saint, suffered crises of faith for most of her life and even doubted God’s existence, according to a set of letters.
“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear,” the missionary wrote to one confidant, Reverend Michael Van Der Peet, in 1979.
The letters, some of which she wanted destroyed, appear in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, due to be published next week, 10 years after her death.
Extracts of the book appear in the latest edition of Time magazine.
In more than 40 letters spanning some 66 years, the ethnic Albanian nun who devoted her life to working with the poor in the slums of Kolkata in India, writes of the “darkness”, “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing.
“Where is my faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain—I have no faith,” she wrote in an undated letter addressed to Jesus.
“If there be God—please forgive me—When I try to raise my thoughts to heaven—there is such convicting emptiness.”
In her early life, Mother Teresa, also known as “the saint of the gutters”, had visions. In one, she talked to a crucified Jesus on the cross.
But the letters reveal that apart from a brief respite in 1959, she spent most of the last 50 years of her life doubting God’s presence—much at odds with her public face.
In one letter, written in 1959, she wrote: “If there be no God—there can be no soul—if there is no soul then Jesus—You also are not true.”
The book’s compiler and editor Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk is a member of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and was responsible for petitioning for her sainthood. She was beatified—one step short of sainthood—in 2003.
`I’ve never read a saint’s life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented,” said Rev Kolodiejchuk.
Mother Teresa’s successor said yesterday that the revelations would not hamper her path to sainthood.
“I don’t think it will have an effect on the process of sainthood for Mother Teresa, said Sister Nirmala, who succeeded Mother Teresa as the head of the Missionaries of Charity.
Cardinal Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice, said the letters showed Mother Teresa was “one of us, that she did all her work as we do, no more no less”.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
* * *
Mother Teresa—A crisis of faith or of the imagination?
By Father Ronald Rolheiser
Sunday Oct 14, 2007 CatholicNews
J. R. TOLKIEN, author of “Lord of the Rings”, was one of the key persons who helped C. S. Lewis accept Christianity. As a man of considerable imagination he was not one to easily denigrate this faculty. Yet he knew its limits. One night, after hours of listening to Lewis object to certain aspects of the faith, Tolkien suggested to him that his resistance was not so much a question of belief as it was of imagination: “Your inability to understand stems from a failure of imagination on your part.”
There is something very important in that statement. Imagination isn’t faith. For example:
Some of the intimate letters of Mother Teresa, recently published for the first time, would seem to indicate that she suffered painful doubts in terms of believing in the existence of God. She shares, again and again, how she can no longer imagine God’s existence and the pain that she feels about that. A simplistic judgement can then be made that she ceased believing in God, that she lost her faith. Is this true?
Looked at superficially, it might appear so, at least in that she was unable to imagine that God exists. But such a judgement is too simple. We need to understand the depth of Tolkien’s comment to
C. S. Lewis. Her struggles were much more with her imagination and its incapacity to give her an imaginative picture of God’s existence than they were with the actual belief that God exists. Why? Because every action in her life gives us the indication that, as she aged, her faith grew deeper rather than weaker.
But how do we know this? How is our inability to imagine God’s existence different than atheism? Consider these two scenes:
Imagine yourself lying in bed some night: You have just had a very good time of prayer and are flooded with feelings and images about God. You have strong, clear feelings that God exists. On that particular evening you have no doubts; you can feel the existence of God.
Now, imagine another night, a darker one. You wake up from a fitful sleep and are overwhelmed by the sense that you don’t believe in God. You try to convince yourself that you still believe, but you cannot. Every attempt to imagine that God exists and to feel his presence comes up empty. You feel an overwhelming emptiness inside because of that feeling. Try as you like, you cannot shake the feeling that you no longer believe. Try as you like, you can no longer regain the solid ground on which you once stood. Try as you like, you can no longer make yourself feel the existence of God.
Does this mean that on one of these nights you have a strong faith and on the other you have a weak one? Not necessarily. It can just as easily mean that on one night you have a strong imagination and on the other you have a weak one. On the one night you can imagine the presence of God and on the other night you cannot imagine it. Imagination isn’t faith.
Daniel Berrigan, in his colourful manner, puts this crassly, but accurately: He was once asked, “Where does your faith live? In the head or in the heart?” Faith, he assures us, is rarely where our heads are at, nor where our hearts are at. In his words: “Your faith is where your ass is at! Where are you living? What are you doing?” Our commitments, our actions, our charity, and our morality ultimately determine whether we believe or not.
Passing strange but strangely true, the posterior is invariably a better indication of where we stand with faith and belief than are the head and the heart. We know this from experience: We all have had the experience of being inside of certain commitments (marriage, family, church) where, at times, our heads and our hearts are not there, but we are there! The head tells us this doesn’t make sense; the heart lacks the proper warm feelings to keep us there; but we remain there, held by something deeper, something beyond what we can explain or feel. This is where faith lives and this is what faith means.
Mother Teresa, for long periods of time, suffered anguish inside of her head and heart every time she tried to imagine the existence of God; yet by every indication she lived her whole life in function of God’s existence. Her problem was with the limits and poverty of the human imagination. Simply put, she couldn’t picture how God exists.
But nobody can because the finite can never picture the infinite, though it can sense it and know it in ways beyond what the head can imagine and the heart can feel.
Not being able to imagine God’s existence is not the same thing as not believing. Our actions are always a more accurate indication of faith than are any feelings about God on a given day.
* * *
Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 at the age of eighty-seven. She was born in Skopie, Macedonia, in 1910 and joined the Sisters of Loreto in Dublin at 18 years old and was sent to India, where she began her novitiate in October 1928 and took her final vows in May 1937. On September 1946, during a train journey to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, she received a call within her vocation to give up her happy teaching calling, to start a Missionaries of Charity for the poorest of the poor. She was 36 years old then and it took her almost two years to convince her spiritual director, her Archbishop and Rome to allow her to go ahead with the formation of the new Order in August 1948. All who have the privilege of knowing her, or knowing of her, must be eternally grateful for her. For Mother Teresa was able to lift up all those who had fallen, to encourage the faint and to rekindle hope in the disheartened.
The “darkness”, “loneliness”, “torture,” “unloved” and “unwantedness” that Mother Teresa experienced and described in her letters, which spanned some 50 years, showed the strength and beauty of her soul. Her untold darkness began almost immediately in 1949 or 1950 (Come Be My Light, p.1), after she started her Missionaries of Charity for the poorest of the poor. Her torment was intense, terrible and unrelenting. In the lives of the saints, it is almost without parallel; only the experience of John of the Cross is comparable in length.
Mother Teresa, according to Father van der Peet, “was one of the most down-to-earth persons I have ever met.” Bearing the burdens and sufferings in order to expand and run such a large Missionaries of Charity with more than 350 houses over 77 countries in 1988 alone (Come Be My Light, 309), she had to be practical, down to earth and rational. For any down to earth and rational person, who uses his left brain, it is normally more difficult to have the imagination to feel God in his heart and to perceive God in his mind. His rational mind is often too finite to be able to imagine the infinite God, although he can sense with his whole being the presence of God. The more desperately the person wants to “feel and perceive” God, the more terrible will be his torment and aloneness. It is not that the person has no faith but that he has a limited imagination. His faith is where his actions are and that’s where Mother Teresa showed her faith—in all her actions.
Throughout her ordeal, Mother Teresa remained steadfast and faithful to her call, giving herself unremittingly and cheerfully to the mission entrusted to her. Rising above the pain of feeling “unloved and unwanted” by Jesus, she did her utmost to show her love for Him. In the midst of her own inner darkness and suffering she was able to radiate the love of Jesus to all she met. She sought Him in every person she met, especially in the poorest of the poor, holding fast to His words, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Mother Teresa is able to distill from her own suffering and pain the lessons she learnt. These she effectively put into practical ways to pass on, in her writings and speeches, to all who have to walk the same path. She comforts you when you are sad. She encourages you when you doubted, whether you could do something or not. She was able to convey this conviction to her followers, as one of them testified:
She would say to me in difficult times, “Don’t give in to your feelings. God is permitting this.” This really taught me that the best and the worst in life would pass and if I will learn myself to accept the cross, to be quiet, humble and hopeful, that all will pass. By renewing hope in me, I was able to come through that period without making a bad judgement, by acting on my feelings. (Come Be My Light, 337)