MOTHER TERESA’s SPIRITUAL LIFE :

Analysing her deeds and achievements, John Paul II asked: “Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart.” Privately, Mother Teresa experienced doubts and struggles over her religious beliefs which lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life, during which “she felt no presence of God whatsoever”, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist” as put by her postulator, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk. Mother Teresa expressed grave doubts about God’s existence and pain over her lack of faith:  Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.  With reference to the above words, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, her postulator (the official responsible for gathering the evidence for her sanctification) said he thought that some might misinterpret her meaning, but her faith that God was working through her remained undiminished, and that while she pined for the lost sentiment of closeness with God, she did not question his existence, and that she may have experienced something similar to what is believed of Jesus Christ when crucified who was heard to say “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is translated to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Brian Kolodiejchuk, drew comparisons to the 16th-century mystic St. John of the Cross, who coined the term the “Dark Night of the Soul“. Many other saints had similar experiences of spiritual dryness, or what Catholics believe to be spiritual tests (“passive purifications”), such as Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux, who called it a “night of nothingness.” The Rev. James Langford said these doubts were typical and would not be an impediment to canonisation.  Mother Teresa described, after ten years of doubt, a short period of renewed faith. At the time of the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, praying for him at a Requiem Mass, she said she had been relieved of “the long darkness: that strange suffering.” However, five weeks later, she described returning to her difficulties in believing.  Mother Teresa wrote many letters to her confessors and superiors over a 66-year period, most notably to Calcutta Archbishop Ferdinand Perier and a Jesuit priest, Celeste van Exem, who had been her spiritual advisor since the formation of the Missionaries of Charity. She had asked that her letters be destroyed, concerned that “people will think more of me—less of Jesus.” Despite this request, the correspondences have been compiled in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday). In one publicly released letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand.”  In his first encyclical Deus caritas est, Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa of Calcutta three times and he also used her life to clarify one of his main points of the encyclical. “In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service.” Mother Teresa specified that “It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer.”  Although there was no direct connection between Mother Teresa’s order and the Franciscan orders, she was known as a great admirer of St. Francis of Assisi.Accordingly, her influence and life show influences of Franciscan spirituality. The Sisters of Charity recite the peace prayer of St. Francis every morning during thanksgiving after Communion and many of the vows and emphasis of her ministry are similar. St. Francis emphasised poverty, chastity, obedience and submission to Christ. He also devoted much of his own life to service of the poor, especially lepers in the area where he lived.

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