Mother Teresa’s doubts

I actually met mother Teresa once, she put her hand on my head and muttered a prayer for me. Later she gave me some pendents, somewhat smaller than Jatukam ones … The new angle in the world media is that even she had a lot of doubts – the following is a blog from : The First Morning  I guees it is somehow encouraging that even the greats harbour doubts like this. Though I was impressed by the Missionaries of Charity, and the volunteer workers I met there, I did not feel that there was a real focus on enlightenment or practise – it was all about work. I can’t help but admire that, and I can’t help but feel the ultimate essense was missing.

A collection of letters from Mother Teresa to various confessors is due out next week. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, is already fueling many blogs and other on-line commentaries, the writers of whom are attempting, from quotes already published in Time, to use Mother Teresa to support their deep, solid, and impenetrable beliefs.

In her letters, Mother Teresa expresses doubt- in her faith, in her calling, and in God. “Where is my Faith,” she writes in a confessional letter to Jesus, “ — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith.”

To a friend and confidant she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

Fundamentalist Christians are weighing in already, pointing out that the Roman Catholic Teresa was trying to worship a “false” Jesus, a non-biblical Jesus, according to their strict standards of biblical literalism. Hers was a Jesus, they say, which was false to begin with- a caricature perpetuated by a Church bent on survival.

Some atheists have already begun to claim Teresa as a secret supporter of their position of non-deistic rationality. Some have already called her a hypocrite, giving lip service to belief, while harboring doubt.

Both groups are making the kind of mistake that is easy to make when the world is viewed in the mechanistic manner both groups base their viewpoints on. Most fundamentalists see the universe as a machine, manufactured piece by piece, by God, for the benefit of humankind; and many atheists see the universe as random collection of stellar accidents, devoid of transcendent and sacred meaning beyond the moment.

Mother Teresa, on the other hand, lived down in the mire with the rest of us. She lived where the call to alleviate suffering in the lives of others felt so real that she could ascribe the voice of Jesus to it. But she worked in the arenas of life where it seemed impossible for a God of love to have ever been present.

I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Hers was not an either/or position. Her doubts did not rise from the rigid and moribund philosophies constructed of doctrine and paper and words etched in rock, that both the accusing fundamentalists and the Teresa-claiming atheists live their lives within.* She was human, a human filled with doubts just like the rest of us, but one who had the courage and vulnerability to write of them. Unlike many of us, however, she poured herself into that “emptiness” anyway. She didn’t flee from it; she didn’t reject it. She alleviated suffering. She waged peace. She acted in human, healing love, as her Order still does.

Mother Teresa may well have felt ignored by God. But, because of her, many many have not.

*For the record, I am speaking here of those fundamentalists and those atheists who are making the Teresa-noise at present. The strident ones of both camps are making fools of themselves (I think) and do not reflect those fundamentalists who truly do try to follow Jesus, nor those atheists (and there are many, many) who couldn’t care less about adding new trophy heads to their walls, but just live- congenially and rationally.


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2 Responses to Mother Teresa’s doubts

  1. marcusp says:

    To feel that lack of faith and yet to keep on working at your calling – isn’t that evidence of the highest faith of all?

    I never really knew much about Mother Teresa before this week, now I admire her like I’d never have imagined doing before.

    In my reading I came across this quote from her: “I know God will not give me anything I cannot handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

    It’s the trust that she put in Him – a trust that lasted for decades even after the experience of God went – and which led her to stay true to her vocation, that I find so touching.

    Thank you another interesting post.


  2. Cittasamvaro says:

    You are right about that. This latest book, to my eyes, seems a bit sensationalist – her comments were all noted by disciples and tape-recorders, so I am sure you could find proof of anything you want there. I got the sense of immense faith when I was there, from the whole of the Missionaries of Charity organisation. Everyone has dry spells in their practise at times, I know I do.

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