Wednesday, September 2, 2009

MOTHER TERESA AND THE DARK NIGHT

Without a doubt, one of the holiest women of the 1700 year old Roman Catholic tradition since Constantine, a conclusion I reached only after reading her astonishingly candid letters contained in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. Only St. Paul of the Cross endured a longer, more agonizing Night of the Spirit, although this is not an accurate designation, since the spiritual darkness endured (for nearly fifty years!) was more of a redemptive, rather than of a purificatory nature (a profound mystery, to be sure, but this being a blog reflection I have no space to elaborate). Mother Teresa, during all those years she was being idolized by the world's media, was plunged into the most absolute void of emptiness and darkness, deprived of any consolation from her Beloved. But as she said, "I never refused Him anything, though sometimes He asked too much." To me that is one of the most moving statements in the history of Christian mysticism. A woman of many blind spots, Mother Teresa gave unequivocal obedience to the Pope and the Holy See, never questioning authority or injustice in the church in any prophetic manner (unlike her companion in the spirit, Dorothy Day) and allowed herself to be used by Church authorities to bolster their own prestige and their own absolute positions on abortion. Nonetheless, this simple, humble woman transcended all her limitations by a staggering capacity for suffering love, to which this book is a heartrending testimony. Christopher Hutchins reveled in these revelations, taking them as a vindication of his own atheism. They are nothing of the sort. Rather they stand in the great tradition of Catholic apophatic mysticism, without which they cannot be properly appreciated. They also witness to a gift for faithful endurance that is beyond human comprehension. Never in the history of twentieth century Catholic spirituality, have we seen a more moving mystical love story than between this simple Albanian nun and the Divine Master she loved and served through fifty years of darkness. Can any of us even begin to comprehend what this must have cost her? I honor her name and I respect her calling to offer comfort and sustenance to those many traditional Catholics confused and anguished by the many challenges of our times.

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