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Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” by Brian Kolodiejchuk

by davesandel on September 25th, 2012

Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., 2007

404 pages

Read 9-2012, reviewed, 9-2012   (also find at www.davesandel.wordpress.com)

Thoughts on Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light

The Coat

I patched my coat with sunlight,

It lasted for a day.

I patched my coat with moonlight,

But the lining came away.

I patched my coat with lightning

And it flew off in the storm.

I patched my coat with darkness:

That coat has kept me warm.

            —Dennis Lee

            Without question, Mother Teresa was the twentieth century’s most inspirational woman.  She received the Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards with humility and grace.  She held lepers and dying children in her arms while speaking with authority to presidents and popes.  She seemed to walk so easily on the tightrope between accomplishment and humility.  And she did this until the end of her life.

So it was a shock to millions when Come Be My Light revealed an inner darkness that left her cold “as a block of ice” toward God and toward herself for fifty years.   However, even in this endless emotional winter of disconnection, she was warmed by the fire of God’s will to love the poor and dying around her.  God’s determination to love them gave her the energy and resolve to do the same, even though she didn’t feel a whit of God’s love.  Her commitment to what she called “the work” never seemed to waver.

Mother Teresa was an emotional woman.  Her joy and enthusiasm were infectious.  She felt the call of God to begin her own ministry, and she felt Jesus’ presence.  During this time she felt deeply loved by Jesus, her Spouse.  But when the ministry began in 1948, those positive emotions became negative.  Between her and God, there suddenly was nothing.  She did not feel loved.  She did not even feel noticed by Him. The letters she writes to her spiritual director are full of agony and confusion.

He understood more of this than she did, and he tried to explain, to help her through it.  As God removed positive, emotional motivations, she was being cast into the “dark night.”  But this was not rejection; instead God was trusting Mother Teresa to relate to Him without emotion, even without understanding.  As God removed human analogy and experience from their relationship, his daughter Teresa could exercise her will, which would grow her faith.

Her faith grew, but Mother Teresa’s feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness did not fade.  During the next fifty years, she sometimes felt as if those emotions were eating her alive.

Sixty years ago depression was difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to treat.  The very word connoted weakness and failure. Body chemistry was much more of a mystery than it is today.  And the word “depressed” is never used in this book.

But to me, Mother Teresa sounds depressed.  As a helper, I would have wanted to use psychological and medical tools to relieve that depression.  At the same time, as a budding spiritual direction student, I need to understand what I can about how God weaves together nature and grace, and helps each of us come to our own purpose and joy.

I want to be “God-with-skin-on” when someone needs medical care and won’t acknowledge it.  But I also want to get out of God’s way when He might be using a little tougher kind of love than I would use.

Let me reflect for a moment on purpose and joy.  In my life, I want to fully “be.”  For the sake of others, I want to know and live out of the truth, beauty and goodness of God within myself and within the world.   Living according to this purpose brings me joy.

But my body sometimes betrays me.  Clinical depression is a physical illness which works in the mind.  It can prevent me from either hearing or believing  God.  Even as I cry out for relief, I fall silent.  I’m not sure if I should trust Him.  Is He even there?

Successful treatment for depression is available.  It can help release my mind from the pincers of despair and doubt.  Here’s another picture:  just as a root-bound plant is released from the winter’s tiny pot to grow in a spring-planted garden, my mind opens into spacious new possibilities.  And I think that is God’s intention for every one of his creatures, whom He loves equally and without end.  He will not sacrifice one of us for others, no matter what.

But wait!  Here is a great caveat:  God will not sacrifice me, but He will encourage me to sacrifice myself.  And Jesus will show me how.  Living beyond my own needs is the only way to live.  This purpose, this “sacrifice” by definition involves suffering.  The suffering itself provides no merit; instead it teaches me to keep my eyes open and become more aware of others.  The “skin of my teeth” is not my only concern.  Not even my main concern.  This is good.  This is very good.  When I live according to this purpose, my life fills up with joy.  It doesn’t always look like happiness, but it is definitely joy.

So what does God offer me when I cry out for relief?  (And what do I say as a spiritual director to someone crying out for relief?)

When my experience of God becomes confused with experiencing prosperity – relief, security, success, safety or even happiness – then I am not moving toward Him.  If I lose track of God in the midst of his gifts, if I mistake one for the other, then those wonderful and enriching gifts (like water and sunlight for a plant) don’t get inside me, and I begin to wither internally without even knowing it.

God is generous and gives without ceasing.  But when I claim my entitlement and cling to his gifts as if they are what sustain me, I twist thoroughly in the wrong direction.  Suddenly I don’t see God: I’m looking away from Him.  “More, Lord!” I shout to get his attention as I extend my hands.  He reaches out as I reach … away.  Finally, as the early fruit of his giving gets used up, I can find nothing more.

If this confusion is to change, then I must learn to discern God as He is in the midst of all He gives.  Find a quiet place inside myself where I can listen instead of talk.  Quit with the desperate demands.  Stop telling God what to do.  Learn the language of God, which might best be learned in silence.

Turned toward him again at last, perhaps I will find new patience with my depression AND receive God’s healing.  The healing might be medical or psychological or spiritual; when God speaks, I want to listen.  When He Offers, I want to accept.  Of course his gift will come in a different wrapper than I imagined, and in different timing that I desire.  But that’s OK.  When I see it’s God doing the giving, it’s all good.

God’s perspective is long, and His knowledge of me is complete.  He does not see me the way I see myself, but He longs to show me what He sees.  Initially I might be shocked by the healing package He presents.  On the one hand, perhaps I never thought God would ask me to use “drugs” to know his healing.  I thought I was above such surrender to illness and pain.

But God seems to value my body more than I do.  He sees it far more clearly than I do.  It’s not just a temporary inconvenience during life on earth.  My body is where everything happens.  It is where I discover what it’s like to “carry my own cross.” It’s my body I use to go from first to last, and move to the end of the line from the front.  My body is where “thorns in the flesh” lodge, often for far longer than I expect.  My body is where I learn to rejoice when I suffer trials of every kind, since without setbacks and suffering I cannot develop character and perseverance.  My mind screams resentfully at this outrage, but my body waits patiently through the pout, and then offers my tired mind a place to rest.

I must decrease and God will increase.  “God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.”  God’s love is tough.  He is confident in the person He made me to be.  “Do not be afraid,” He says.  “I am trustworthy and will never leave you.”  Gradually my relationship with God exhibits confidence instead of doubt.  The questions change.  “Are you doing anything, God?” becomes “What are doing, God?”  Then one day I open my eyes all the way and begin to simply ask, “Will you show me how to accept what you are doing, Lord?”

Mother Teresa suffered intensely in her spiritual darkness, and that suffering may have been worse because of her body chemistry and life circumstances.  If she had seen a psychiatrist instead of or in conjunction with her spiritual director, and if she had lived 50 years later, her helpers would surely have suggested anti-depressants.   Would the relief they provided have allowed her to sense God’s love with her emotions as well as her will?  I hope so.

How would that happiness have affected her willingness to sacrifice herself?  We don’t know.  Perhaps she would have accomplished even more.

Would that “relief” have cracked the dark crucible of growth which her interior suffering provided?  This is an important question.  Of course there are times when both medication and talk therapy can detract from spiritual growth, exactly BECAUSE they remove the opportunity for me to sacrifice, suffer, and therein discover the depths of God.  All of us need this strong container within which to cast off the old and take on the new.  In their article (see list of online articles below), authors Phyllis Zagano and Kevin Gillespie write,

The sudden and deep realization that all ideas about God are lacking sometimes sends the soul into a depressive free fall.  The suffering is not over the loss of God, but rather the loss of deeply held notions of God … Only as the individual releases his or her conceptions of God does resolution appear. … This painful loss is the most disorienting part of (what St. John of the Cross terms the) Dark Night.

Mother Teresa suffered her way into one new skin after another.  God didn’t leave her alone.  With no inner sense of satisfaction or approval from God, Mother Teresa personally experienced the rejection, loneliness and despair of the slum-dwellers she loved so much.  In their “dark holes” and her own, this identification became more and more complete.  Over many years she came to “love” her darkness and to see it as God’s most precious gift.

Whether or not her experience included “depression,” the result in her life seems to have been joy. This book is illuminating and life-giving as it reflects the experience of amazing mystic woman Mother Teresa, sweet small Serbian girl who, like her Blessed Mother Mary kept on saying all her life, “May it be unto me as you have said.”

Thank you, Momma T.

9-25-2012

 

Online articles about this topic:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/author_of_new_mother_teresa_book_responds_to_time_magazine_article/ (thoughts from the author, Brian Kolodiejchuk, 2007)

 

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=10687&comments=1 (James Martin, “Shadows in Prayer,” 2008)

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=10673 (William A. Barry, “A Meditation on Life and Death, 1987)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-james-martin-sj/mother-teresa-one-of-the-_b_694017.html?view=print&comm_ref=false (James Martin, “Mother Teresa: One of the Greatest Saints Ever,” 9/24/2012)

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/preview.aspx?id=253 (Zagano/Gillespie, “Mother Teresa’s Dark Night, 2012?)

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/04/AR2007090401625.html (Michael Gerson, “The Torment of Teresa” in The Washington Post, 2007)

 

http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2007/08/mother-teresa-my-saint-of-dark.html (Therese Borchard, “Mother Teresa: My Saint of Darkness and Hope, 2008)

 

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/mother-teresa-and-the-mystery-of-gods-absence (“Mother Teresa and the Mystery of God’s Absence,” Various authors of iMonk blog, 2007)

 

What follow are quotations from Come Be My Light, sometimes drawn together over a few paragraphs or pages.  The book consists of a preface, introduction, thirteen chapters, conclusion, two appendices (including notes from Mother Teresa’s 1959 retreat), an epilogue, endnotes, acknowledgments and index. 

Enjoy …

Preface and Introduction

Mother Teresa considered herself just “a pencil in God’s hand” and was convinced that God was using her “nothingness” to show His greatness.  She never took credit for her accomplishments and always tried to divert the attention she received to God and “his work” among the poorest of the poor.  Yet it was not in God’s providential plan for her to remain unknown.  – p. xi

Mother Teresa could not hide her work among the poor, but what she did manage to keep hidden – and with astonishing success – were the most profound aspects of her relationship with God.  She was determined to keep these secrets of love far from mortal eyes. – p. xii

Three aspects of Mother Teresa’s interior life revealed during her cause of canonization are the private vow made while she was still a Loreto nun, the mystical experiences that surrounded the inspiration to found the Missionaries of Charity, and her intimate sharing in the Cross of Christ through the long years of interior darkness.  –p., 2

Each of these vows is connected: the private vow laying the groundwork for the call to serve the poorest of the poor, the new call inviting her to embrace the spiritual reality of those she served, and the vow again supporting her heroic living of the painful darkness. – p. 2

Chapters 1-2 cover her interior life prior to her “call within a call.”  Chapters 3-7 deal with the inspiration she received on 9/10/1946 to found the Missionaries of Charity … When all seemed to be in place, the worst of her ordeals was only just beginning.  From the time she received the call, she was convinced that her mission was to bring the light of faith to those living in darkness.  Little did Mother Teresa realize then that “darkness” would become the greatest trial of her own life.  The depth of this mystical experience and the cost of living out this new call and mission are the themes of Chapters 8-13. – p. 2-3

Despite her personal desire for the letters describing her inner spiritual darkness to be destroyed, they were not.  It is traditional teaching that the mystical charism of God’s close friends is meant not primarily for themselves but for the good of the whole church.  Many people who go through similar trials may gain courage and hope from these letters.  There are probably many more such persons than we think. – p. 10

Chapter 1.  “Put Your Hand in His Hand, and Walk Alone with Him”

Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910 and died September 5, 1997 at the age of 87. Her birthplace, Skopje, was in Serbia, which became part of Yugoslavia after World War I.  During World War II Skopje was conquered by the Bulgarian army, at that time part of the Axis powers.  In 1991 when Yugoslavia disintegrated in the Yugoslav Wars, Skopje became the capital of independent Macedonia.  The city has a population of about 500,000 people. – Wikipedia

Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu, the future Mother Teresa, left her home in Skopje on September 26, 1928.  She journeyed to Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), the Loreto Sisters.  She had applied to go to the missions in Bengal. – p. 13

On January 6,1929, after a five-week journey, 18 year old Sister Teresa arrived in Calcutta.  On May 31, 1931 she made her first profession of vows, promising to live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Until 1948 she taught at the St. Mary’s Bengali Medium School for girls in Calcutta. – p. 17-18

(Much of the book consists of letters from Mother Teresa to a variety of people.  Quotes from those letters will be italicized.)

My final vows will be on 24th May 1937.  What a great grace!  I really cannot thank God enough for all that He has done for me.  His for all eternity!  Now I rejoice with my whole heart that I have joyfully carried my cross with Jesus.  There were sufferings – there were moments when my eyes filled with tears – but thanks be to God for everything.  Jesus and I have been friends up to now, pray that He may give me the grace of perseverance. – p. 20

I have more often as my companion “darkness.”  And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me as if I will end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus … I used to get goose bumps at the thought of suffering – but now I embrace suffering even before it actually comes, and like Jesus and I live in love … But I am laughing more than I am suffering, so that some have concluded that I am Jesus’ spoiled bride, who lives with Jesus in Nazareth, far away from Calvary … India is scorching as hell – but its souls are beautiful and precious because the Blood of Christ has bedewed them. – p. 20-21

It is difficult to grasp precisely what Sister Teresa meant here by “darkness,” but in the future the term would come to signify profound interior suffering, lack of sensible consolation, spiritual dryness, an apparent absence of God from her life, and at the same time, a painful longing for Him. – p. 21-22

Interior darkness has been a common phenomenon among the numerous saints throughout Church history who have experienced what the Spanish Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night.”  His term describes the painful purifications one undergoes before reaching union with God, experienced in two phases: the “night of the senses” and the “night of the spirit.” – p. 22

In the first night one is freed from attachment to sensory satisfactions and drawn into the prayer of contemplation.  While God communicates his light and love, the soul, imperfect as it is, is incapable of receiving them, and experiences them as darkness, pain, dryness and emptiness.  If this state is “night of the senses” and NOT the result of mediocrity, laziness or illness, then one continues to perform duties faithfully and generously, without despondency, self-concern or emotional disturbance.  Though consolations are no longer felt, there is a notable longing for God, along with an increase of love, humility, patience, and other virtues. – p. 22

Having passed through the first night one may then be led by God into the “night of the spirit,” to be purged from the deepest roots of one’s imperfections.  A state of extreme aridity (dried and dead) accompanies this purification, and one feels rejected and abandoned by God.  The experience can become so intense that one feels as if heading toward eternal hell.  It is even more excruciating because one wants only God and loves Him greatly, but is unable to recognize one’s love for Him.  The virtues of faith, hope and charity are severely tried.  Prayer is difficult, almost impossible.  Spiritual counsel and direction are of practically no avail.  Various exterior trials may add to this pain. – p. 22-23

By means of this painful purification, the disciple is led to total detachment from all created things and to a high degree of union with Christ, becoming a fit instrument in His hands and serving Him purely and disinterestedly. – p. 23

Sister Teresa’s deeds are entirely simple, but the perfection with which she does them, is just what Jesus asks of us. – p. 26

Chapter 2.  Something Very Beautiful for Jesus

In April 1942 I made a vow to God, binding under pain of mortal sin, to give to God anything He may ask, “Not to refuse Him anything.”  No one except her confessor, whose guidance and permission she sought, knew about this vow.  His permission for her to undertake such an obligation confirms his confidence in her human and spiritual maturity. If God who owes nothing to us is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves?  To possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul. – p. 28-29

Mother Teresa’s vow implied a commitment to discern carefully the slightest manifestations of God’s will in people, events, and things, an habitual and loving attentiveness to the present moment which called for inner silence and recollection.  In the silence of the heart God speaks, Mother Teresa would often say. – p. 32

Her joy was not just a matter of temperament; it was, rather, the fruit of the “blessedness of submission” that she lived.  When I see someone sad, she would say, I always think: she is refusing something to Jesus.  Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. – p. 33

Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.  The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love. – p. 34

Prompted by her vow Mother Teresa also developed the habit of responding immediately to the demands of the present moment.  A strong impulse to act without delay – once she was certain that it was God’s will for her – was a notable characteristic of all her undertakings. – p. 34

Mother Teresa, who had pledged to refuse nothing to God, in turn trusted that God would not refuse anything to her. – p. 36

She was all too aware that we can refuse Christ just as we refuse others: I will not give you my hands to work with, my eyes to see with, my feet to walk with, my mind to study with, my heart to love with.  You knock at the door but I will not open.  I will not give You the key of my heart.  Hence Mother Teresa would always ask others for the support of prayers. – p. 38

Chapter 3.  “Come, Be My Light”

During a train journey to her annual Loreto retreat in Darjeeling, on September 10, 1946 Mother Teresa had a decisive mystical encounter with Christ: It was a call within my call to give up all and follow Him into the slums, to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. She considered this day to be the real beginning of the Missionaries of Charity.  Under her own name she later wrote: “Entrance into the Society – 10 September 1946.” – p. 39-40

It was on this day in 1946 that God gave me the “call with a call” to satiate the thirst of Jesus by serving Him in the poorest of the poor. – p. 40

Her mystical experience took place in the context of Calvary, at the time when Jesus, dying on the Cross, cried out “I thirst.”  It was this Scripture quote that stood for her as a summary and reminder of her call. “I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute Poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul.  He spoke of His thirsty, not for water, but for love and sacrifice.  Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite.  Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. – p. 41

A moving exchange of great beauty went on between Christ and Mother Teresa.  With utmost tenderness, He addressed her as “My own spouse” or “My own little one.”  “My Jesus” or “My own Jesus,” replied Mother Teresa, longing to return love for love.  The “Voice” kept pleading, “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor.  Come, be My light.” Jesus’ invitation was imbued with trust; He counted on her response. – p. 44

Mother Teresa could not ignore His “Voice” that kept insisting, “Wilt thou refuse?”  It echoed the secret vow she had made four years earlier. – p. 53

Chapter 4.  “To Bring Joy to the Suffering Heart of Jesus”

Neither her spiritual director nor Archbishop Périer were quick to grant her permission to accept Jesus’ invitation.  Her archbishop wanted to time to reflect and pray.  Her director told her “to live only in the present at not at all in the future and be a perfect Nun.  She could develop initiative in her present apostolate but had to increase especially in the virtue of prudence.  I insisted on obedience, cheerful, prompt, simple and blind.  I assured her that she could never make a mistake if she obeyed … She has not refused anything to Our Lord.” – p. 79

Chapter 5. “Delay No Longer.  Keep Me Not Back.”

Fourteen months after her vision on the train, she wrote to the archbishop: Your Grace, like the woman in the Gospel here I come again – to beg you to let me go.  Forgive me if I tire you with so many letters, forgive this child of yours – who is longing with many desires to give up all to God, to give herself in absolute Poverty to Christ in His suffering poor … I am terribly unworthy of all the many graces He has given me all these years, without any merit of mine, but please tell me, does the Good God give these desires and not mean them to come true? – p. 93-94

On January 6, 1948, the 19th anniversary of her arrival in India, the archbishop celebrated Mass in the Loreto convent.  After the Mass he told Mother Teresa, “You may go ahead.” – p. 103

Chapter 6. To the Dark Holes

On August 6, 1948 Mother Teresa finally received news from Rome: Pope Pius XII had granted her permission to leave Loreto and begin her new mission.  On August 17, clad in a white sari with a blue border, Mother Teresa set out to begin life as a Missionary of Charity.  She chose to leave with only five rupees.

Chapter 7.  The Dark Night of the Birth of the Society

Spiritual “twins,” unable to join directly in the work (the “sick and suffering co-workers”), became Mother Teresa and other sisters’ “second selves.”  One prayed for the other.  Mother Teresa believed that finding a purpose in their sufferings would give these people a new incentive to carry on: Love demands sacrifice.  But if we love until it hurts, God will give us His peace and joy … Suffering in itself is nothing; but suffering shared with Christ’s Passion is a wonderful gift. – p. 146

Everyone and anyone who wishes to become a Missionary of Charity – a carrier of God’s love – is welcome, but I want specially the paralyzed, the crippled, the incurables to join, for I know they will bring to the feet of Jesus many souls.  In our turn, the sisters will each one have a sister who prays, suffers, thinks, writes to her and so on – a second self. – p. 147

There was one particular trial for which Mother Teresa repeatedly sought spiritual support.  After some time she finally revealed this painful interior ordeal, by now deeply settled in her soul. – p. 148

Chapter 8. The Thirst of Jesus Crucified

3/18/53: 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.” – p. 149

12/15/55: Pray for me – for within me everything is icy cold.  It is only that blind faith that carries me through, for in reality in me all is darkness.  As long as Our Lord has all the pleasure, I really do not count. – p. 163

2/8/56: 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 from God … Often I have gone to the confessional with the hope of speaking and yet nothing comes.  If you tell me to continue like this till the end of my life I am ready to obey cheerfully.  Please pray for me, that I may draw very close to God. – p. 164

1/26/57: We have much to thank God for these young hearts.  If you only knew what I am going through; He is destroying everything in me.  But as I hold no claim on myself, He is free to do anything.  Pray for me that I keep smiling at Him. – p. 169

2/28/57: Such deep longing for God 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 tortured longing for God. – p. 169-170

Her one lever was her blind trust in God. – p. 171

9/12/57: Pray for me.  I understand a little the tortures of hell, without God.  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, and I love Him – not for what He gives, but for what He takes. – p. 172

11/7/58: I prayed to Him for a proof that God is pleased with the Society.  There and then disappeared that long darkness, that pain of loss – of loneliness – of that strange suffering of ten years.  Today my soul is filled with love with joy untold, with an unbroken union of love.  Please thank God with me and for me.  This experience was like an oasis in the desert.  This consolation, however, lasted but a short time. – p. 177

11/16/58: Our Lord thought it better for me to be in the tunnel, so He is gone again, leaving me alone.  I am grateful 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 

Christ preferred to unite her, as he did His sorrowful Mother, to His “terrible thirst” on the Cross.  She was to embody that thirsting love of Jesus for the poor and suffering whom she served. – p. 177

Chapter 9.  “My God, How Painful Is This Unknown Pain”

For ten years, except for the interlude of a month, the darkness had not weakened its grip on her soul.  – p. 181

But instead of stifling her missionary impulse, the darkness seemed to invigorate it.  Mother Teresa understood the anguish of the human soul that felt the absence of God, and she yearned to light the light of Christ’s love in the “dark hole” of every heart buried in destitution, loneliness, or rejection.  She recognized that whatever her interior state, God’s tender care was always there, manifested through small favors others did for her or unexpected conveniences that accompanied her undertakings.  Surrender was becoming one of the key virtues of her life. – p. 185

4/26/59: I do not know how deep will this trial go, how much pain and suffering it will bring me.  This does not worry me anymore.  I leave this to Him as I leave everything else. – p. 185

This letter to Father Picachy, her confessor and director at the time, is written as a prayer.  It is one of the most detailed and longest descriptions of her experience of darkness.  Excerpts:

7/3/59: 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 to whom I can cling, no, no One.  Alone.  The darkness is so dark, and I am alone, unwanted, forsaken.

It pains without ceasing.  I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart and make me suffer untold agony.  So many unanswered questions, I am 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. 

The work is not a doubt, because I am convinced that it is His not mine … My cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness and misery.  This darkness and 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?

I will smile at your Hidden Face.  Always. – p. 187-188

After her death a longtime associate observed, “I think balance was one of Mother’s greatest attributes.  She was so even, she never let the hurts and sufferings interfere with her love of Jesus.  That love gave her so much joy.  She was able to hold it all.” – p. 188

9/3/59: I don’t pray any longer.  Oh, 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.  My soul is not one with You, Jesus, and yet when alone in the streets I talk to You for hours, of my longing for youi.  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.  The work is Yours and it is You even now.

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.  Jesus, hear my prayer: if my pain and suffering gives You a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as You wish.  I am Your own.  Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your Heart.

I want to satiate Your Thirst with every single drop of blood that You can find in me.  Take from me the power of hurting You.  Heart and soul I will work for the Sisters, because they 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. – p. 193-194

Mother Teresa felt reluctant to speak about her darkness, which she compared to the pain of hell, because she was afraid that whatever she thought or wrote would hurt Jesus.  Paradoxically, the more she felt stripped of faith, the more her reverence and love for God grew. – p. 195

Her letter to Jesus (above) is a prayer full of tenderness, of transparency and childlike simplicity.  She addressed Jesus in the same way as she had at the time of inspiration, when she was at the peak of consolation: “my own  Jesus.”  And instead of her name, she signed her letter, “your little one.”  The intimacy of the relationship had only deepened, though aridity instead of sweetness now accompanied her prayer. – p. 195

On October 26, 1960 Mother Teresa left India for the first time since disembarking in Calcutta in January 1929.  Against her inclination she was going to Las Vegas, where over 3000 women were waiting expectantly to see the “simple little unknown missionary.”

For me, I have never spoken in public.  This is my first time, and to be here with you and to be able to tell you of the love story of God’s mercy for the poorest of the poor, it is a grace of God.  I offer you to share in These Works of Love.

From the United States she went on to England, Germany, Switzerland, and finally to Italy and Rome.  She returned to Calcutta on December 1, 1960. – p. 203-204

1/23/61: 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.  Only pray that I keep up the joy exteriorly.  I deceive people with this weapon, even my Sisters. – p. 207

Chapter 10.  “I Have Come to Love the Darkness”

4/61: 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.  I help souls – to go where?  From my childhood I have had a most tender love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but this too has gone.  And yet I would not miss Holy Communion for anything.  You see, Father, the contradiction in my life.

Years back (about 17 years 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, and I am on the verge of saying “No” to God, the thought of that promise pulls me up.

When outside in the work or meeting people, there is a presence of somebody living very close in me.  I don’t know what this is, but very often every day that love in me for God grows more real. 

When the work started 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. – p. 210-212

Jesus was living in and through Mother Teresa without her being able to savor the sweetness of His presence.  At prayer she would turn to Jesus and express her painful longing for Him.  But it was only when she was with the poor that she perceived His presence vividly. – p. 212-213

Father Neuner, her spiritual director, wrote after her death: “I never found any indication of 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.

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 or her heart.” – p. 214

4/11/61: Dear Father, for the first time in eleven 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 and pain on earth.  You have taught me to accept it as a “spiritual side of your work.”

I do not believe, Father, in that continual digging into one’s spiritual life by long and frequent visits and 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. – p. 214-215

In 2001 Father Neuner wrote, “It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus’ passion.  Thus we see that the darkness was actually the mysterious link that united her to Jesus.   Such longing is possible only through God’s own hidden  presence.” She had been praying “let me share with you His pain,” and she now recognized that this prayer had been answered. – p. 216

Though familiar with St. John of the Cross’ thought she did not label her suffering as a “dark night.”  She had the intuition and now a confirmation from her spiritual director, that though the sufferings were similar their purpose was different.  The darkness did not lessen, the pain did not diminish, but a greater peace and a more serene acceptance were evident in Mother Teresa’s soul. – p. 218

My dear children, without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption.  Only by being one with us He has redeemed us.  We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. – p. 220

Estrangement from God and estrangement from people were her daily lot.  In deciding that “the greater the pain and darker the darkness the sweeter will be my smile at God,” she was echoing her patroness St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  Like her, Mother Teresa always seemed to find a way to give God even more. – p. 222

10/23/61: 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. – p. 223

Today I made a new prayer: “Jesus, I accept whatever you give, and I give whatever you take.  Later she transformed this into her often repeated exhortation, “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”  This prayer summed up the spirit of her congregation: total surrender, loving trust, and joy.

11/8/61: My soul is just like an ice block, and I have nothing to say.  You say He is “so close that you can neither see nor hear Him, nor even taste His presence.”   I don’t understand this … Excuse writing as I am writing on the moving train. – p. 226

3/6/62: If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of “darkness.” I will continually be absent from heaven, to light the light of those in darkness on earth. – p. 230

Without her interior darkness, without knowing such a longing for love and the pain of being unloved, and without this radical identification with the poor, Mother Teresa would not have won over their trust and their hearts to the extent she did.  Her darkness became her greatest blessing; her “deepest secret” was indeed her greatest gift. – p. 234

Chapter 11.  “At His Disposal”

9/10/62: I had to go to Manila for Magsaysay award.  It was one big sacrifice.  Why does He give all these but Himself?  I want Him, not His gifts or creatures. I must not write like this, for it takes from the joy of letting God be free with me.  I am not only willing but also happy to be at His disposal. – p. 237

1/8/64: You must have prayed 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.  Pray for me, that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness.

11/17/64: You are there for your Sisters – the Sisters are not there for you.  You must be ready for any sacrifice, so to say, to be eaten up by your Sisters. – p. 248

Jesus’ words in St. Matthew’s gospel, “Whatever you did to the least, you did it to me” were a rock on which her convictions were built. – p. 264

Chapter 12. “God Uses Nothingness to Show His Greatness”

In 1975 the Missionaries of Charity, numbering over a thousand sisters in eighty-five foundations in fifteen countries, celebrated the silver jubilee of their foundation.  It was at this time she meet Father Michael van der Peet on the streets of Rome.  He remembered, “I saw Mother Teresa waiting for the bus with another sister.  My first impulse was to go to her, but I said to myself, ‘Leave the woman alone.  Everybody is always staring at her.’ I walked on, my heart pounding, but suddenly I thought, ‘She’s a saint and I’m a sinner.  Let the sinner go to the saint and ask her to pray for me.’”  So he returned.  After a short greeting, Mother Teresa, in her usual fashion, asked him to give a conference on prayer to her novices two days later.  Their relationship grew. – p. 267-268

He remembered: “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 could not help but think: Here is a person God dreamed of in Paradise, truly a touch of God.” – p. 269

One of her followers observed, “People were fascinated just watching Mother pray.  They would sit there and watch her be really drawn into this mystery.” Hearing her loud and clear voice in prayer or seeing her penetrating gaze fix on the tabernacle left an impression of great intimacy with God.  Little did they know that she had not enjoyed the fruits of that intimacy for decades. – p. 270

5/29/76: I am His own little one, so helpless, so empty, so small.  I am so small that all these things that the people keep pouring at and round me cannot enter within me.  I smile at the cardboard box getting filled with all kings of things, big things most of which I do not understand. – p. 272

Mother Teresa had reached the point in her life when she no longer questioned the mystery of her unremitting darkness.  She accepted it, as she did everything else that God willed or at least permitted, “with a big smile.”  She marveled at His humility in using her “nothingness.”  Her very poverty was her meeting place with God. – p. 272-273

She spontaneously kept shifting the focus of her letters from herself to Jesus.  “Even in small things she did, she wanted to talk about Jesus.  People would say, ‘After two minutes, she will be on Jesus.’  That was the constant, the red thread through her life.” – p. 273

The distressing thoughts that had been puzzling her in the early 1950s and tormenting her in the 1960s had given way to serenity and peace.  In her relationship with Jesus she wanted Him to be at ease with Her, not even to mind her feelings.  While the painful darkness persisted, a deep joy permeated her words and deeds.  – p. 274

It is good that the cross takes us to Calvary and not to a sitting room. – p. 278

To Malcolm Muggeridge, she wrote: Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps himself away from you.  He must be forcing himself to do so.  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 with His Church is finite.  Overcome the finite with the infinite.  I know what you feel – terrible longing – with dark emptiness, and yet He is the one in Love with you. – p. 280

Sorrow, suffering, is but a kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus that He can kiss you.  I think this is the most beautiful definition of suffering.  So let us be happy when Jesus stoops down to kiss us.  I hope we are close enough that He can do it. – p. 281

(She probably had read in The Virtue of Love (1955) by Paul de Jaegher, S.J.: “Suffering is the kiss of Jesus crucified upon our soul.  Ordinary souls generally see in suffering nothing but a punishment from God, a proof of his justice or his displeasure.  The generous soul, on the contrary, finds in it a proof of his love for it … For me, the Cross of Jesus is all that causes me to suffer.  The kisses of Jesus upon my soul, however, strange this may seem, are the numerous petty sufferings of my daily life.” – in Endnotes, p. 389)

2/17/78: You must allow Jesus to make you bread to be eaten by all those you come in touch with.  Let the people eat you up.  I will be in St. Louis on April 21 for the “Religious Life” meetings. – p. 283

We are not social workers.  We are contemplatives in the heart of the world.  We are 24 hours a day with Jesus. – p. 286

9/22/79: 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 me to cut me to pieces, that every single piece, however small, be only His. – p. 288

On December 11, 1979 Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.  In Stockholm, she spoke: Jesus makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the sick one, the one in prison, the lonely one, the unwanted one, and he says, “You did it to me.”  He is hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people.  This is the hunger that you and I must find.

This is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today: if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me?  There is nothing between.

Have we really made the children wanted?  We picked up a man from the drain, half eaten with worms, and we brought him to the home.  He said, “I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for.”  And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that, who could die like that without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything.  – p. 291

We are carved in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16); that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and be loved, not only now in this life, but forever.  God can never forget us.

If God could find a poorer woman through whom to do His work, He would not choose me, but He would choose that woman. – p. 294

Do we know who our own poor are?  Do we know our neighbor, the poor of our own area?  It is so easy for us to talk and talk about the poor of other places.  Very often we have the suffering, we have the lonely, we have the people – old, unwanted, feeling miserable – and they are near us and we don’t even know them.  We have no time even to smile at them.  The loneliness that these people suffer is very difficult to understand, to penetrate.  I think this is what our people all over the world are going through, in every family, in every home. – p. 296

Chapter 13.  Radiating Christ

Mother Teresa’s presence and words had such influence that in 1985 she was called the most powerful woman in the world by the Secretary General of the United Nations. – p. 301

In a Rome hospital (a fall revealed a serious heart condition), she wrote an intimate response to Jesus’ query in Matthew 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?”

You are God.

You are God from God.

You are Begotten, not made.

You are One in Substance with the Father.

You are the Son of the Living God.

You are the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

 

You are One with the Father.

You are in the Father from the beginning:

All things were made by You and the Father.

You are the Beloved Son in Whom the Father is well pleased.

You are the Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

 

You were born in Bethlehem,

You were wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary and put in the manger full of straw.

You were kept warm by the breath of the donkey that carried Your mother with You in her womb.

You are the Son of Joseph, the Carpenter, as known by the people of Nazareth.

You are an ordinary man without much learning, as judged by the learned people of Israel.

 

WHO IS JESUS TO ME?

Jesus is the Word made flesh.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.

Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.

Jesus is the Word – to be spoken.

Jesus is the Truth – to be told.

Jesus is the Way – to be walked.

Jesus is the Light – to be lit.

Jesus is the Life – to be lived.

Jesus is the Love – to be loved.

Jesus is the Joy – to be shared.

Jesus is the Sacrifice – to be offered.

Jesus is the Peace – to be given.

Jesus is the Bread of Life – to be eaten.

Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed.

Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated.

Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed.

Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in.

Jesus is the Sick – to be healed.

Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved.

Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.

Jesus is the Leper – to wash his wounds.

Jesus is the Beggar – to give him a smile.

Jesus is the Drunkard – to listen to him.

Jesus is the Retarded – to protect him.

Jesus is the Little One – to embrace him.

Jesus is the Blind – to lead him.

Jesus is the Dumb – to speak for Him.

Jesus is the Crippled – to walk with him.

Jesus is the Drug Addict – to befriend him.

Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend.

Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited.

Jesus is the Old – to be served.

 

TO ME –

Jesus is my God.

Jesus is my Spouse.

Jesus is my life.

Jesus is my only Love.

Jesus is my All in All.

Jesus is my Everything.

Jesus, I love with my whole heart, with my whole being.

I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love.

Now and for life I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse. 

Amen.

 

1985: 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. – p. 306

1/1/88: We are now in 77 countries over 350 houses.  Can you imagine, poor people entering Heaven from all sides.  At the beginning St. Peter would not let me enter heaven because there are no slums in heaven.  Now heaven is full of slum people.  Jesus must be very happy to have those thousands coming to Him, with love from Calcutta … – p. 309

12/89 to Brother Roger of the Taizé Community: One very good thing was the fruit of my sickness, that the whole world prayed to the same God to make me well. – p. 311-312

In the 1990s, in spite of her heart condition, she opened foundations in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union, including several in Russia, and in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and finally Albania. – p. 312

Remember the five fingers: You-Did-It-To-Me.  Remember wherever you may be – Mother’s prayer, love, and blessing will always be with you. – p. 314

The fruit of silence is prayer,

The fruit of prayer is faith,

The fruit of faith is love,

The fruit of love is service,

The fruit of service is peace. – p 315

“She must have undergone martyrdom,” wrote the sisters closest to her. “Her extensive travels in crowded trains, only third class compartments, her daily walks to the slums in the dust and dirt, being tired, hungry, thirsty, not having any privacy, the door of her room always being open – no fan even in the hottest summer, small rooms, small chapels, a narrow hard, iron bed: all these and more, without ever a complaint!  She would just say almost daily, “All for Jesus” just like that, no comment, nothing…And when she had special trials or something she used to teach us: “You know, this is the chance for greater love.” – p. 323

These were only the sufferings others observed.  The excruciating inner ones she had kept well hidden. – p. 323

In 1995, her friend Bishop Curlin “suggested that she offer her spiritual dryness to God as a special gift.  She reacted with enthusiasm.  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.” – p. 326

Another member of her religious family wrote, “After Holy Mass in her room, as I was taking leave she told me in a very low voice, Jesus is asking a bit too much.  It seemed to me as if her beloved Jesus was reliving His agony in her in order to redeem the world anew from the darkness of sin.  After all the hardships and sacrifices Mother Teresa had endured for years for her beloved Spouse, one might have expected a more serene and tranquil end.  But instead there she was, a woman of sorrows, familiar with suffering, bearing the sufferings and burdens of the Society and of the poorest of the poor.  Her hands became blue, as if she was bearing the wounds that the nails had left in Jesus’ flesh. – p. 328-329

On September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa complained of severe back pain; soon her condition was aggravated by the inability to breathe.  Both power lines went out at that time, and her breathing machine could not be started.  It was 9:30 pm.  While Calcutta was in darkness, the earthly life of  the one who had brought so much light to this city and to the whole world was extinguished. – p. 333

Conclusion.

I told the man living in the cardboard room, “Please allow me to make your bed, to wash your clothes, to clean your room.”  And he kept on saying, “I’m alright, I’m alright.”  And I said to him, “But you will be more alright if you allow me to do it.”  That at the end he allowed me.  He showed me a little photograph of his father.  “You, you are so like your father.”  He was so overjoyed that I could see the resemblance of his father on his face.

After I cleaned the room I found in the corner of the room a big lamp full of dirt and I said, “Don’t you light this lamp, such a beautiful lamp?  Don’t you light it?”  He replied, “For whom?”  So I said, “Won’t you light it if the Sisters come to you?” And he said, “Yes.”  So the sisters started going to him for only about 5 or 10 minutes a day, but they started lighting the lamp.  After some time he got into the habit of lighting.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, the Sisters stopped going to him.

After two years he sent word, “Tell Mother, my friend, the light she lit in my life is still burning.” – p. 340

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