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Did Mother Teresa doubt her faith and God ?

By tehconi | August 29, 2007

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Letters reveal Mother Teresa’s doubt about her faith and God

By Daniel Trotta, Reuters  |  August 25, 2007

NEW YORK – A book of letters written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta reveals for the first time that she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God.

“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,” she wrote the Rev. Michael van der Peet in September 1979.

Due out on September 4, “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” is a collection of letters written to colleagues and superiors over 66 years. In the United States it will be published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House, which is owned by German media group Bertelsmann.

The ethnic Albanian Roman Catholic nun, who dedicated her life to poor, sick and dying in India, died in 1997 aged 87.

Mother Teresa had wanted all her letters destroyed, but the Vatican ordered they be preserved as potential relics of a saint, a spokeswoman for Doubleday said.

Mother Teresa has been beatified but not yet canonized.

Time magazine, which has first serial rights, published excerpts on its Web site.

“I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,” she wrote to one adviser. “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

The book was compiled and edited by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a proponent of her sainthood and senior member of the Missionaries of Charity order that she founded.

The letters likely would do little to affect her cause for sainthood as church history is dotted with saints who have been tormented about their faith.

Saint Thomas the Apostle — the “Doubting Thomas” — doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead until, according to scripture, he touches the wound of a resurrected Jesus. Christ himself wondered “God, why have you forsaken me” while on the cross, the Bible says.

But the Mother Teresa letters nonetheless stand in marked contrast to her public image as a selfless and tireless minister for the poor who was driven by faith.

“I’ve never read a saint’s life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented,” the Rev. James Martin, an editor at Jesuit magazine America and the author of “My Life with the Saints,” told Time.

THE DARK LETTERS

The writings address numerous topics, but the ones most likely to create a stir are what Doubleday called the “dark letters.”

“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,” she wrote in 1953. “It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.'”

Then in 1956: “Such deep longing for God — and … repulsed — empty — no faith — no love — no zeal. (Saving) souls holds no attraction — Heaven means nothing — pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

And then in 1959: “If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true.”

At times she also found it hard to pray.

“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.”

Struggles of a Pious Leader

After reading the news reports, what do you think ? 

Most of us will never be able to appreciate what Mother Teresa went through during “the work” because we have not been in situations as trying as hers for an extended period of time.  To live amidst deeply suffering people and offer perhaps the only hope in their world, is to live a life of tremendous burden and stress. 

People who do not come close to living in similar conditions will find it hard to empathasize with what Mother Teresa went through.  We think we know through words and print which we hear and read, but unless and until we are in the same shoes, we’ll never truly know.

When you read a book or listen to a news report, do you find yourself thinking then that you know what is written or said ?  Then at some point in the future, when you experience a similar situation, your memory calls forth whatever that you have read or heard, and you realise that only now do you truly understand what it was all about.

I’m an ardent student of personal development and business.  In a strange twist of events, I find myself attracted to the path of entrepreneurship.  I guess it’s a natural progression and choice because I am an adventurous person, and passionate about growing and developing myself spiritually, emotionally, mentally and fully as a human being.  Entrepreneurship is the ultimate challenge.  You are bound to no master but yourself.  Slave to no one but your own demons.   

Some times you think that you know, but do you really know ?   Until I embarked on the journey, I could never come this close to appreciating what it’s like.  The journey is exciting and challenging, yet at the same time it’s lonely, uncertain and grey.  The path ahead is lighted only by the fire in my heart.  The heart and mind wavers between belief and faith in one moment, and self-doubt and anxiety in another.  Sometimes the fire burns bright with passion and strength, other times it dims and weakens and is at the brink of extinguishing.

Does it mean that I need to have absolute faith and no tinge of weakness whatsoever to be worthy of this journey ?  Definitely not.  It’s only human to experience these emotions.  And these emotions are brought out by the experience that I’m going through.  In earlier “secure” times, I had always perceived myself to be strong.  I never knew I can be so weak – till I choose to put myself through the test. 

“I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,” she wrote to one adviser. “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”

Mother Teresa was not a hyprocrite.  She was honest and humble to admit the doubt in her heart. 

Saint Thomas the Apostle — the “Doubting Thomas” — doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead until, according to scripture, he touches the wound of a resurrected Jesus. Christ himself wondered “God, why have you forsaken me” while on the cross, the Bible says.

But the Mother Teresa letters nonetheless stand in marked contrast to her public image as a selfless and tireless minister for the poor who was driven by faith.

Existence of doubt in one who is spiritually advanced and saintly like Mother Teresa can only suggest how tormented she was in what she was doing.   Most people are of spiritual levels very distant from that of Mother Teresa, and so will not be able to appreciate how she saw, felt and thought.   

Without doubt, what is faith worth ? 

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Topics: books, culture, inspiration, people, psychology | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Did Mother Teresa doubt her faith and God ?”

  1. TL Says:
    September 6th, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    hi.
    sorry for commenting this randomly, but i found your site through wordpress support. you asked: “how to display full posts instead of partial posts?”
    it looks like you got this working, could you please explain to me how… i’ve been trying to get full posts to publish to no avail.

    thanks!!

  2. teh Says:
    September 8th, 2007 at 8:11 am

    hi TL,

    go to your WP-admin > Presentation > Theme editor. select the archives or categories template. look for the code php the_excerpt and replace it with php the_content

    hope this helps

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