"Love – the word – it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul," she said.
Mother Teresa had prayed fervently to share in Jesus' suffering, and many, including her spiritual director, believed her feelings of rejection and abandonment to be a mirror of Christ's own experience of loneliness and desolation during his Passion and death.
Because of the depth and duration of Mother Teresa's spiritual desert, many have hailed her as a great mystic when it comes to topic of spiritual darkness.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk himself said Mother Teresa was "a great mystic, but also very concrete, very down to earth."
The priest had met Mother Teresa in his early 20s while attending the vows of his sister, who had joined the active branch of the Missionaries of Charity sisters. He joined the order of priests a year later.
A lot of people "think that saints are somewhere in the mystical clouds," he said, but cautioned that this wasn't true of Mother Teresa, who was spiritual, but also observant and active in the lives of others.
From the first moment he met her, one of Mother Teresa's most distinguishing qualities was "this sense that she really was Mother," he said, explaining that being a mother was something important to her, and was the only thing she was ever called.
When Mother Teresa was first elected superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, her immediate response after receiving congratulations, he noted, was to say "Oh that means nothing, the title. No, I want to be a mother."
The nun also placed a heavy emphasis on God's tenderness, Fr. Kolodiejchuk said, recalling that "tender" was one of her favorite words – even more so than mercy.
"She would talk more about Jesus' tender love and mercy; his thoughtfulness, his presence, his compassion…So mercy was a word in her vocabulary, but with this quality especially of tenderness."
"Even in the darkness she still had an intimate sense of God's tender love for us," he said, and recited a prayer that Mother Teresa would often teach and have others repeat: "Jesus in my heart, I believe in your tender love for me. I love you."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The priest said that her canonization during the Jubilee of Mercy was providential since the core mission of the Missionaries of Charity is to respond to Chapter 25 in the Gospel of Matthew, which lists the works of mercy.
He noted how the day of Mother Teresa's canonization also marked a special jubilee day for workers and volunteers of mercy.
Given the work the Missionaries of Charity do, "it's appropriate" that the nun would become a patroness for all who carry out the same type of activities, he said.
Part of the reason Mother Teresa is such a strong example for the world today, Fr. Kolodiejchuk believes, is because "people like to see," and the work the Missionaries do is something visible that others can easily touch and participate in, no matter what religion they profess.
"Mother was a great believer in that we receive in giving. So there's something attractive about the work. And then you receive by sharing in it," he said.
An earlier version of this article was originally published on CNA April 4, 2016.