Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 3, 2007
Teresa's 'dark night' showed her strength
Faith in the midst of spiritual trials prove her heroic virtue
By JOHN THAVIS
"Mother (Teresa) did not doubt God, she continued to love him."
- Sr. Nirmala Joshi
Time magazine recently ran a cover story about the book under the title, The Secret Life of Mother Teresa. In letters written over several decades, she spoke of a lack of faith, a "terrible darkness within me" and a sense of being abandoned by Jesus.
Sister Nirmala Joshi, head of the Missionaries of Charity, said the letters reveal that sainthood does not come easily, but they do not show a failure of faith.
"Mother (Teresa) did not doubt God, she continued to love him. If you doubt someone, sooner or later you stop following him. But she continued right up to her death to love him and to put into practice her devotion," Sister Nirmala told La Repubblica.
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, told Vatican Radio that what distinguished Mother Teresa's "dark night" was that it apparently continued throughout her life and was not a preparation for a new spiritual stage as with other saints.
He said her inner suffering should not be seen as a denial of God, however. She knew God was there, but suffered because she could not feel him, he said.
Noting that Mother Teresa would kneel before the Eucharist for hours at a time, Cantalamessa said it must have been a form of "martyrdom" not to feel Christ's presence.
"For me, this makes the figure of Mother Teresa much bigger, not smaller," he said.
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, who wrote a reflection on Mother Teresa's letters last year in the Vatican newspaper, said they reveal some important and beautiful things.
"The first is that Mother Teresa is one of us, that she went through all the trials just as we do, no more and no less," he said.
Another important element in her letters is that Mother Teresa, when she no longer felt she could feel God's presence, asked him to reveal himself, he said.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former Vatican spokesman, said Mother Teresa's letters showed that she experienced real spiritual suffering. That is not surprising, he said, since she was notoriously "immune" to the banal and the superficial.
"But all this is not the expression of a lack of faith, but rather of the normal - perhaps in this case heroic - sacrifice that people discover when they try to live a commitment and a choice coherently and completely," he said.
Navarro-Valls said it would be wrong to conclude on the basis of these letters that Mother Teresa's trademark smile was fake or that her public persona was hypocritical.
Instead, the letters illustrate that spiritual progress often must overcome obstacles that seem impassable, he said.
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