Mother Teresa’s Faith Crisis: Similar to Mine?

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“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.” Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

Letters Mother Teresa wrote to her spiritual counselors and confessors are the basis of a posthumous autobiography: Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.

It reveals that she had a “Dry, dark and lonely spiritual” life that lasted nearly 50 years.

This doesn’t surprise me. “There are two things, it has often been said, that human beings cannot gaze at directly without going mad-the glory of God and the darkness of human evil” (Os Guinness). I’m not saying that the good Mother was mad.

But I do see how constantly caring for Calcutta’s overwhelming and never-ending supply of poverty- and disease-stricken human beings could lead to deep doubts.

What happens when I’m exposed to evil? Like . . .

  • Divorce after almost 20 years of marriage and a settlement that devalued and negated who I was as a partner and parent.
  • Devastating end to my mother’s life where there was no dignity and even less pain-control given by the medical establishment despite our efforts.
  • Friends having repeated miscarriages when some get easily pregnant and just as easily abort the baby.
  • Senseless deaths of toddlers whether accidental or purposeful.
  • Senseless murders that the WTC tragedy exemplifies.
  • Rape, molestation, abuse of any kind inflicted on children.
  • Your personal list could rival these I’m sure.

These events and others like them have caused me to doubt God and His intent in my life and in the world. You too?

Usually I don’t experience such an event multiple times a day or even only once a day. But Mother Teresa did. I don’t think it made a theological or spiritual difference that she willingly placed herself into this ever-swelling midst of evil and suffering.

But even with this Sister’s crisis of faith, it did not keep her from the work God gave her to do. I look to Mother Teresa as a hero. . . as one whose love-in-action carried on despite the mountain of personal pain, doubt, and soul-weariness.

I pray that is my response as well. I don’t want my feelings to dictate my actions. There are things I will never know or understand. Evil is one of them.

But I do know that God is good. That He is powerful. That He loves me. And that it is okay to question.

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Entry filed under: Main, Meditations.

CNC LADIES, SAVE THIS DATE . . . How To Deal With Evil, Part 1

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. doodah  |  . at .

    This is encouraging – thank you! Mother Theresa came up in a book I’m reading, and I thought, “I should read a biography.” Perhaps this will be the one…

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  • 2. dcrmom  |  . at .

    Good stuff. It’s reassuring to know even those of great faith have moments of doubt at times.

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  • 3. lynettejoy  |  . at .

    Are you having a faith crisis, can I pray for you, with you? Thanks for the counsel yesterday.

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  • 4. Theresa Lindamood  |  . at .

    L shared this with us at BS today, the clip and you know it encourages me in spite of some of the twist that the media tries to put on it because she is real and expresses what many people think and feel but cannot say. I think there are a lot of people wearing masks in church who feel the same way but cannot ask for help. I hope some people will hear this and want to read and learn and grow from her struggle. I hope some will read and be saved!

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  • 5. susan2009  |  . at .

    Doodah, what book are you reading? I look forward to the day when I read for personal enjoyment. I am glad thata lot of the books I “Have To Read” for school are ones I would’ve read anyways.

    Lynette, no personal crsis of faith today. I’ve just been thinking about these things and remembering when I have been there. Prayers are always welcome – how about getting the school work done this that I’d like by Monday. As far as the counsel – I was mainly an ear as I heard all kinds of “wisdom” coming out of your mouth. 🙂

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  • 6. susan2009  |  . at .

    dcrmom – thanks for visiting. I agree – it does help my personal journey of faith when I know others have been in the pit too. Not becasue I’m morbid, but because I can be assured that I can climb (or be lifted) out as well.

    Theresa – yes! Let’s drop those masks indeed. I always struggle with how much do I share (with appropriate people) without it becoming burdensome.

    Maybe help for the journey and potential salvation are 2 of the reasons this book was published.

    Personaly, I think the book shouldn’t have been published because it seems that Mother Teresa asked for her letters to be destroyed after her death.The Church overrode her wishes.

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  • 7. catlady  |  . at .

    Which just points out that if you don’t want your words to come back to haunt you don’t write them down and give them to someone else or leave them where someone else can find them.

    I have shredded all of my journals that my family doesn’t need to read after I’m “gone” and I don’t write down anything now that I wouldn’t want to have read by them in the future. My deepest darkest secrets can be spoken aloud to trusted friends and family, when necessary, but they needn’t be written down for perhaps the whole world to read some day. There are just some things that others do not need to know about me. And there are some things that I have thought or felt that are no longer valid and I don’t want to leave them as my legacy.

    Off my soapbox now…..

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  • 8. Charles Upton  |  . at .

    Dear People:

    The public response to the “revelation” that Mother Theresa was subject to doubts and long periods of spiritual dryness says more about the spiritual state of our culture than it does about her. People nowadays can’t understand why she would remain a Catholic if she wasn’t “getting off” on it. Where’s the euphoria? Where’s the payoff? If Catholicism was such a “downer” for her, why didn’t she just move on? The idea of suffering for one’s Beloved (human or Divine!) as being a high privilege is meaningless to such people.
    (Remember Don Novello’s character of Guido Sarducci, gossip columnist for La Osservatore Romano on Saturday Night Live? In one of his sketches he talked about a plan to remove the cross from Catholic churches because “the logo is a downer.” I’m not sure people could understand the humor of that today.)

    It may be that God was calling Mother Theresa, who in “natural” terms was a “cataphatic” contemplative, subject to visions and auditions and sensible consolations, to a different vocation: that of the apophatic contemplative, who encounters God in the barrenness, mortification and dark night of all the faculties of the soul — until he or she learns that the feeling of God’s absence is the very SIGN of His presence. And she may not have fully understood everything that such a call might entail.

    We mustn’t forget that Christ felt abandoned by God too: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Clearly he never doubted God’s existence; atheists never feel “abandoned by God.” And I’m sure that Mother Theresa never doubted His existence either; she simply mourned His felt absence, like John of the Cross, and Rumi, and so many other mystics always have. So what else is new? What else is new is that people are clueless nowadays about the fundamentals of the spiritual life.

    Sincerely,
    Charles Upton
    cupton@qx.net

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  • 9. gajenn  |  . at .

    Perhaps Mother Teresa did not feel God’s presence because He was distant from her. Just as we do not treat the healthy but the ill, maybe God is more present in the lives of those who need Him the most. Perhaps Mother Teresa was so well-developed spiritually that God’s presence was no longer essential to her growth. I am aware that this sounds extremely cold an callous – I am unaware of the inner workings of God, but maybe He is most present, or at least His presence is felt most in those that desperately, or at least to a degree, need it. Mother Teresa’s faith was so deep and strong that she did not need to feel God’s presence to know that He was there and working in the lives of the poor of Calcutta. Just a thought…

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