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September 12, 2007
Column #1,359
The "Darkness" of Mother Teresa
by Mike McManus

Have you ever doubted the existence of God?  So did Mother Teresa whose ministry to serve the poorest of the poor was so extraordinary, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

A new book, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," contains many letters she wrote to confessors, demonstrating that for a half century she felt abandoned by God.

In a July, 1959 letter, she wrote: "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 - and there is no One to answer - no One on whom I can cling. No One. - Alone. The darkness is so dark - and I am alone. - Unwanted, forsaken.

"Where is my faith? - even deep down, right in thee is nothing but emptiness & darkness. - My God - how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. - I have no faith... If there is a God, - please forgive me."

This is not how it all began. At age 12, she felt a "vocation to the poor. I wanted to be a missionary."  She left Albania, joined the Sisters of Loretto to teach school, arriving in Calcutta in 1929 at age 19.  In an early letter home she wrote, "The heat of India is simply burning. When it is hardest, I console myself with the thought that souls are saved in this way and that dear Jesus suffered much more for them."

On September 10, 1946, on a train, she had a decisive mystical encounter with Christ.   She called it "the call within a call" to leave Loretto, and "follow Him into the slums - to serve Him in the poorest of the poor...I knew it was his will and that I had to follow Him."  That day would be later celebrated as "Inspiration Day."

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, a priest with her Missionaries of Charity from 1977 until her death in 1997, who edited her book, writes that on September 10 she began receiving "a series of interior locutions that continued until the middle of the following year. Mother Teresa was actually hearing Jesus' voice and intimately conversing with Him...With utmost tenderness, He addressed her as `My own spouse,' or `My own little one.'" (She was under 5 feet tall.) She called him "My Jesus," or "My own Jesus."

"In this sacred dialogue, Jesus was revealing His Heart to her; His pain, His love, His compassion, His thirst for those who suffer most.  He also revealed His plan to send her to them as a carrier of His love."  She was not expecting this request.  Yet the "Voice," kept pleading, (ital) "Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor.  Come be My light." (Cl ital)

She recorded what he said, and quoted " the Voice" later to Archbishop Perier of Calcutta,  to get permission to leave Loretto and begin the Missionaries of Charity. Having taken a vow of obedience, she needed his support. It took four months to persuade  her spiritual director, Father Celeste Van Exem, to allow her to write Archbishop Perier. .  He, in turn, was unresponsive for months. It was his way to test the depth of her call.

Meanwhile she kept hearing the Voice: "Wilt thou refuse? I want Indian nuns, Victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha.  Who would be so united to me as to radiate My love on souls, who would be My fire of love amongst the poor - the sick - the dying - the little street children."  Teresa found the Voice frightening. "The thought of eating, sleeping - living like the Indians filled me with fear."  But the Voice motivated her to be persistent with Perier.

Perier asked her to write a detailed letter on what she wanted to do, how she'd do it, how she would train disciples, who would be recruited, etc. He failed to respond, so she wrote him, "Let me go...Souls are being lost in the Meantime " Finally, he relented.

She began August 17, 1948 with just five rupees, a simple white sari, and the promise of Jesus, "Do not fear - I shall be with you always...Trust me lovingly."

However, when she started the work, the Voice fell silent. Except for one month, she heard nothing more. Former students joined her. And when she walked through the slums, entering the dark holes, she felt "there our Lord is really present."

Outwardly she was cheerful, smiling "so to hide if possible the pain and darkness of my soul, even from Him."  She never told any of her sisters, who grew to more than 1,000 in scores of countries - "the tortures of hell"she felt without God." Paradoxically, however, Jesus was living through her without her being able to savor the sweetness of His presence.

She often quoted Jesus to her sisters, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

If you DO the work of God, you will sense His presence, though you hear no voice.

 
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