With headlines such as “Did Mother Teresa lose her faith?” or “Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not believe in God,” the media has by and large misinterpreted the letters of Mother Teresa that have been published in a new book, outlining the difficult spiritual struggle she endured for decades.
The Associated Press, Time Magazine and a host of other news organizations, have sensationalized the new book entitled, “Mother Teresa: Come be my Light,” which consists of a collection of letters the nun wrote over the years chronicling her spiritual journey.
Although the media has portrayed the book as “evidence” that Mother Teresa did not really believe in God and even considered herself a hypocrite, her spiritual darkness was no secret to the Church.
Mother Teresa had requested that her letters be burned after her death, but they were conserved by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, who was the postulator for her cause of beatification. Father Kolodiejchuk considers the letters further proof of her sanctity because they allow people to have “a new understanding, a new window into her interior life, which in my view is the most heroic possible.”
Among the passages quoted by the media include paragraphs such as: “I feel that God does not love me, that God is not God, and that He truly does not exist.” In one letter from 1958 she wrote: “My smile is a mask that hides a multitude of sorrows.”
In 2002, when her beatification was announced, Father Kolodiejchuk gave an interview to Zenit in which he spoke of this phase of Mother Teresa’s life. “Before the inspiration for her work, she had already experienced darkness,” he said. “However, it is important to keep in mind that this ‘night’, this interior suffering, is the fruit of her union with Christ, as happened with St. Teresa of Jesus or Paul of the Cross.”
“On the one hand, there is union with Jesus and love unites. In being united to Christ, she understood the suffering of Jesus when he shouted from the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Father Kolodiejchuk said. The darkness experienced by Mother Teresa was also the result of the apostolate, he continued, and her love for others. “Loving Christ, she understood as well the suffering of others, their loneliness and also their estrangement from God.”
“The ‘dark night’ of Mother Teresa was due, therefore, to the double dimension of love that religious live out: in the first place, the ‘spousal,’ her love for Christ, which leads them to unite their sufferings to Him; and secondly, ‘redemptive’ love, which leads them to share in redemption, to proclaim to others the love of God so that they can discover salvation through prayer and sacrifice,” Father Kolodiejchuk explained.
“More than a trial of faith,” he continued, “it was a trial of love. More than suffering for the experience of not feeling the love of Jesus, she suffered because of her desire for Jesus, her thirst for Jesus, her thirst for love. The goal of the Congregation is precisely to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross through our love of Him and our service to souls.”
“Mother shared not only the physical and material suffering of the poor, she felt the thirst, the abandonment that people experience. In fact, the greatest poverty is to not be loved, to be rejected,” he said.
The ex-director of the Holy See's press office, Joaquin Navarro Valls, also commented on the apparent controversy in an article published in the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica." In his article he points that "those moments of crisis aren't a sign of lack of faith, but they're normal and in her [Mother Theresa's] case, heroic."