Bl. Teresa: A Light in Darkness, Shining Bright
Decades of spiritual dryness did not stop Mother Teresa from believing and moving forward.
By Marcia Morrissey, September 01, 2011
September 5 will be the anniversary of the 1997 death of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. I always admired her work with the poorest of the poor. I grew up looking through the missionary magazines my grandparents had on their coffee table. They made an impression on me even as a small girl, and ever since then I have had a heart for missionaries.
When Ed and I began working with Marriage Encounter, we learned that Mother Teresa had met with a group of supporters from around the country in the dormitory buildings we leased for our organization. She had been there twice—in June of 1982, and again in 1984.
I spoke to Jerry, who—with his wife Marilyn—worked with Marriage Encounter from the early days and were privileged to meet Mother Theresa when she visited. His impression of her was that she was tiny, very friendly, and a hugger. She also was firmly in charge of what was happening. She was no pushover for a documentary crew that was following her around on her trip.
I started to think of her as our organization's unofficial "patron saint" and an inspiration for our mission helping marriages. I began to read as much as I could about her life and work. The more I learned about this tiny, tough and courageous nun, the more I appreciated her, and she became a personal model for me, in what God called me to do in my own life. Especially inspiring to me is one of her most famous quotes: "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
Born in Albania, she became a citizen of India. A Catholic nun, she felt her calling was to the world: "As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus."
She had a burning love for Christ, and all she wanted was, "To quench His desire for love and for souls." I've heard that in her chapels, next to the cross there is a plaque that says, "I thirst."
At 18, she joined the sisters of Loreto, and—desiring to become a missionary—left for India, to teach at a girl's school. For the first 20 years of her life as a nun, she happily served as a teacher, and later as the school's principal. She was known for her prayer life, love for her fellow Sisters and students, charity, courage, and hard work.
It was during a train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling, for her annual retreat, that Teresa received her "inspiration," her "call within a call." She felt the Lord directing her, giving her a burning desire to satiate His thirst for love for all humanity, especially for the poor who didn't know of His love for them. It became the force of her life's work.
After almost 2 years of prayer, testing and discernment she was given permission to leave her convent to go out to minister to the poor, the sick, orphans, and the dying in the slums of Calcutta. Wearing her now famous white and blue-boarded sari she went out to find and serve Him in "the unwanted, unloved, uncared-for." After a few months she was joined by some of her former students.
On October 7, 1950 the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity became officially established. Her work spread and expanded throughout the whole world, and not only to religious congregations, but even a lay apostolate—Co-workers of Mother Theresa—people of many faiths and nationalities, who shared her passion and heart for service to the sick and suffering.
She saw the face of God in every person, and in turn showed His sacrificial love for each soul.
A couple of weeks ago at a pro-life event I attended, a Priest told of working with her sisters and the poor they cared for. He said that he cleaned their toilets, helped care for the sick, and comforted the dying. Some fought and stole from each other because that was how they knew how to survive. The sisters would show them sacrificial love, and through their example over time they would respond to that love they never felt before.
Only after her death was it discovered that she suffered from what she called her "darkness," the "painful night" of her soul. She walked by faith even though she didn't "feel" God. She believed and gave her life over to Him in spite of this inner "darkness" and feeling of separation, which led her to an ever-deeper unity with Him. She experienced His thirst and desire for love so she could identify with the poor who felt unloved and unwanted: "The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
She faithfully and tirelessly worked for God, trusting that He was there even though she often didn't feel His presence. She took by faith, not by feelings or emotional experiences, the work she was called by Him to do.
She lived the verse, "We walk by faith not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).
I have a special respect and love for Mother Theresa. The story of the "Saint of the Gutters" has always inspired me. She earned the moniker because she would search the gutters of Calcutta for the destitute and the dying, and bring them to her shelter. If she could nurse them to health, she would. If she couldn't save them, she would stay with them, so they wouldn't die alone. She would care for anyone who was destitute, sick, or abandoned. Her answer to abortion was simple: 'Give the babies to me'.
She had a long and very difficult 'dark night of the soul', as many deeply holy people do. The dark night has been known by Christian mystics for many centuries, and was described most beautifully by St. John of the Cross and by St. Theresa of Avila, his spiritual counselor and friend, in the 16th century.
Contemplatives understand the dark night as the clearing from the soul of human impressions about God, so God Himself may enter. We ordinary Christians understand God in necessarily superficial ways. When a soul gets near to God, these superficial understandings impede our direct experience of God, and need to be purged, so Reality can enter. It is a painful process, and it feels like abandonment and loss of faith. Yet it culminates in a union with God.
St John of the Cross-- the greatest Spanish poet-- wrote about the dark night and the union of the soul with God:
Once in a dark of night,
Inflamed with love and wanting, I arose
(O coming of delight!)
And went, as no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose
All in the dark went right,
Down secret steps, disguised in other clothes,
(O coming of delight!)
In dark when no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose.
And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.
It guided me and shone
Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
And lead me to the one
Whom only I could see
Deep in a place where only we could be.
O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.
And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.
And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.
I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.
Blessed Mother Theresa-- hopefully St. Mother Theresa soon!-- is now with God, all her cares fallen away. May we follow her in service and spirit.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Very beautiful and inspiring post Dr. Egnor. Thank you.ReplyDelete
She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?ReplyDelete
You forgot to mention that Mother Theresa was awarded to Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work.
Here is the press release for this Nobel Peace Prize:ReplyDelete
Thirty years ago Mother Teresa left her teaching post at a Roman Catholic girls' school in Calcutta in order to devote her life to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of that city.
The Roman Catholic order of which she is now the head has in recent years extended its activities to include a number of other Indian cities and other parts of the world.
In making the award the Norwegian Nobel Committee has expressed its recognition of Mother Teresa's work in bringing help to suffering humanity. This year the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and refugees, and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for many years worked so selflessly.
The Committee has placed special emphasis on the spirit that has inspired her activities and which is the tangible expression of her personal attitude and human qualities.
A feature of her work has been respect for the individual human being, for his or her dignity and innate value. The loneliest, the most wretched and the dying have, at her hands, received compassion without condescension, based on reverence for man.
In Mother Teresa's case, this basic philosophy of life is firmly rooted in her Christian faith. In Calcutta and elsewhere, she has enlisted the help of assistants from other religious denominations. She has also been recognised by the Indian authorities and by the Asian Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Buddhist U Thant.
This is not the first time the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Peace Prize for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress in the world, which also constitute a threat to peace. It has awarded the Peace Prize to champions of human rights, including those who have fought for racial equality.
In the eyes of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, constructive efforts to do away with hunger and poverty, and to ensure for mankind safer and better world community in which to develop, should be inspired by the spirit of Mother Teresa, by respect for the worth and dignity of the individual human being.
Oslo, October 27, 1979
Well, Mother Teresa surely is more humble and modest them most of us xP!ReplyDelete
I've always considered Mother Theresa a sort of litmus test for depravity. Anyone who hates her is depraved.
Get a life.
Did you know MT died an atheist?ReplyDelete
That probably explains why she caused untold misery. Rumor has it her "charity" sold babies of poor families for profit to rich childless couples.
The RCC always had a keen sense for money.
Crisis of faith does not make you an atheist XD holy shit Troy.ReplyDelete
Care to present you case???
Dark night of the soul. Described in detail for centuries, and known intimately by all Christian contemplatives.
Not 'feeling' God does not mean not believing in God. Just the opposite is often true. Good 'feelings' aren't always divine. Relationship with God is a much more complex matter than feeling good when you pray.
CS Lewis commented on this in Screwtape Letters. (paraphrasing)
A Christian is often closest to God when he looks around him, sees no sign of the Lord whatsoever, and still obeys Him.
You are ignorant of the rudiments of theology and of the experience of Christians.
I have no faith either, and I don't feel God. I guess that makes me a Christian! Thanks for setting me straight fellas.ReplyDelete
By the way, can anyone tell me what miracles MT has performed? You know, ones that are required to become a saint.
no that does not make you a Christian. You are just a troll XD.ReplyDelete
Atheism is evil, very evil.ReplyDelete
It is remarkable to see how atheists don't like to hear about the saints and their self-sacrifice for the good of humanity; it contradicts Darwin...
Like demented demons, they cannot bear sainthood, and vomit their vitriol every chance they get. Lucifer is really working hard in our world.
Vade retro Satana!
Your statements are offensive. When you talk about your God as the one true God, it implies that my God, Zeus, is not real. However I can feel His presence and I have a relationship with Him. Stop insulting my religion.ReplyDelete
Your God, anon, is you.
That is what atheism is all about.
This may be a bit off topic, but when I read the following on the Internet, I had a thought for commenter crusadeRex:ReplyDelete
Everybody who has ever been in the army will tell you that there are no atheists in foxholes. That is, once they are in danger of death, the atheist will strip himself of his irrational disbelief in God, and come to admit he believed in God all along. Only liberal slimebags like MSNBC report otherwise. (My emphasis)
Stop insulting my religion.
So you admit that atheism is a religion. Please go inform PZ Myers and his disciples, they will acclaim you as a prophet.
BTW, who’s your god? Old Charly Darwin or newbie Dicky Dawkins?
I can't tell if you're nuts or if it's a parody.ReplyDelete
@Philip J. Fry said...ReplyDelete
I can't tell if you're nuts or if it's a parody.
Vade retro Satana!ReplyDelete
Too late. Your soul is mine now. From now on you are my servant.
What an absurd thing to say Pepe... it is obviously the Flying Spaguetti Monster may reign for.... errrrr well as long as it can.ReplyDelete
Too true! The foxhole bit is a reality. We have Atheistic recruits and even grads from the COTC, but I have yet to met a Vet who is one. I am sure there is some, as the effect of war can be damaging. But self worship and denial of reality is not an option for most men at war - thus the lack of Atheism in a foxhole.
I guess I zapped my first comment by mistake? Oh well. What I stated, in a nutshell, is that anyone who could attack Mother Theresa is a nasty piece of work. I see they have done so, and there has been the appropriate response.... Never ceases to amaze me - the DEPTH these materialists will sink to in order to defame the faith of others. I would say it is sickness, but that is being unfair to illness. It is Evil, plain and pure. Those who spew it are TOOLS in every sense.ReplyDelete
"The foxhole bit is a reality. We have Atheistic recruits and even grads from the COTC, but I have yet to met a Vet who is one."ReplyDelete
I guess your experience must have been relatively limited. There's the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Even the wikipedia page about the term "No Atheists in foxholes" has a list of counterexamples of people who were both combat veterans and atheists.