Even in those early days when I was holding my Christian faith strongly, I started getting many doubts in it. The doubts appeared to be very genuine. But the answers I got for those doubts, I felt, were pushing me off from my faith, nurtured from childhood. That was making me feel very guilty. How can a half-wit in theology like me can have such doubts in religion while many great theologians hold on to the religion with so much faith? Even to enter into priesthood, a novitiate has to learn nearly 10 years and they study so much in theology. For years all clergy who study the religion so deeply, keep their faith intact. So I thought I was making mistakes. I am not getting the right answers for my questions. This was satisfying me for some years to keep me within the faithful lot. Then the load of questions outgrew these excuses and very hesitantly I moved out of my faith. However, it took me a long period, nearly 8 - 10 years to call myself an atheist.
For anybody who had been travelling like me in a road of doubts, questions and tribulations might also be shocked if they come to know none other than Mother Teresa had lost her faith. For me it was a very big shock. I read one or two of her quotes and found them so unbelievable. Then I came to know the book where all her letters to her spiritual advisers had been collected and published. The title of the book is "Come Be My Light", The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta" edited and commented by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., 2007. Mother personally wanted her letters to be burnt and request her spiritual guides to do so. However, I really wonder how and why the Church compiled all of them and had brought them in a book. In the book, we can find how Mother had her own questions and also greater pain over her own loss of faith. It was an excruciating pain for her. She was in great love with Jesus; but at the same time lost her faith.
For an ordinary person like me religion could be, I used to compare it, just a shirt; but for an established Christian like Mother or a priest, religion would be no more than a shirt; it would be like a close skin or the deep heart. For me throwing a shirt would be so simple. But for a great religious personality it would not be possible. Especially for people who are identified in the society with their religion, it should be a big hurdle. It may stand between them and the society. They may not be able even to show their shaken faith openly. They are pathetically in a strait jacket confining them within their own shell.
Mother had been writing letters to her spiritual guides for 66 long years. Of these two persons are very important. They are Ferdinand Perier and another Jesuit priest Celeste van Exem. Though Mother had requested to burn all her letters since the content were mostly about her and much less about Jesus. However all these letters were compiled, edited and commented by Father Brian Klolodiejchuk. He was in communiation with Mother from 1977 and he was heading the ministry started by Mother. He was the one who took great efforts for the sainthood of Mother. He had said that there were three things in the life of Mother that captivated him .
Firstly, the very deep love she had for Jesus and the deep concern she showed to the poorest of the poor people. Secondly, the bleakness enshrouded her spirit, made her life dark and bitter. Thirdly, even though her heart was so bitter with her feelings, she bore them heroically and continued her service to people whole-heartedly.
ABOUT THE BOOK…
It was very shocking to know that a great darkness was there in the mind of an ever-smiling mother. One other surprising thing was the Catholic Church was ready to publish all these letters even against the request of Mother. Those letters reveal the inner world of Mother and how she had this suffering for a very long period. The astonishing thing was her patience and perseverance to carry on her noble work for the helpless inspite of the heavy cross on her shoulders. She managed to keep afresh the care and love for the poor and at the same time carry the heavy spiritual agony. This makes her to stand out as a very rare and exceptional human being.
I had a very serious introspection before adding this book in this chapter. I was worried whether the verses in the book would pull down the stature of Mother from the minds of the readers. However, I strongly felt this would only raise her stature. She is and had been respected by everyone not because she is a Christian; but the love showered on her was for her service to the poor and helpless. She assured a peaceful end to many sick and suffering people. Hence she would become more respectable even after knowing her spiritual dilemma. She kept those inner turmoil within her and continued her services so devotedly.
In Hinduism the Jeevathma (the spirit) keeps trying to reach the Brahmathma (the divine spirit). The former goes through many obstacles before attaining "Mukti". Andal and Meera are two such Jeevathmas trying to merge with their gods through their piety. Like these Hindu stories, Mother had so much love for her Jesus. Irrespective of her spiritual doubts she keeps the love for Jesus and pleads Him to salvage her from the abysmal darkness. Loss of faith did not make her leave Jesus. Anyway people like me do not have any such barrier she had. My religious faith is just a like a shirt which they can easily throw off; but it is "all" for her. She had to live with that.
In the following pages I have given some selected excerpts from the book.
“If I ever become a Saint…. I will surely be one of “darkness”. I will continually be
absent from Heaven -- to light the light of those in darkness on earth”.
Mother Teresa. (230 & Back cover)
“Darkness” … her companion
This letter to her confessor back in Skopje is the first instance in a correspondence where Sister Teresa refers to the “darkness”. …. In future this term would come to signify profound interior suffering, lack of sensible consolation, spiritual dryness, an apparent absence of God from her life, and, at the same time, a painful longing for Him.(22)
The Thirst of Jesus crucified
A terrible darkness within
…. For there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. (149)
After two years of suffering in silence and with only occasional and the vague differences to her interior state, Mother Teresa at last revealed to Archbishop Perier the great pain that had been tormenting her soul from the beginning of her mission with the poor. (150)
Mother Teresa again reported that my own soul remains in deep darkness and desolation. (154)
“ A deep lonliness in my heart”
In January 1955, a little less than a year since had last mentioned the darkness to Archbishop Perier, noted a new element in her experience: deep loneliness. (157)
Despite her prayers still her heart had sunk into darkness. She was not able to divulge this openly to anybody. Nevertheless she opened to her spiritual guides. She asked them to pray for her since everything had gone meaningless to her. She had only blind faith; and that alone led her life from her enshrouded darkness. Still she felt that she was in utter darkness.
Only that blind faith that carries me through.
pray for me… for within me everything is Icy cold… It is only that blind faith that carries me through for in reality to me all is darkness.(163)
letter to Father Picachy on July 3, 59
You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved. I call, I cling, I want - and there is No One to answer - No One on whom I can cling - no, No One. Alone. the darkness is so dark - and I am alone. and unwanted, and forsaken. The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. where is my faith? - even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness and darkness - I have no faith - so many unanswered questions live within me - I am afraid to uncover them, because of blasphemy. If there be God - please forgive me- I am told god loves me - and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. (187)
Part of my confession today
In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss - of God not wanting me - of God not being God - of God not really existing (Jesus, please forgive my blasphemies - I have been told to write everything)
if there be no god - that can be no soul. - if there is no soul then Jesus - you are also not true. - heaven, what emptiness - not a single thought of Heaven enters my mind - but there is no hope.
I don't pray any longer - I utter words of community prayers - … but my prayer of union is not there any longer. - I no longer pray. - my soul is not one with You.(193)
Now father - since 49 or 50 This terrible sense of loss - this Untold Darkness - this loneliness -discontinue longing for God - which gives me that pain deep down in my heart. … the place of God In my soul is blank -. there is no God in me. … heaven - souls - why these are just words - which mean nothing to me. - my very life seems so contradictory. I helped Souls - to go where? - why all this? Where is the soul in my very being?(210)
How cold - how empty - how painful is my heart.- Holy Communion - Holy Mass all the holy things of spiritual life - of the Life of Christ in me - are also empty - so cold - so unwanted. (232)
People say they are drawn closer to God - seeing my strong faith. - Is this not deceiving people? Every time I have wanted to tell the truth - “ that I have no faith” - the words just do not come - my mouth remains closed. - and yet I still keep on smiling at God and all. (238)
Pray for me, that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness. (144)
After 15 years of Darkness, she presented Father Neuner with this description….
If there is hell - this must be one. How terrible is to be without God - no prayer - no faith - no love.. - The only thing that still remains - is the conviction that the work is His - that the Sisters & the brothers are His. - And I cling to this as the person having nothing clings to the straw - before drowning. - And yet Father - in spite of all these - I want to be faithful to Him - to spend myself for Him, to love Him not for what He gives but for what He takes - to be at His disposal. (250)
Even when she felt as though she had lost her faith in God, she could not question the authenticity of that experience. (259)
Mother Teresa's uncompromising fidelity to prayer was one virtue that her sister had observed back when she in Loreto. … "People were fascinated just watching Mother pray. They would sit there and watching her be really drawn into this mystery", one of the followers observed. … little did they know that she had not enjoyed the fruits of that intimacy for decades. ..
I don't pray any longer. - I utter words of community prayers - and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give. - But my prayer of union is not there any longer - I no longer pray.- My soul is not one with You. (270)
Mother Teresa had reached the point in her life when she no longer ventured to penetrate or question the mystery of her unremitting darkness.(172)
Seeing people suffer horribly daily,Mother Teresa pondered, "how the people can suffer so much and never break?".
The same question could be put to her: How could she suffer so much and not break?(289)
"Father, I do realize that when I open my mouth to speak to the sisters and to people about God and God's work, it brings them light, joy and courage. But I get nothing of it. Inside it all dark and feeling that I am totally cut off from God". This sounded to me like pure John of the Cross.(306)
Normally people think that saints might not have got any doubts in their faith. It may be true in St. Francis de Sales, since he wrote in his autograph that he had never lived more than 15 minutes without thinking of God. But many saints had experienced the same desperate feelings of Mother. St. John of the Cross, a priest of Carmelite society wrote a poem titled Dark Night of the Soul. This poem was about the tough path one had to pass through to reach Almighty. During this it might have to experience so many hardships. There could be series of question, doubts and so on. Likewise, St. Therese of Lisieuss had written about how she had sunk into darkness. Mother had lived in this confused mind from 1959 to 1997. This would be a shocking thing to almost anybody. More than this it was brought to light by the catholic church. No religion is ready to take any leeway. It never encourages people to question on their own faith. Contrary to thi, church has very openly come out with Mother's spiritual darkness. It is highly appreciable.