Skip to comments.Longing for God: Mother Teresa's Letters Reveal Isolation, Doubts.
Posted on 03/04/2002 5:34:20 PM PST by marshmallow
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As Missionaries of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk pores over the letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the reports of her spiritual directors, he is increasingly struck by the enormous difficulty of all she accomplished.
The priest, who is in charge of preparing material for Mother Teresa's beatification, is not surprised by the effort it took to open houses for the dying, the sick and the homeless.
The surprising aspect is how much she did despite feeling for years that God had abandoned her, he said.
Her letters to her spiritual directors over the years are filled with references to "interior darkness," to feeling unloved by God and even to the temptation to doubt that God exists.
She wrote to her spiritual director in a 1959-60 spiritual diary, "In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing."
In another letter she wrote that she wanted to love God "like he has not been loved," and yet she felt her love was not reciprocated.
In the context of Mother Teresa's life, the thoughts are not heresy, but signs of holiness, Father Kolodiejchuk said in a late-February interview. Mother Teresa was convinced God existed and had a plan for her life, even if she did not feel his presence, the priest said.
"Everyone wants to share, to talk about things, to be encouraged by others," he said, but Mother Teresa, "hurting on the inside, kept smiling, kept working, kept being joyful."
In a 1961 letter to the Missionaries of Charity, she wrote, "Without suffering our work would just be social work. ... All the desolation of poor people must be redeemed and we must share in it."
Father Kolodiejchuk, a 45-year-old Canadian ordained in the Ukrainian-Byzantine rite, was among the first members of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. Members of Mother Teresa's order often heard her refer to Sept. 10, 1946, as "Inspiration Day," when on a train in India she experienced a call to live and work with the poor.
Mother Teresa had described the call as "an order, a duty, an absolute certainty" that she must leave the Sisters of Loreto and move into the slums of Calcutta to devote herself completely to the poor.
"We thought that in some way, which she never explained, she experienced Jesus' call," Father Kolodiejchuk said.
But now, from reading her correspondence with her spiritual director, he said, it is clear she experienced what theologians call an "interior imaginative locution" -- she distinctly heard a voice in her head tell her what to do.
"And it continued for some months," he said.
"The call was so direct that she knew it was the right thing despite this darkness she experienced for many years, at least until the 1970s," the priest said.
At one point, a former archbishop of Calcutta wanted to share some of her letters with a struggling founder of another religious congregation, Father Kolodiejchuk said.
Mother Teresa begged him not to and asked that all her letters be destroyed. Father Kolodiejchuk said she told the archbishop, "When people know about the beginning, they will think more about me and less about Jesus."
Does Father Kolodiejchuk worry that he is betraying her wishes by publicizing the information? "I think her perspective is very different now," Father Kolodiejchuk answered.
Several of the letters and diary entries were published last year in the "Journal of Theological Reflection" of the Jesuit-run Vidyajyoti School of Theology in New Delhi. The investigations into her faith life are not idle prying, the priest said. Beatification and canonization are recognitions not of a person's life work -- which is obviously praiseworthy in Mother Teresa's case -- but of holiness.
While some people may be surprised or even shocked by Mother Teresa's spiritual struggles, he said he hopes it also will help them come to "a fuller and deeper appreciation of holiness, which Mother Teresa lived in a way both simple and profound: she took what Jesus gave with a smile and stayed faithful even in the smallest things."
The feeling that God is far away or even nonexistent is a common spiritual experience, he said. "Maybe we won't have the same intensity of experiences, but most of what she did was very ordinary -- it just became extraordinary when it was all put together," Father Kolodiejchuk said.
Mother Teresa died in Calcutta in September 1997.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II waived the rule requiring a five-year wait before a beatification process can begin.
Although he works on the cause from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Father Kolodiejchuk said he believes it will be "several months" before the Vatican formally recognizes that Mother Teresa heroically lived the Christian virtues and declares her venerable.
He said work also is underway on preparing a report on the potential miracle needed for beatification: the 1998 cure of an Indian woman who had a huge, unidentified growth in her abdomen.
"People do say, 'Do it faster,'" the priest said. But the official process takes time, he said. "It is designed to discern the sense of the people of God and the verification of the miracle is God's confirmation of that."
Within a year, our business collapsed, my wife had a miscarriage, we were embroiled in an eviction battle with our tenants, one of our cars blew and engine and the other one the transmission, and I haven't been able to find work.
I too have been struggling with my faith. I still believe, but I'm not certain at what point God will step in and honor His promise that he will not give me "more than [I] can endure," and that he will care for me and my family as the sparrows and the lillies in the field. I've been thinking for months that there isn't much more I can take, and yet here I am, facing another crisis. For many months, the prophecies have been coming... "You will surely be delivered..." "God will richly provide for you..." "God has great plans for you." I believe all of those things... and yet I can't grasp why our plight seems to fall on deaf ears. No amount of tears, crying out, begging in prayer, and falling on my face has improved our lot.
To hear that Mother Theresa, who had what may be the most well-known and loved ministry in the world, had struggles as deep - and deeper - than mine is a comfort.
God is good... and very difficult to understand sometimes. I'm glad the Church released this information.
I trust this puts the Church's traditionally rigorous and thorough timetable for decision-making in context for non-Catholics. =)
Isn't that the way with all truly holy people.
I saw the following quote the other day and saved it on my hard drive. Maybe it can help you.
I pray that whatever suffering has been laid on your shoulders, might be lightened. Don't lose heart.
Blessings for you and yours.
In the past few years I have gone through a divorce, a loss of house and career and so many financial failings I can't even begin to count them. But, I'm convinced that God is allowing all this to happen for an important reason of His design. This story about Mother Teresa and your recounting facts from your history are worth reflection.
Thank you for providing more hope, but more importantly, more courage to continue toward the goal!
Blessings to you and your family!
Pascal also said something like everyone has a hole in his heart the size of God...
For Mother Theresa:
The soul is healed by being with children.
Puh-LEEEZE, earplug. That was totally uncalled for. You don't have a clue what that person endured or why, or what they did or didn't do to help themselves.
As for Mother Theresa, she dealt with the realities of situations that people live in (and die in) in Calcutta. Should they be ignored until their diseases are cured and poverty is abolished?
Bill Gates' good deeds are a credit to him. Thank God for his generosity.
Peace, dude. Take a chill pill.
That's a great quote. Thanks for sharing it.
There are teachers - liars, really - who preach a false hope of the Prosperity Gospel; health, wealth, and happiness through the mechanism of Faith. It's a new age lie repackaged as Christ.
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