Sep 18, 2014
I have just finished reading a fascinating and engaging book that is both theologically profound and simple in style – a book I recommend highly to all readers. It contains previously unpublished letters of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and is entitled, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. The book is edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of the cause of Mother Teresa’s canonization. The book made it to The New York Times best-seller list.
The book reveals a side of Mother Teresa’s spirituality that was not generally known while she was alive, that is, that she experienced for much of her life what has historically been described as a “dark night of the soul” (an expression most notably associated with St. John of the Cross). Mother Teresa lived for long periods with an agonizing sense of God’s absence and emptiness of soul. This experience of divine absence accompanied her extraordinary mission which constituted one of the most remarkable ministries among the poor in Calcutta and throughout the world.
In one of her letters, Mother Teresa summarizes her experience as follows: “There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God—so deep that it is painful—a suffering continual—and yet not wanted by God—repulsed—empty—no faith—no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing—to me it looks like an empty place.”
This may shock people of a sunnier spiritual disposition, and has led some atheists (like the bombastic Englishman Christopher Hitchens) to accuse Mother Teresa of hypocrisy and to feel vindicated in their own lack of belief in God. She was, after all, they said, an atheist just like them.