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8/25/2007 10:06 PM
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Here is an item adapted and translated from PETRUS today. I have added the English versions of
Pope John Paul II's homily at Teresa's beatification and his address the next day to her community:

John Paul II with Mother Teresa
in Calcutta, 1986 (Reuters photo)

VATICAN CITY - VAtican sources today expressed surprise at the big to-do in the media over the mystical
crises undergone by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in the last 50 years of her life.

They pointed out that all this was known and discussed during the process that led to her beatification,
and that in fact, it was the Vatican that ruled against destruction of the nun's letters as she had wanted,
because they formed part of the material evaluated in connection with her beatification.

Her disciples in Calcutta declined to comment on the news reports occasioned by a new book containing
the nun's letters and edited by Mother Teresa's own postulator for sainthood.

However, Dr. Tarun Kumar Praharaj, who was with Mother Teresa during her last days on earth, said that
at the time, she would tell him that she saw God everywhere.

Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, Mother Teresa's postulator, already published excerpts of her letters
on the Internet in 2003 during the beatification process.

He said that it is the desire of the Vatican to make all processes for beatification and canonization
'transparent' in order to avoid any eventual criticisms of incomplete investigation.

The Archbishop of Kolkata, Fr. Sircar, said today, "Even if Mother Teresa experienced all these
negative moments, she remained determined about her choices which was a road to sainthood, and
that was part of her greatness...She came out triumphant, and it was with great humility that she
shared all her weaknesses in her private letters." Mons. Sircar was a fiend and confidant of Mother
Teresa for decades.

The Vatican advised a re-reading of Pope John Paul II's words at the beatification of Mother Teresa
in October 2003.

World Mission Sunday
Sunday, 19 October 2003

1. "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk10: 44). Jesus' words to his disciples
that have just rung out in this Square show us the way to evangelical "greatness". It is the way
walked by Christ himself that took him to the Cross: a journey of love and service that overturns
all human logic. To be the servant of all!

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity whom today I have the joy of
adding to the Roll of the Blesseds, allowed this logic to guide her. I am personally grateful to
this courageous woman whom I have always felt beside me. Mother Teresa, an icon of the Good
Samaritan, went everywhere to serve Christ in the poorest of the poor. Not even conflict and war
could stand in her way.

Every now and then she would come and tell me about her experiences in her service to the Gospel
values. I remember, for example, her pro-life and anti-abortion interventions, even when she
was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace (Oslo, 10 December 1979). She often used to say: "If you
hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to
persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God's love".

2. Is it not significant that her beatification is taking place on the very day on which
the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday? With the witness of her life, Mother Teresa reminds
everyone that the evangelizing mission of the Church passes through charity, nourished by prayer
and listening to God's word. Emblematic of this missionary style is the image that shows
the new Blessed clasping a child's hand in one hand while moving her Rosary beads with the other.

Contemplation and action, evangelization and human promotion: Mother Teresa proclaimed the Gospel
living her life as a total gift to the poor but, at the same time, steeped in prayer.

3. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant" (Mk 10: 43). With particular emotion
we remember today Mother Teresa, a great servant of the poor, of the Church and of the whole world.
Her life is a testimony to the dignity and the privilege of humble service. She had chosen to be
not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down
to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without
counting the cost, to give "until it hurts". Her life was a radical living and a bold
proclamation of the Gospel.

The cry of Jesus on the Cross, "I thirst" (Jn 19: 28), expressing the depth of God's longing
for man, penetrated Mother Teresa's soul and found fertile soil in her heart. Satiating Jesus's
thirst for love and for souls in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had become the sole
aim of Mother Teresa's existence and the inner force that drew her out of herself and made her
"run in haste" across the globe to labour for the salvation and the sanctification of the
poorest of the poor.

4. "As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25: 40). This
Gospel passage, so crucial in understanding Mother Teresa's service to the poor, was the basis
of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching
the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of
the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest
meaning of service - an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick,
prisoners (cf. Mt 25: 34-36) is done to Jesus himself.

Recognizing him, she ministered to him with wholehearted devotion, expressing the delicacy
of her spousal love. Thus, in total gift of herself to God and neighbour, Mother Teresa
found her greatest fulfilment and lived the noblest qualities of her femininity. She wanted
to be a sign of "God's love, God's presence and God's compassion", and so remind all of
the value and dignity of each of God's children, "created to love and be loved". Thus was
Mother Teresa "bringing souls to God and God to souls" and satiating Christ's thirst,
especially for those most in need, those whose vision of God had been dimmed by suffering
and pain.

5. "The Son of man also came... to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10: 45).
Mother Teresa shared in the Passion of the crucified Christ in a special way during
long years of "inner darkness". For her that was a test, at times an agonizing one, which
she accepted as a rare "gift and privilege".

In the darkest hours she clung even more tenaciously to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
This harsh spiritual trial led her to identify herself more and more closely with those whom
she served each day, feeling their pain and, at times, even their rejection. She was fond
of repeating that the greatest poverty is to be unwanted, to have no one to take care of you.

6. "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you". How often, like the Psalmist,
did Mother Teresa call on her Lord in times of inner desolation: "In you, in you I hope, my God!".

Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger
and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures
of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.

Virgin Mary, Queen of all the Saints, help us to be gentle and humble of heart like
this fearless messenger of Love. Help us to serve every person we meet with joy and a smile.
Help us to be missionaries of Christ, our peace and our hope. Amen!

Monday, 20 October 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Men and Women Missionaries of Charity,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I cordially greet you and joyfully join you in thanking God for the beatification of
Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was bound to her by deep esteem and sincere affection.
I am therefore particularly glad to be with you, her spiritual daughters and sons.
I especially greet Sr Nirmala, recalling the day on which Mother Teresa came to Rome
to introduce her to me in person. I extend my thoughts to all the members of the great
spiritual family of this new Blessed.

2. A "Missionary of Charity: this is what Mother Teresa was in name and in fact". Today
with deep feeling I repeat these words that I spoke the day after her death (Angelus,
7 September 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 10 September, n. 1).

First and foremost a missionary: there is no doubt that the new Blessed was one of
the greatest missionaries of the 20th century. The Lord made this simple woman who came
from one of Europe's poorest regions a chosen instrument (cf. Acts 9: 15) to proclaim
the Gospel to the entire world, not by preaching but by daily acts of love towards
the poorest of the poor. A missionary with the most universal language: the language
of love that knows no bounds or exclusion and has no preferences other than for
the most forsaken.

A Missionary of Charity. A missionary of God who is love, who has a special preference for
the least and the humble, who bends over the human being wounded in body and spirit and
pours "the oil of consolation and the wine of hope" upon the wounds. God did this
in the person of his Son made man, Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan of humanity.
He continues to do this in the Church, especially through the saints of charity in whose
ranks Mother Teresa shines in a special way.

3. Where did Mother Teresa find the strength 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. She herself said as much: "The fruit of silence
is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love
is service; the fruit of service is peace". Peace, even at the side of the dying, even
in nations at war, even in the face of attacks and hostile criticism. It was prayer
that filled her heart with Christ's own peace and enabled her to radiate that peace to others.

4. A missionary of charity, a missionary of peace, a missionary of life. Mother Teresa
was all these. She always spoke out in defence of human life, even when her message
was unwelcome. Mother Teresa's whole existence was a hymn to life. Her daily encounters
with death, leprosy, AIDS and every kind of human suffering made her a forceful witness to
the Gospel of life. Her very smile was a "yes" to life, a joyful "yes", born of profound
faith and love, a "yes" purified in the crucible of suffering. She renewed that "yes"
each morning, in union with Mary, at the foot of Christ's Cross. The "thirst" of
the crucified Jesus became Mother Teresa's own thirst and the inspiration of
her path of holiness.

5. Teresa of Calcutta was truly a Mother. A mother to the poor and a mother to children.
A mother to so many girls and young people who had her as their spiritual guide and
shared in her mission. The Lord brought forth from a tiny seed, a great tree, laden with
fruit (cf. Mt 13: 31-32). And precisely you, sons and daughters of Mother Teresa,
are the most eloquent signs of this prophetic fruitfulness. Keep her charism unaltered
and follow her example, and from Heaven she will not fail to sustain you in your daily

However, today more than ever, Mother Teresa's message is an invitation addressed
to us all. Her entire existence reminds us that being Christian means being witnesses
of charity. This is what the new Blessed entrusts to us. Echoing her words, I urge each one
to follow generously and courageously in the footsteps of this authentic disciple
of Christ. On the path of charity, Mother Teresa walks at your side.

I cordially impart to you and to your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/25/2007 10:25 PM]
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8/25/2007 10:15 PM
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Mother Teresa's canonisation
not to be affected by crisis of faith

London, August 25 (ANI): The Vatican has insisted that Mother Teresa's course to sainthood will not be affected by the deep crisis of faith she suffered in the last 40 years of her life.

The release of old letters revealed a side of Mother Teresa that has shocked some - that the Nobel Peace Prize recipient had serious struggles with her faith.

According to some of the letters within her file, Mother Teresa began to struggle with her belief in God at roughly the same time as she started caring for the poor and sick in Calcutta in 1949.

However, The Vatican has insisted that Mother Teresa's course to sainthood will not be affected by this deep crisis of faith, rather this obvious spiritual torment regarding her faith will actually help give a new insight into her life.

"Mother Teresa has already been beatified. For her canonisation as a saint, she now requires one more verified miracle," the Telegraph quoted Monsignor Robert Sarno, who is in charge of her case at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as saying.

Mgr Sarno said that it was "not surprising" that Mother Teresa had, sometimes, turned away from God.

"It would be surprising if she hadn't. It's really very simple. People have to realise that the Church does not canonise God," he said.

"She was a human being, not a cartoon super hero like Batman or Superman, and she faced reality. Even the saints are faced with the difficulties of life," he added.

Mgr Sarno gave the example of how the apostles in the New Testament abandoned God, but still continued with their faith. "They had their problems. They abandoned the Lord and then they rose above that and continued in their faith," he said. (ANI)

'Mother Teresa's doubts showed
she was one of us' - Cardinal Scola

ROME, August 25 (AFP) - Mother Teresa's doubts over the existence of God, revealed in a book to be published next week, showed she was "one of us," Cardinal Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice, said Saturday.

"I already wrote about these letters a year ago in the (Vatican mouthpiece) Osservatore Romano," he told the ANSA news agency, adding: "I'm very happy about the publication of this book."

He said the book of letters by Mother Teresa showed that the diminutive Albanian nun who devoted her life to the poor was "one of us, that she did all her work as we do, no more no less."

The letters reveal that Mother Teresa, who is one step short of being made a Catholic saint, suffered crises of faith for most of her life and even doubted God's existence.

"It seems to me that it can reveal something, that even in the experience of the utmost holiness, even when one touches the summits of prayer and contemplation as in the case of Mother Teresa, you cannot ignore man's finite and limited freedom," Scola said.

Even in the depths of doubt, Mother Teresa "always had recourse to the most elementary form of the exercise of one's will, that of asking Jesus each day to reveal his face," the prelate added.

The letters, some of which Mother Teresa wanted destroyed, appear in "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," due to be published next week, 10 years after her death. Extracts of the book appear in the latest edition of Time magazine.

'Mother Tresa felt emptiness' -
Archbishop of Kolkata

By Bappa Majumdar

KOLKATA, India, Aug. 25 (Reuters) - Mother Teresa experienced "emptiness" like any human, and the revealing letters she shared with her colleagues portrayed her humility, said the Archbishop of Kolkata, where the nun lived most of her life.


A book of letters written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- now Kolkata -- has revealed that she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God.

"Despite facing the negative side of life, she remained steadfast on her way to holiness, such was her greatness," Reverend Lucas Sircar, who knew her for decades, told Reuters.

Due out on September 4, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," is a collection of letters written to colleagues and superiors over 66 years and complied by an advocate for her sainthood.

In 1956, in one of her letters, she wrote: "Such deep longing for God -- and ... repulsed -- empty -- no faith -- no love -- no zeal."

Those in Kolkata who were close to the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner said she had overcome "emptiness" and "doubts," and continued to spread the message of God and love to the poor and ailing until her death in 1997, aged 87.

"Every person at one point in life feels some sort of emptiness, darkness or hollowness, which is the darker side of that person," Sircar said.

"In spite of all temptations, she overcame them, and it was her humility that she shared her weaker side with others in her letters."

The ethnic Albanian Roman Catholic nun dedicated her life to serving the sick, poor and dying in India, particularly in Kolkata, headquarters of the global Missionaries of Charity order she founded in 1950.

Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 but not yet been canonized by the Vatican.

The archbishop said saints like Saint Paul of the Cross or Saint Augustine had experienced "similar trials" and "hollowness" in their lives like Mother Teresa.

The Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata declined to comment on the letters or on Mother Teresa's faith.

Recalling the nun's last days, her physician Tarun Kumar Praharaj said she told him that she saw God everywhere.

"She would always ask me to help the poor and said she was fine, when she was not, and wanted to help a sick child even from her hospital bed," Praharaj, a cardiologist, said.

Sunita Kumar, a social activist who knew Mother Teresa for many years, said the nun had tremendous faith in God and that her letters revealed only her "natural self."

"After all, Mother Teresa was like any other human who in crisis wishes to see God," Kumar said.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 9/1/2008 4:29 AM]
8/26/2007 3:14 AM
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Here is a story from 2002 about Mother Teresa's spiritual struggles.

Longing for God: Mother Teresa's letters reveal isolation, doubts

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

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."
8/26/2007 3:34 AM
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Interesting timing! I imagine these people will have a lot more to talk about than they initially expected.

Mother Teresa ‘simply loved life’ – 10 years after her death, those closest saw living saint’s beautiful humanity

Our Sunday Visitor

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Our Sunday Visitor) – Many people were blessed to be friends or colleagues of Mother Teresa, who had a permanent impact on their lives. Our Sunday Visitor asked two of these fortunate people to reflect upon what made this simple sister so special.

Jim Towey, president of St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa., was formerly assistant to the president of the United States and legal counsel for Mother Teresa.

St. Vincent College will host the first-ever gathering of Mother Teresa’s family and close friends to celebrate her life’s work Oct. 5-7. It is in observance of the 10th anniversary of her death.

He offered the following perspective:

It has been 10 years since Mother Teresa went home to God. Her beatification in October 2003 placed her one miracle away from canonization.

As with any saint, there is a danger of turning Mother Teresa into a plastic statue and adorning her with ethereal glow. In my 12 years of association and friendship with Mother, what impressed me most was her beautiful humanity.

Mother Teresa first of all was a mother. She had an extraordinary maternal love. She listened intently to you as if you were her only child. She cared about your best interests and sometimes told you things you didn’t want to hear.

She didn’t judge. Mother used to say, “If you judge people, then you have no time to love them.” She was thoughtful and considerate and, like many mothers, she was never too busy for the little things.

I remember one morning in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1989. I had attended early morning Mass with Mother at her contemplative sisters’ house where she was staying. I rushed out after Mass to go and run the errands she had given me.

I raced to the Missionaries of Charity truck and was about to pull out when I saw a commotion at the door – Mother had come outside and was gesturing for me.

I hastily parked the truck and ran to see what she wanted. To my utter surprise, she had come out with great urgency to give me a peanut butter sandwich and a banana so that I had something for breakfast. That’s what mothers – and saints – do.

Love of beauty

I think Mother Teresa’s love of God and love of life were inseparable. Her laugh was unmistakable and often unexpected. She delighted in the company of those whom God had given to her as daughters and sons – the Missionaries of Charity sisters, brothers and fathers who followed in her footsteps. When one of them would come to see her after being away years in the missions, her eyes would beam recognition and delight.

She loved beauty wherever she encountered it. She enjoyed singing and writing poetry. She kept in touch with her friends and had plenty of them. She simply loved life.

Even though Calcutta seemed overrun with destitution and despair, Mother Teresa was a cheerful person. I think that owed to the amount of time she spent each day in prayer. Jesus loved both Martha and her sister Mary, and in Mother Teresa, he found them both.

Within our reach

Even though she ran a worldwide missionary organization spread across 100 countries and carried the burden of celebrity, Mother had the wisdom to choose “the better part.” Mother used to say, “If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.” She felt that without receiving the Lord in the Eucharist and in the silence of her heart she had nothing to give the poor or any of us.

In October, many of those who received so much from Mother Teresa – including her successor in Calcutta and her niece from Italy – will gather over a weekend at St. Vincent College to tell personal stories about this remarkable woman, Agnes Gonxha, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

The truth is, the more we know about Mother Teresa and how she embraced life and treated others, the more she, a saint, is placed within our reach. As she often said, holiness is not the privilege of a few but the duty of each of us. If we really want to be like Mother Teresa, we can begin by praying more, welcoming Jesus in our neighbor, and rejoicing in the life God has given us.

- - -

Susan Conroy worked with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in 1986 and discerned a vocation to their order at the request of Mother Teresa. While she didn’t join the order, Conroy kept in contact with Mother and authored Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity. She offered this perspective:

In my last letter to Mother Teresa, written just weeks before she was called home to God, I thanked her with all my heart for her love and prayers.

Even now, I wish to say these same things to her: “God bless you every day, dearest Mother. I love you.”

When Mother Teresa walked into the Home for the Dying in Calcutta, the skeletal, failing men would reach out to her from their cots and call: “Mother,” “Ma.” It was inspiring to watch her touch each one – taking one person’s face in the palms of her hands, holding the hand of another – as she walked down the aisle between the rows of stretcher beds of sick and dying patients.

One of the most touching things for me was that these men didn’t know that Mother Teresa was famous throughout the world. They had no idea she won the Nobel Peace Prize and top awards and honors from countries throughout the world. They didn’t know that she was celebrated as a living saint.

All they knew was that all the love in the world had just walked in the door. They recognized holiness and love and beauty when they saw it, and they reached out to her like children reach out to their mothers.

Humble and holy

Mother Teresa was one of the most humble human beings I ever met in my life, and I kept writing home to my family and friends during my time in India saying, “She’s so beautiful.” I have always felt that humility is one of the most beautiful virtues and a sign of true greatness. Humility and holiness go together.

“Holiness is not the luxury of the few,” Mother Teresa would say. “It is a simple duty for you and me.” We are all called to be saints. God himself commands that we strive to be perfect in holiness, and “God cannot command the impossible.”

Humility was one of the many beautiful lessons that she taught us, especially by her example. She felt that she was nothing but “a little pencil in the hands of God.” Sometimes she even referred to herself as “a broken pencil.” She marveled at how God can make use of instruments “as weak and imperfect as we are.”

Even in her later years (I met her when she was 76 and I was 21), Mother Teresa still got down on her knees in prayer on the chapel floor. She was still on her knees washing the floor. She was even serving me tea and cookies when I visited her, even though I should have been the one serving her.

She used to teach us that “we must not drift away from the humble works, because these are the works nobody will do. It is never too small.” The minute we give these little things to God, they become infinitely valuable.

“We are so small we look at things in a small way. But God, being almighty, sees everything great,” Mother said. We can honor him by doing works considered inconsequential by many – such as visiting the homebound, offering to help a burdened mother with household chores, taking an elderly friend or neighbor to Mass. It’s humble work, but great work in God’s eyes.

“For there are many people who can do big things,” Mother said. “But there are very few people who will do the small things.”

Let us continue to do “small things with great love,” and offer these little things to God. And let us humble ourselves and pray with Mother Teresa that our lives, too, may be “something beautiful for God.”

[Edited by benefan 8/26/2007 3:35 AM]
8/26/2007 3:42 AM
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St. Teresa of Calcutta This Year?

Lay Group Prays for Anticipated Canonization

CALCUTTA, India, AUG. 23, 2007 ( This is the year for the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, or so hopes a group of Catholics in Calcutta.

The Catholic Association of Bengal, the largest lay organization of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, has declared 2007 the Year for the Canonization of Mother Teresa, AsiaNews reported.

The organization launched a two-week prayer campaign today, which will lead up to the 10th anniversary of the nun's death, with plans to continue the initial celebration until Sept. 23.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who founded the Missionaries of Charity, died Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified in October 2003.

The organization's chairman, Eugene Gonsalves, told AsiaNews: "More than three years have passed since the title of 'blessed' was conferred on our beloved Mother Teresa.

"During her life, Mother was a living saint to many. There is no doubt that she is already a 'saint' to many more around the world.

"Sainthood for Mother Teresa in a real sense may not be far away as many miracles are happening by her intercession."

Gonsalves said the year will include special prayer services and celebrations of the Eucharist in different churches and institutions, to be announced in the coming months.

"We shall welcome everyone, poor and rich alike, as she did, without distinctions of faith, nationality or caste," Gonsalves said, all as "a sign of harmony, unity and devotion to Mother Teresa."
8/27/2007 10:03 AM
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Catholic nuns from the Missionaries of Charity order attend a prayer meeting on the occasion of Mother Teresa's 97th birth anniversary in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata August 26, 2007. Mother Teresa died in 1997, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 at the Vatican. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw (INDIA)
8/27/2007 6:44 PM
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August 27

I have not been able to put together material about St. Monica for this thread, but meanwhile, here is Fr. Z's 'commemoration' of the saint on his blog today -

This is the chapel in the church of St. Augustine in Rome (literally across the street from my back door) where the mortal remains of St. Monica (+387), the mother of Augustine of Hippo now rest.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Inside the Vatican (December 2004) [The entire article was in a previous post about Augustine on this thread] I used the alternate (and more accurate Punic) spelling of the saint’s name – "Monnica" (emphasis not in the original):

Most visitors to the Eternal City find it puzzling and wondrous that Monnica’s remains would be in Rome and even more so that Augustine’s should be in northern Italy, or that we have them at all. How did this come to pass?

Monnica died at age 56 of a malarial fever at Ostia, Rome’s port city, not far from where modern Rome’s port, DaVinci airport, is situated. After Augustine’s baptism in 386 by Milan’s bishop St. Ambrose (+ AD 397), Monnica and Augustine together with his brother Navigius, Adeodatus the future bishop’s son by his concubine of many years whom Monnica had forced Augustine to put aside, and friends Nebridius, Alypius and the former Imperial secret service agent (agens in rebus) Evodius were all waiting at Ostia to return home to Africa by ship. They were stuck there for some time because the port was blockaded during a period of civil strife.

As she lay dying near Rome, Monnica told Augustine (Conf. 9): “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.”

She was buried there in Ostia. In the 6th century she was moved to a little church named for St. Aurea, an early martyr of the city, and there she remained until 1430 when her remains were translated by Pope Martin V to the Roman Basilica of St. Augustine built in 1420 by the famous Guillaume Card. D’Estouteville of Rouen, then Camerlengo under Pope Sixtus IV.

As fate or God’s directing have would have it, in December 1945, some children were digging a hole in the courtyard of the little church of St. Aurea next to the ruins of ancient Ostia. They wanted to put up a basketball hoop, probably having been taught the exciting new game – so different from soccer – by American GIs. While digging they discovered the broken marble epitaph which had marked Monnica’s ancient grave.

Scholars were able to authenticate the inscription, the text of which had been preserved in a medieval manuscript. The epitaph had been composed during Augustine’s lifetime by no less then a former Consul of AD 408 and resident at Ostia, Anicius Auchenius Bassus, perhaps Augustine’s host during their sojourn.

It is possible that Anicius Bassus placed the epitaph there after 410 which saw the ravages of Alaric the Visigoth and the sacking of Rome and its environs.

One can almost feel behind these traces of ancient evidence Augustine’s plea to his old friend sent by letter from the port of Hippo Regius over the waves to Ostia.

Hearing of the devastation to the area, far more shocking to the ancients than the events of 11 September were for us, did Augustine, now a renowned bishop, ask his old friend to tend the grave of the mother whom he had so loved and who in her time had wept for her son’s sins and rejoiced in his conversion?

I will post additional material here about St. Monica later.
8/28/2007 4:01 AM
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More on the Mother Teresa furor from the Pope's preacher.

Mother Teresa's Dark Night Unique, Says Preacher

Father Cantalamessa Calls Her Saint of the Media Age

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2007 ( Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's dark night of the soul kept her from being a victim of the media age and exalting herself, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said this in an interview with Vatican Radio, commenting on previously unpublished letters from Mother Teresa, now made public in Doubleday's book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of the cause of Mother Teresa's canonization.

In one of her letters, Mother Teresa wrote: "There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God -- so deep that it is painful -- a suffering continual -- and yet not wanted by God -- repulsed -- empty -- no faith -- no love -- no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing -- to me it looks like an empty place."

Father Cantalamessa explained that the fact that Mother Teresa suffered deeply from her feeling of the absence of God affirms that it was a positive phenomenon. Atheists, he contended, are not afflicted by God's absence but, "for Mother Teresa, this was the most terrible test that she could have experienced."

He further clarified that "it is the presence-absence of God: God is present but one does not experience his presence."


Father Cantalamessa contended that Mother Teresa's spiritual suffering makes her even greater.

He said: "The fact that Mother Teresa was able to remain for hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, as many eye-witnesses have testified, as if enraptured … if one thinks about the condition she was in at that moment, that is martyrdom!

"Because of this, for me, the figure of Mother Teresa is even greater; it does not diminish her."

The Capuchin priest further lauded Mother Teresa's ability to keep her spiritual pain hidden within her. "Maybe, this was done in expiation for the widespread atheism in today's world," he said, adding that she lived her experience of the absence of God "in a positive way -- with faith, with God."

Not scandalous

Father Cantalamessa affirmed that Mother Teresa's dark night should not scandalize or surprise anyone. The "dark night," he said, "is something well-known in the Christian tradition; maybe new and unheard of in the way Mother Teresa experienced it."

He added: "While 'the dark night of the spirit' of St. John of the Cross is a generally preparatory period for that definitive one called 'unitive,' for Mother Teresa it seems that it was one stable state, from a certain point in her life, when she began this great work of charity, until the end.

"In my view, the fact of this prolongation of the 'night' has meaning for us today. I believe that Mother Teresa is the saint of the media age, because this 'night of the spirit' protected her from being a victim of the media, namely from exalting herself.

"In fact, she used to say that when she received great awards and praise from the media, she did not feel anything because of this interior emptiness."
8/28/2007 9:43 AM
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Avvenire's Sunday issue had a refreshing Mother Teresa article (although it did have an editorial titled 'Confusion among the mediocre over the confessions of Mother Teresa') - in the form of a short memoir about the nun by French journalist Dominique Lapierre, international best-selling author if many historical docu-fiction books (like Is Paris Burning?), who also produced the 1997 TV movie 'Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor' with Geraldine Chaplin. Here is a translation:

What 'the instrument of God'
has left us

By Dominique Lapierre

It was 1981, and more than a quarter century has passed since then. I had just spent two years in Calcutta, researching the book Cette nuit la liberte(Freedom at midnight), the account of the epic struggle for Indian independence.

To thank that country and its people for their welcome and hospitality, I had decided to offer half of my book royalties to help children afflicted with leprosy.

So there I was one winter morning at #54 Lower Circular Road, at the headquarters of teh Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa was in prayer at the chapel on the first floor, among about a hundred young nuns.

"The good God sent you," she greeted me, with a smile that radiated love. That meeting that day marked the start of my personal commitment to humanitarian work. Beside the leprous, the tuberculosis patients, the street children, the forgotten and abandoned people of the Ganges delta...

Following Mother Teresa through the slums, in the world of the unfortunate, the sick, the deprived, I learned that there is always something one can do.

Lapierre and his wife with John Paul II,
who encouraged their humanitarian work

And one does not have to go to Calcutta. Wherever we are, at our own personal level, we can all bring a little more justice and love to our fellowmen.

Passing through London once, Mother Teresa said in a media interview: "Here you suffer from a leprosy that is worse than what we have in Calcutta, and your leprosy is called loneliness, aloneness."

The 15,000 old people who died during the summer heat wave of 2003 in France dramatically illustrated the truth of what she said.

Each of us has the possibility of being an instrument of compassion and love. That is the great message of the little nun. For me it came like an electric shock, a real eye-opener.

In the following years, I met her many times. She never disappointed me. I was always struck by this tiny lady who by her sheer presence and charism, was able to transmit, even in the midst of catastrophe and the worst places of suffering, a wave of hope and love.

"You are not alone," she would tell them. "You are loved by us who are here with you, you are loved by Jesus."

Without ever yielding, she and her Sisters showed the world that poverty is not fatal, that one can always give some love and comfort to the deprived, that every life is important.

It is that testimony that I wished to convey in my film "In the name of god's poor'. I was convinced that it was not enough to do another documentary, no matter how good, that a feature film would have a much vaster audience and would therefore touch more hearts and minds.

But some of the sisters close to her wouldn't hear of it. It was impossible for them to think that any actress, wearing a white and blue sari, could portray Mother Teresa: there was only one of her. For them, to give her the face of some movie star was an act of lese majeste.

Thus, it took 15 years of negotiations, discussions and work before she finally gave the go-signal. And we succeeded, with an amazing performance by Geraldine Chaplin. The film was, for me, a hymn of love for Mother Tresa and her work.

I do have one regret. Many have accused her of curing the effects of injustice and poverty without doing anything about the causes. I spoke to her about this often. I would have liked her to head a crusade against injustices, maybe stage a hunger strike in front of the UN in New York to call attention of the whole world.

"You are Mother Teresa, you can do anything," I would argue.

But she would always say, "No! Let others do the protesting and denunciation. I am only an instrument in the hands of God, to serve the poor, to bring them a little love."

She saw Christ in everyone of those she helped. "Just place your hand on top of another's. You will, see that could mean the rebirth of a new life."

8/29/2007 5:16 AM
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Vatican officials say new book illustrates Mother Teresa's strength

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Vatican officials said a new book detailing Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's long "crisis of faith" illustrates her spiritual strength in the face of doubt.

"This is a figure who had moments of uncertainty and discouragement, experiencing the classic dark night that God gives to chosen people in order to forge them on the road to holiness," said Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, a member of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

"These moments of crisis felt by great saints are normal and in line with the church's tradition," Cardinal Herranz said Aug. 26. Even Christ experienced a similar spiritual trial in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, he said.

Such moments of "weakness" are in fact "the proof of the greatness of faith of Blessed Mother Teresa and take nothing away from her holiness," he said.

Cardinal Herranz, who spoke in an interview with the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, said the progress of Mother Teresa's sainthood cause would not be affected by the letters published in the book.

Vatican and other church officials were already familiar with the letters because many were first published in 2002, and in fact formed part of the documentation reviewed before she was beatified in 2003, six years after her death.

The letters are being published in English in the upcoming book, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, a member of the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa and the postulator of her sainthood cause.

Time magazine recently ran a cover story about the book under the title, "The Secret Life of Mother Teresa." In letters written over several decades, she spoke of a lack of faith, a "terrible darkness within me" and a sense of being abandoned by Jesus.

Sister Nirmala Joshi, head of the Missionaries of Charity, said the letters reveal that sainthood does not come easily, but they do not show a failure of faith.

"Mother (Teresa) did not doubt God, she continued to love him. If you doubt someone, sooner or later you stop following him. But she continued right up to her death to love him and to put into practice her devotion," Sister Nirmala told La Repubblica.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, told Vatican Radio that what distinguished Mother Teresa's "dark night" was that it apparently continued throughout her life and was not a preparation for a new spiritual stage as with other saints.

He said her inner suffering should not be seen as a denial of God, however. She knew God was there, but suffered because she could not feel him, he said.

Noting that Mother Teresa would kneel before the Eucharist for hours at a time, Father Cantalamessa said it must have been a form of "martyrdom" not to feel Christ's presence.

"For me, this makes the figure of Mother Teresa much bigger, not smaller," he said.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, who wrote a reflection on Mother Teresa's letters last year in the Vatican newspaper, said they reveal some important and beautiful things.

"The first is that Mother Teresa is one of us, that she went through all the trials just as we do, no more and no less," he said.

Another important element in her letters is that Mother Teresa, when she no longer felt she could feel God's presence, asked him to reveal himself, he said.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former Vatican spokesman, said Mother Teresa's letters showed that she experienced real spiritual suffering. That is not surprising, he said, since she was notoriously "immune" to the banal and the superficial.

"But all this is not the expression of a lack of faith, but rather of the normal -- perhaps in this case heroic -- sacrifice that people discover when they try to live a commitment and a choice coherently and completely," he said.

Navarro-Valls said it would be wrong to conclude on the basis of these letters that Mother Teresa's trademark smile was fake or that her public persona was hypocritical.

Instead, the letters illustrate that spiritual progress often must overcome obstacles that seem impassable, he said.
8/29/2007 6:34 PM
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A Saint’s Dark Night

Op-Ed Contributor
Published: August 29, 2007

THE stunning revelations contained in a new book, which show that Mother Teresa doubted God’s existence, will delight her detractors and confuse her admirers. Or is it the other way around?

Anna Bhushan

The private journals and letters of the woman now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta will be released next month as "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," and some excerpts have been published in Time magazine. The pious title of the book, however, is misleading. Most of its pages reveal not the serene meditations of a Catholic sister confident in her belief, but the agonized words of a person confronting a terrifying period of darkness that lasted for decades.

"In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss," she wrote in 1959, "of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing." According to the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closest colleagues, lasted until her death in 1997.

Gleeful detractors may point to this as yet another example of the hypocrisy of organized religion. The woman widely known in her lifetime as a "living saint" apparently didn't even believe in God.

It was not always so. In 1946, Mother Teresa, then 36, was hard at work in a girls school in Calcutta when she fell ill. On a train ride en route to some rest in Darjeeling, she had heard what she would later call a "voice" asking her to work with the poorest of the poor, and experienced a profound sense of God’s presence.

A few years later, however, after founding the Missionaries of Charity and beginning her work with the poor, darkness descended on her inner life. In 1957, she wrote to the archbishop of Calcutta about her struggles, saying, "I find no words to express the depths of the darkness."

But to conclude that Mother Teresa was a crypto-atheist is to misread both the woman and the experience that she was forced to undergo.

Even the most sophisticated believers sometimes believe that the saints enjoyed a stress-free spiritual life — suffering little personal doubt. For many saints this is accurate: St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century author of "An Introduction to the Devout Life," said that he never went more than 15 minutes without being aware of God's presence. Yet the opposite experience is so common it even has a name. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the "dark night," the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God's existence.

During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as "The Little Flower," faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death. "If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into," she said to the sisters in her convent. But Mother Teresa's "dark night" was of a different magnitude, lasting for decades. It is almost unparalleled in the lives of the saints.

In time, with the aid of the priest who acted as her spiritual director, Mother Teresa concluded that these painful experiences could help her identify not only with the abandonment that Jesus Christ felt during the crucifixion, but also with the abandonment that the poor faced daily. In this way she hoped to enter, in her words, the "dark holes" of the lives of the people with whom she worked. Paradoxically, then, Mother Teresa's doubt may have contributed to the efficacy of one of the more notable faith-based initiatives of the last century.

Few of us, even the most devout believers, are willing to leave everything behind to serve the poor. Consequently, Mother Teresa's work can seem far removed from our daily lives. Yet in its relentless and even obsessive questioning, her life intersects with that of the modern atheist and agnostic. "If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, "I will surely be one of 'darkness.' "

Mother Teresa's ministry with the poor won her the Nobel Prize and the admiration of a believing world. Her ministry to a doubting modern world may have just begun.

James Martin is a Jesuit priest and the author of “My Life With the Saints.”

8/29/2007 9:21 PM
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The Dark Night

Thanks, Lori, for posting that article from the NY Times. Mother Teresa is one of my favorite saints. I have always admired the extraordinary courage and faith she showed in first leaving the familiarity of her home to join a foreign convent to become a missionary in a distant part of the world and later to leave the relative security of that convent to live on the streets in one of the most miserable and hopeless slums in the world, dealing with the sick, the abandoned, and the dying while simultaneously starting a new order of missionaries. If anyone seemed to be fulfilling what Christ asked of us and if anyone seemed close to God, it was her.

I have read several biographies of Mother Teresa and many of her own writings and had heard a few years ago about her struggles with doubt but until all the discussion about this new book hit the media, I wasn't aware of how pervasive and persistent her struggles were and how intense her feelings of abandonment. I have to admit that I was shocked and have been wondering why she had to endure all that. It seems very cruel considering what an extraordinarily good and exemplary life she led. I wonder how these revelations will affect the thousands of sisters in her order and others who have followed her path. Hopefully, they will remain faithful and loyal. However, Christopher Hitchens, who severely criticized her and basically labelled her a fraud, will, I'm sure, be celebrating.

A priest I know who spent a month on a special guided retreat once told me after having gone back to his parish and worked for a while that he felt so extremely close to God during the retreat and even for a while afterward but was terribly disconsolate when it seemed that that closeness had disappeared. It made me wonder if something like that was part of Mother Teresa's experience. She was so close to God that she could hear His voice. Then, when she immersed herself in the clamor and despair of the slums, she could no longer hear Him or feel His presence. The more intense the encounter, the more painful the loss. Yet, she continued doing the work she thought He wanted her to do. She always said that we should see God in everyone, especially in the most distressing examples of humanity. Perhaps, her loss of His presence was what drove her to continue to seek out and rescue one desperate soul after another. In looking into their faces, she was hoping to find Him again.

I would love to hear Benedict's views about her situation.

[Edited by benefan 8/29/2007 9:33 PM]
8/31/2007 1:00 AM
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Mother Teresa Persevered Through Doubt

A Light in the 21st Century's "Dark Night"

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, AUG. 30, 2007 ( As a respected Boston lawyer once remarked of recent biographies, "It's tough times for the dead." A case in point was the cover of last week's Time magazine. Splashed across the front page ran the headline "The Secret Life of Mother Teresa," accompanied by the gloomiest picture you ever saw of the saintly nun.

With its sensationalist title, Time magazine not only descended to the level of tabloid journalism, but betrayed a woeful ignorance of the meaning of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's spiritual journey.

Capitulating to the fad of finding the sordid behind the glitter, where titles like "Britney's Breakdown" or "Lindsay in Crisis" are guaranteed to boost sales, the article itself feeds into the mentality that things are never as pretty as they seem. In our age of masking our own shortcomings by pointing out the flaws in others, it suggests that Mother Teresa's joyous love of the poor hid a darker, almost sinister side.

Recent interest in the extraordinary founder of the Missionaries of Charity stemmed from the recently published book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light." Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator for the cause of canonization of the saintly nun who died in 1997, compiled her letters and writings, including a number that revealed Teresa's spiritual trials.

By releasing these documents, Father Kolodiejchuk sought to grant readers a window into the intimate spiritual life of Mother Teresa, and to offer inspiration and hope by recounting her challenges in following Christ.

Instead, some have twisted her doubts about her faith, which she confided in letters to her spiritual director, into an indictment of her sincerity and personal holiness. Time author David Van Biema writes, "Perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain."

These terms relate Mother Teresa's life to that of a comic actor, suggesting that her professional persona and her private self were separate. Yet Teresa did more than just smile for cameras; she demonstrated joyous love, through her every action, gesture and expression.

The predatory glee with which news services leapt upon word of Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul" resembled the same relish with which they report celebrity arrests. Questions such as, "Can she still be made a saint?" demonstrated an utter lack of knowledge regarding the Church's idea of sanctity while attempting to sow division by casting doubts on her holiness.

As a side note, Mother Teresa of Calcutta is blessed, which means that she is officially recognized by the Church as being in heaven. When she becomes a saint, worldwide devotion to Mother Teresa will be permitted, i.e. church dedication, invocation during the liturgy etc.

A different standard

The standards of the media are not those of saints. While Teresa herself feared falling into a sort of spiritual hypocrisy, the fact was that she, like many saints, possessed an especially keen sensitivity to how she fell short of Christ's example.

Celebrated atheists leapt to recruit the nun to their cause. Christopher Hitchens, who penned a vicious biography of Mother Teresa, was quoted extensively in the article. Seizing the opportunity to reach millions, Hitchens eagerly made his bid to turn Teresa into a poster child for nihilism.

Time also consulted psychologists to posthumously analyze Mother Teresa from her letters. It seems strange that so many people who do not believe in the soul felt themselves qualified to probe that of Mother Teresa's.

Although many have already rushed to quell these sparks, Mother Teresa obviously needs no defense. Happily situated in heaven along with other doubters like, well, St. Thomas, she is probably beseeching Jesus with her characteristic compassion to forgive Hitchens and the others "for they know not what they do."

Paradoxically, the divisive aspect of the stories has done what many Church synods couldn't. Liberal and traditional Catholics have joined forces to correct the record and to recognize Mother Teresa as an example for all people who suffer spiritual loneliness.

Her doubts and suffering, far from being a source of shame for those who love and admire this great woman, should make us proud to discover that she is an even greater hero than we thought.

For anyone seriously interested in the cause of Teresa, her spiritual difficulties come as no surprise. They were made known after her beatification in 2003. Discussing the subject at Roman dinner tables at the time, people spoke with awe of Mother Teresa's exceptional perseverance in the face of what would have crumbled anyone less attuned to God's grace.

Mother Teresa's experiences are not scandal, but a mirror of our own lonely age. While people today try to dispel feelings of loneliness with analysts, medications or pop spirituality, Teresa embraced her loneliness and clung to her faith in Jesus, which, though often devoid of feelings, was solid and profound. What many have failed to notice, in fact, is that a good number of her expressions of solitude are addressed to Jesus himself.

"Feeling it"

Carole Zaleski in "First Things" wrote that Teresa converted "her feeling of abandonment by God into an act of abandonment to God."

In many ways, her own sense of marginalization from God helped Mother Teresa to recognize loneliness in others. She proclaimed that there was "more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread." She realized that rejection and abandonment was not only the province of lepers, but present even in the inner life of those who appear to be successful and privileged.

How many times have we gone to Mass, not "feeling it," as modern speak would put it. Our lips moving, our gestures mechanical, but we remain distant from the reality of God and his love for us. In that emptiness, temptation raises its head, suggesting that rather than practice this "hypocrisy," we should forego Mass and go out for a round of golf instead.

Mother Teresa lived her doubts, not for an hour on Sunday, but every day as she tended the poor and dying in utter, relentless squalor. Her example reaches across from Christians to non-Christians.

Benedict XVI, as Father Joseph Ratzinger, made the interesting point in his 1963 "Introduction to Christianity" that "both the believer and the unbeliever share each in his own way, doubt and belief." That led him to notice that doubt could be a possible "avenue of communication" between the two.

Time and time again, saints show us that when they suffer, the solution is to look outside oneself, not further within. St. Alfonso Liguori and St. John of the Cross both overcame their own troubles by focusing on their calling. As one religious sister acutely observed, when Teresa couldn't find Jesus in her prayer life, she found him in the faces of her fellow human beings.

Teresa eventually came to give a meaning to her trials. She saw them as a privilege, the gift of sharing in Christ's loneliness on the cross.

In his film "The Passion," Mel Gibson painted a wrenching image of Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Amid oppressive darkness, the sight of Jesus, abandoned by his apostles, struggling to continue with his mission, confronts viewers with the sense of desolation that accompanied his sacrifice.

Saints like Blessed Teresa, who faced loneliness in their self-sacrifice, experienced a unique sharing in the mystery of Christ's passion. Like the purest gold, they have been forged in hotter fires.

Particularly in our era that gives more weight to feelings than facts and to sensation rather than sense, Mother Teresa teaches the world to persevere through doubt, pain and loneliness. In the dark spiritual night of the 21st-century, Mother Teresa of Calcutta's example is a shining beacon to us all.

* * *

Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian Art and Architecture at Duquesne University's Italian campus. She can be reached at

8/31/2007 9:10 PM
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Mother’s darkness

National Catholic Register -

It should be no surprise that a Time magazine story is using the 10th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa to suggest she doubted whether or not God existed. After all, to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus each year, national glossy newsweeklies regularly publish cover stories casting doubt on Jesus himself.

Time’s article, “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith,” focuses on a few sentences in a few letters of Blessed Teresa published in a new book to suggest that behind her public persona of a believer was a tortured soul defined by her doubt.

The article focused on the book, Come, Be My Light by Missionary of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator of her canonization cause.

But the contents of the book are nothing new – the National Catholic Register interviewed Father Kolodiejchuk on the same subjects in 2003. And Mother Teresa’s writings show that her faith was greater, not less, than we might have thought.

The more we learn about Mother Teresa, the more we discover that, even among the saints, she stands out. She was every bit as profound as her namesakes, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Many accounts of her life falsely describe a woman who was so moved by pity for the poor that she gladly devoted her life to their service. But she didn’t go gladly.

“How could I?” she said. “I have been and am very happy as a Loreto Nun. To leave that which I love and expose myself to new labors and suffering, which will be great, to be a laughingstock of so many, especially religious, to cling and choose deliberately the hard things on an Indian life, to loneliness and ignominy, to uncertainty – and all this because Jesus wants it, because something is calling me to leave all and gather the few to live his life, and to do his work in India.”

Her postulator said that her Yes was rewarded with a “real, close, intense union with Jesus in 1946 and 1947.” But then she experienced what Teresa and Thérèse had experienced: the agonizing feeling of abandonment by God that St. John of the Cross dubbed “the dark night of the soul.”

This spiritual dark night is nothing like the tortured doubts of “postmodern” man. It is the same experience as Jesus’ agony from the cross, when he said, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” and “I thirst.”

The difference between the doubt of a modern atheist and spiritual darkness is as distinct as the difference between a “Dear John” note and an “I miss you, Johnny” letter. These saints never cease having a relationship with God; on the contrary, their relationship grows more intense as they long to be reunited. They live the experience the Song of Solomon refers to: “I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him.”

The dark night lasted as long as a year or two for Teresa and Thérèse. For Mother Teresa, it lasted 50 years. “Mother was sharing in the longing and sufferings of her beloved,” said the postulator of her cause.

And far from masking this aspect of her faith life, as the article suggests she did, Mother Teresa put the insights she gained from it at the center of her congregation’s spirituality. Missionaries of Charity chapels are adorned with only a crucifix and the words “I thirst” over the tabernacle.

“This seems to me the most heroic thing of her spiritual life,” said the priest. “Mother was not only sharing in the physical poverty of the poor, but also the sufferings of Jesus – his longing for union, as expressed in Gethsemane and on the cross.”

Her unique experiences are what make Mother Teresa such a powerful intercessor for the church of the 21st century.

With the publication of her letters, it’s as if Jesus’ message, which was once just for Mother Teresa, is now for the whole church.

Mother reported to a bishop in a 1946 letter how Jesus called her.

“You are afraid,” Jesus told her. “How your fear hurts me. Fear not. It is I who am asking you to do this for me. Fear not. Even if the whole world is against you, laughs at you, your companions and superiors look down on you, fear not. It is I in you, with you, for you.”

“You will suffer, suffer very much, but remember I am with you,” said another. “Only obey – obey very cheerfully and promptly and without any questions. Just only obey. I shall never leave you if you obey.”

Our age exaggerates physical beauty. But Mother Teresa’s is at the same time one of the most attractive and unattractive world-famous faces in recent memory. Ours is an age that detests hypocrisy – and Mother Teresa lived her call to serve the poor to the point of personal exhaustion, even being cheerful for their sake. Our age is skeptical about faith – but Mother Teresa kept her faith despite unimaginable spiritual and physical hardships.

Ten years after her death, Mother Teresa is inspiring us as never before.


Surely, this is all Divine Providence. Would anyone be paying this much attention to her at this time if the book had not come out?

As for me, personally, this has all explained abundantly the strange impressions that I drew from my brief meeting and exposure to her - such a daily and long-standing spiritual ordeal does leave traces that should not and do not detract from the genuine Christian value and validity of all she did for others...

A further aggravation to any Christian who experiences such doubts must also be the awareness that part of the 'abandonment' one feels is necessarily 'selfish'. Abandonment is a most severe blow to one's self-esteem, so one has to contend with the ego and self-pride that complicate the picture. And what better way to dominate these than to go out and further humble oneself even more by working daily among and for the 'poorest of the poor'?

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/31/2007 10:39 PM]
9/1/2007 3:06 AM
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One more commentary on the current flap about Mother Teresa. This is by the pope's preacher whose short interview on this subject with Vatican Radio is posted higher up this thread.

The ‘Atheism’ of Mother Teresa

She became poor to serve the materially poor — did she similarly share the sufferings of the spiritually poor?

National Catholic Register
September 9-15, 2007 Issue

What happened after Mother Teresa said her Yes to the divine inspiration that was calling her to place herself at the service of the poorest of the poor?

The world knew well all that happened around her — the whirlwind development of her charitable activities — but until her death, no one knew what happened within her.

That is now revealed by her personal diaries and her letters to her spiritual director, published by Doubleday, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of her death, under the title: Mother Theresa. Come, Be My Light.

Some have completely misunderstood the nature of these writings, thinking that they oblige us to reconsider the personality of Mother Theresa and her faith and holiness. Far from undermining the stature of Mother Theresa’s holiness, these new documents will immensely magnify it, placing her at the side of the greatest mystics of Christianity.

Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner, who knew her, has written, “With the beginning of her new life in the service of the poor, darkness came on her with oppressive power.”

A few brief passages suffice to give an idea of the density of the darkness in which she found herself: “There is so much contradiction in my soul, such deep longing for God, so deep that it is painful, a suffering continual — yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal. ... Heaven means nothing to me, it looks like an empty place.”

It was not difficult to recognize immediately in this experience of Mother Teresa a classic case of that which scholars of mysticism, following St. John of the Cross, usually call “the dark night of the soul.” Tauler gives an impressive description of this stage of the spiritual life:

“Now, we are abandoned in such a way that we no longer have any knowledge of God and we fall into such anguish so as not to know any more if we were ever on the right path, nor do we know if God does or does not exist, or if we are alive or dead. So that a very strange sorrow comes over us that makes us think that the whole world in its expanse oppresses us. We no longer have any experience or knowledge of God, and even all the rest seems repugnant to us, so that it seems that we are prisoners between two walls.”

Everything leads one to think that this darkness was with Mother Teresa until her death, with a brief parenthesis in 1958, during which she was able to write jubilantly:

“Today my soul is filled with love, with joy untold, with an unbroken union of love.”

If, from a certain moment, she no longer speaks about it, it is not because the night was finished, but rather because she got used to living with it. Not only did she accept it, but she recognized the extraordinary grace it held for her.

“I have begun to love my darkness for I believe now that it is a part, a very small part, of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.”

The Silence of Mother Theresa

The most perfumed flower of Mother Teresa’s night is her silence about it.

She was afraid, in speaking about it, of attracting attention to herself. Even the people who were closest to her did not suspect anything, until the end, of this interior torment of Mother.

By her order, the spiritual director had to destroy all her letters and if some have been saved it is because he, with her permission, had made a copy for the archbishop and future Cardinal T. Picachy, which were found after his death. Fortunately for us, the archbishop refused to acquiesce to the request made also to him by Mother to destroy them.

The most insidious danger for the soul in the dark night of the spirit is to realize that it is, precisely, the dark night, of that which great mystics have lived before her and therefore to be part of a circle of chosen souls.

With the grace of God, Mother Teresa avoided this risk, hiding her torment from all under a constant smile.

“The whole time smiling — sisters and people pass such remarks — they think my faith, trust and love are filling my very being. ... Could they but know — and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness and misery,” she wrote.

A Desert Father says: “No matter how great your sufferings are, your victory over them is in silence.”

Mother Teresa put this into practice in a heroic manner.

Not Just Purification

But why this strange phenomenon of a night of the spirit that lasts practically the whole of life? (The same happened to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina: he was convinced throughout his life, that stigmata were not a sign of predilection or acceptance on the part of God but, on the contrary, of his refusal and just divine punishment for his sins!)

Here there is something new in regard to that which teachers of the past have lived and explained, including St. John of the Cross. This dark night is not explained only with the traditional idea of passive purification, the so-called purgative way, which prepares for the illuminative and the unitive way.

Mother Teresa was convinced that it was precisely this in her case; she thought that her “I” was especially hard to overcome, if God was so constrained to keep her such a long time in that state.

But this was not true.

The interminable night of some modern saints is the means of protection invented by God for today’s saints who live and work constantly under the spotlight of the media. It is the asbestos suit for the one who must walk amid the flames; it is the insulating material that impedes the escape of the electric current, causing short circuits.

St. Paul said: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

The thorn in the flesh that was God’s silence preserved Mother Teresa from any intoxication, amid all the world’s talk about her, even at the moment of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The interior pain that I feel,” she said, “is so great that I don’t feel anything from all the publicity and people’s talking.”

How wrong author and atheist Christopher Hitchens is when he writes “God is not great. Religion poisons everything,” and presents Mother Theresa as a product of the media-era.

But there is an even more profound reason that explains why these nights are prolonged for a whole lifetime: the imitation of Christ.

This mystical experience is a participation in the dark night of the spirit that Jesus had in Gethsemane and in which he died on Calvary, crying: “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?”

Mother Teresa was able to see her trial ever more clearly as an answer to her desire to share the sitio (thirst) of Jesus on the cross: “If my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation give you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as you wish. ... Imprint on my soul and life the suffering of your heart. ... I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. ... Please do not take the trouble to return soon. I am ready to wait for you for all eternity.”

It would be a serious error to think that the life of these persons was all gloom and suffering.

Deep down in their souls, these persons enjoy a peace and joy unknown by the rest of men, deriving from the certainty, stronger than doubt, of being in the will of God. St. Catherine of Genoa compares the suffering of souls in this state to that of purgatory and says that the latter “is so great, that it is only comparable to that of hell,” but that there is in them a “very great contentment” that can only be compared to that of the saints in paradise.

The joy and serenity that emanated from Mother Teresa’s face was not a mask, but the reflection of profound union with God in which her soul lived. It was she who “deceived” herself about her spiritual status, not the people.

By the Side of the Atheists

The world of today knows a new category of people: the atheists in good faith, those who live painfully the situation of the silence of God, who do not believe in God but do not boast about it; rather they experience the existential anguish and the lack of meaning of everything: They too, in their own way, live in the dark night of the spirit.

Albert Camus called them “the saints without God.” The mystics exist above all for them; they are their travel and table companions. Like Jesus, they “sat down at the table of sinners and ate with them” (see Luke 15:2).

This explains the passion in which certain atheists, once converted, pore over the writings of the mystics: Claudel, Bernanos, the two Maritains, L. Bloy, the writer J.K. Huysmans and so many others over the writings of Angela of Foligno; T.S. Eliot on those of Julian of Norwich.

There they find again the same scenery that they had left, but this time illuminated by the sun. Few know that Samuel Beckett, the author of Waiting for Godot, the most representative drama of the theater of the absurd, in his free time read St. John of the Cross.

The word “atheist” can have an active and a passive meaning. It can indicate someone who rejects God, but also one who — at least so it seems to him — is rejected by God. In the first case, it is a blameworthy atheism (when it is not in good faith), in the second an atheism of sorrow or of expiation.

In the latter sense, we can say that the mystics, in the night of the spirit, are “a-theist,” that Jesus himself on the cross was an “a-theist”, without-God.

Mother Teresa has words that no one would have suspected of her: “They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God. ... In my soul I feel just this terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing. Jesus please forgive the blasphemy.”

But one is aware of the different nature, of solidarity and of expiation, of this “atheism” of hers:

“I wish to live in this world that is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them — to take upon myself something of their suffering.”

The clearest sign that this is an atheism of a completely different nature is the unbearable suffering that it causes to the mystics. Normal atheists don’t torment themselves because of the absence of God.

The mystics arrived within a step of the world of those who live without God; they have experienced the dizziness of throwing themselves down. Again, Mother Teresa who writes to her spiritual father: “I have been on the verge of saying — No. ... I feel as if something will break in me one day. ... Pray for me that I may not refuse God in this hour — I don’t want to do it, but I am afraid I may do it.”

Because of this the mystics are the ideal evangelizers in the post-modern world, where one lives etsi Deus non daretur (as if God did not exist).

They remind the honest atheists that they are not “far from the Kingdom of God”; that it would be enough for them to jump to find themselves on the side of the mystics, passing from nothingness to the All.

Karl Rahner was right to say: “Christianity of the future, will either be mystical or it will not be at all.” Padre Pio and Mother Teresa are the answer to this sign of the times.

We should not “waste” the saints, reducing them to distributors of graces or of good examples.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher to the papal household.

9/1/2007 7:34 AM
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Re: A Saint's Dark Night
I thought I'd post some of the 'to the Editor' letters posted today in the New York Times in response to the article "A Saint's Dark Night".


To the Editor:

Re " A Saint's Dark Night," by James Martin(Op-Ed Aug. 29):
As an admitted agnostic, I have to say that this wonderful woman, Mother Teresa, should be a saint if such a thing exists. How could she have lived the life she did, and brought hope to so many while fighting such terrible demons, if she had not been in some manner holy?

Clawson, Mich.,Aug. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

I am not religious, but I must agree with James Marin when he points out that "gleeful detractors" might use the recent revelations about Mother Teresa's religious crisis as an example of the "hypocrisy of organized religion."

I can only say that people who take Mother Teresa's doubts as a smoking gun are not only being disingenuous, but also ignoring Catholic doctrine. One key concept of the church is that salvation and true faith are a lifelong journey, not an instant entitlement. One can assume that Mother Teresa's wrenching letters and journal entries are proof of such a journey, not her lack of faith.

When politicians throw around the word "compassionate" with such ease and cynicism, Mother Teresa's selfless work can only be a testament to the depth and strength of her beliefs, and provides inspiration for everyone, even the nonreligious.

Tuscon, Aug. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

St. John of the Cross might have called the terrified sense of abandonment felt by Mother Teresa the "dark night," but nowadays it is known as depression.

Haverford, Pa., Aug. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

James Martin writes that "gleeful detractors" might think that Mother Teresa's doubts about God show the folly of organized religion. He makes it sound as if there are secular people who think poorly of Mother Teresa for having doubts.

Only the faithful could find fault with doubt. The secular have doubts pretty much by definition. I tend to think that the only people who are disturbed by this and feel the need to rationalize Mother Teresa's misgivings are those who want to put "St." in front of her name. The rest of us find her doubts a curiosity, but they in no way diminish her great works.

Elizaville, N.Y., Aug. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

It is not uncommon for those whose devotion to God may be public knowledge to have doubts about God or a short- or long-term crisis of faith. This experience is a part of our human history. Moments of religious uncertainty, even in despair, are no less part of faith than they are an aspect of living.

Many people will find it helpful knowing that spiritual models also struggle with doubting God or the value of religious faith. This honesty can assist us in taking more responsibility for how we live.

Much of popular Christian preaching promotes that our goal is to find a purpose to drive us, and then we will prosper. God is not our cosmic bellhop waiting to respond to our beacon call. The importance of faith for many people is too complex and wonderful to have its meaning reduced to how comfortable it makes us feel.

Stratford, Conn., Aug. 29, 2007
The writer is a former chaplain of Yale University.

[Edited by loriRMFC 9/1/2007 8:04 AM]
9/2/2007 1:50 AM
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(Lori, thanks for posting those letters. It seems that Mother Teresa struck a chord with many unbelievers. However, I have just stumbled upon Christopher Hitchens' comments on this subject and he is not so charitable. No surprise there.)

Hitchens Takes on Mother Teresa

The nun's leading critic argues that her crisis of faith—revealed in newly published letters—was brought on by the crushing unreasonableness of the Roman Catholic Church.

Teresa, Bright and Dark

By Christopher Hitchens
Updated: 12:46 p.m. CT Aug 29, 2007

Aug. 29, 2007 - … The publication of Mother Teresa’s letters, concerning her personal crisis of faith, can be seen either as an act of considerable honesty or of extraordinary cynicism (or perhaps both of the above). These scrawled, desperate documents came to light as part of the investigation into her suitability for sainthood; an investigation conducted by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who is the editor of this volume. And they were actually first published in the fall of 2002, by the Zenit news agency—a Vatican-based outlet associated with a militant Catholic right-wing group known as the Legion of Christ. So, which is the more striking: that the faithful should bravely confront the fact that one of their heroines all but lost her own faith, or that the Church should have gone on deploying, as an icon of favorable publicity, a confused old lady who it knew had for all practical purposes ceased to believe?

Crises of faith, or “dark nights of the soul” as they were termed by St. John of the Cross, are not a new idea to Roman Catholics. St. Therese of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite who was the namesake of Mother Teresa, seems to have died while enduring an experience of spiritual night that she likened to a dark tunnel. Making the best of it, many confessors and theologians have even argued that such tests are actually a kind of confirmation or vindication. The Rev. Joseph Neuner, one of those to whom Mother Teresa turned in her own agony, enjoined her to believe that her ordeal gave her a share in the Passion of Christ, and that His absence was in a way a “sure sign” of his “hidden presence” in her life. This slightly convenient diagnosis seems to have cheered her up, if only temporarily. (Here might be the place to declare my interest, and to state that at the invitation of the Vatican, I testified against the beatification and canonization of Mother Teresa, as well as to confess that I tend to believe that the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence.)

Moreover, this was no mere temporary visitation of doubt. Here are some of the things that she told her various advisers. “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 but does not speak.” “Such deep longing for God—and … repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal.—[The saving of] Souls holds no attraction—Heaven means nothing.” “What do I labor for? If there be no God—there can be no soul—if there is no Soul then Jesus—You also are not true.” Like an old-fashioned Morse signal, the cryptic and dot-dash punctuation somehow serves to emphasize and amplify the distress.

It is no small thing for a Catholic to feel no “presence” whatever, “neither in her heart nor in the eucharist,” as Father Kolodiejchuk has phrased it. The sacrament of the mass is not to be undergone in a wrong frame of mind, and there are hints here and there that Mother Teresa was afraid she was endangering her soul. She felt that she should not even be thinking such things: “So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them—because of the blasphemy—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.—I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?” That last question in particular must have been an annihilating difficult one to face.

Now, it might seem glib of me to say that this is all rather unsurprising, and that it is the inevitable result of a dogma that asks people to believe impossible things and then makes them feel abject and guilty when their innate reason rebels. The case of Mother Teresa, who could not force herself into accepting the facile cure-all of “faith,” is that of a fairly simple woman struggling to be honest with herself, while also—this is important—striving to be an example to others. And I believe I have a possible explanation for the crisis. It derives from something that Lord Macaulay said, when reviewing Leopold von Ranke’s "History of the Popes." The Roman Catholic Church, he wrote, “thoroughly understands what no other Church has ever understood, how to deal with enthusiasts” [my italics]. Wise bishops have long known to beware of the fanatical and the overzealous. After being lectured on doctrinal matters by the ultraconservative convert Evelyn Waugh, the pope is said to have concluded the audience by murmuring, “Yes, Mr. Waugh. I am a Catholic, too.” When Mother Teresa first rebelled against the quiet life of the Loreto Sisters in 1946, and sought permission from her superiors to start a new order—The Missionaries of Charity—she was at first turned down and told to stay in her allotted place of humility. The local archbishop, a man named Ferdinand Perier, then found he had a true believer on his hands: a woman hungry for humility and yet fantastically immodest. (“Come Be My Light,” the slightly sickly subtitle of this book, is what Mother Teresa claims, not that she said to Jesus, but that He said to her.) Only after she had wearied the diocese with demands that her ambition be referred to the Vatican did she finally, after two years of pleading and cajoling, get her way. And then, two months after she started her own show in Calcutta in 1948, the demons checked in and, in effect, never quite checked out again. She got what she wanted, and found it a crushing disappointment.

It seems, therefore, that all the things that made Mother Teresa famous—the endless hard toil, the bitter austerity, the ostentatious religious orthodoxy—were only part of an effort to still the misery within. Again, the timeline would seem to support this interpretation. After 10 years of gnawing doubt, she reported a brief remission on the death of Pope Pius XII in the fall of 1958. Praying for him at a requiem mass, she found herself relieved of “the long darkness … that strange suffering.” The respite only lasted for five weeks and then she was back “in the tunnel” once more. Soon after came the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which at a gathering of India’s Catholics in Bombay she violently opposed, saying that what was wanted was not new thinking but more work and more faith. What could be a clearer indication of a deep need to suppress all doubt, both in herself and others?

Not many years later, she became a world-class celebrity with the film (and book) about her: "Something Beautiful for God," authored by the worldly English eccentric Malcolm Muggeridge. After that, her star power was so intense that the Church forgot Macaulay’s wisdom and gave up any attempt to discipline her apparently enthusiastic fundamentalism. If Santayana was right to define fanaticism as “redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim,” then Mother Teresa’s international crusade against divorce, abortion and contraception was the tribute that doubt paid to certainty: a strenuous and almost hysterical effort to drown out the awful fear of “absence.” One strongly suspects that, like not a few overpromoted figures, she suffered from more self-hatred the more she was overpraised. (After receiving one of many international prizes, she wrote: “This means nothing to me, because I don’t have Him.”)

Not perhaps to push my analysis too far, but it could also explain some of the things that alarmed even her defenders: the accepting of stolen money from the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, for example, or the compromises she made with the tyrannical Indira Gandhi or the shady Charles Keating of savings-and-loan notoriety. Who cares about ignoble surrenders to the things of this impure world if they will fuel the endless drive to abolish misgiving through overwork? The same goes for the alarming doctrinal excesses. Every Catholic is supposed to regard abortion as an abomination (and, if it matters, I concur). But surely it takes someone both insecure and fanatical to exceed the official teaching and to tell the Nobel Prize audience, as she did, that abortion is the greatest threat to world peace?

Toward the end of her days, we have been informed by Archbishop D’Souza of Calcutta, her troubled and sleepless condition gave rise to such concern that she was subjected to an exorcism. According to this same clerical authority, the medieval banishment of the demons allowed her a good night’s sleep before her death. One is glad to learn of it, and to know that she found a sort of peace. But since then, she has been posthumously exploited for having worked a medical “miracle” from beyond the grave: an episode which (to put it mildly) no respectable Bengali physician can confirm. I say it as calmly as I can—the Church should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author of “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.” His most recent book is “God Is Not Great."

[Edited by benefan 9/2/2007 1:58 AM]
9/2/2007 1:54 AM
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(And here is a rebuttal posted on, a blog by Hugh Hewitt.)

Mother Teresa – The Scandal of her Faith

by Dr. Anthony Lilles
Academic Dean
St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Denver, Colorado

Whenever someone harshly criticizes a great person, they usually reveal to us more about themselves and their own culture than they actually do about the person they think they understand. This is difficult not to see in Christopher Hitchens’s article, Teresa, Bright and Dark. Although a very intelligent critic of her life, this author betrays a misunderstanding of her faith in general and a bias against her community of faith in particular. Both his bias and his misunderstanding completely color his interpretation of her experience -- for him, she is as pathetic as the Church she promoted. This, however, was not what Mother Teresa saw or experienced in the Catholic Church. Instead, her letters show she entrusted the deepest searching of her heart to those in the Church whom she believed could help her remain faithful, even while she felt such faithfulness impossible. In so doing, she witnesses to dimensions of the Christian faith that contemporary thinkers cannot quite grasp, dimensions of faith our western culture needs to rediscover today more than ever.

Before providing alternative interpretation of her faith and of the Catholic Church, we note here that Hitchens not only has a bias against the Catholic Church and Mother Teresa's life of faith, he also has a peculiar notion of faith, one that reduces faith to some sort of dangerous hysteria. In all likelihood, such a view would be validated by many people who believe themselves to be religious but in fact are irrational. Pope Benedict attempted to address this last year in his address at Regensberg. With this religious irrationality, perhaps because of it, there is a contemporary prejudice that sees faith only in terms of an emotional experience, or else some kind of head trip. Hitchens's interpretation of Teresa's faith suggests that he too shares in this prejudice. Further investigation into his notion of faith would be required, however, before one could determine what exactly he thinks faith is. But whatever he thinks it is, it is not what Christians have in mind when they live out their faith.

For Christians, those filled with faith love until the end – whether in marriage or in another kind of life devoted to God and neighbor. Faithfulness in love is characteristic of the Christian faith in such wise that it constitutes the very notion of Christian holiness. Hitchens, even when pointing to her mistakes, is not able to avoid the faithfulness of this religious woman. Since his own notion of faith is ambiguous and view of the Church biased, his claim that her faithfulness in love was somehow disingenuous is not compelling. It ignores or downplays overwhelming evidence. Everyone struggles with thoughts and feelings, and only a few great people are faithful in love in the face of these struggles. In light of her faithfulness to those she felt called to serve, a more compelling interpretation of her letters is that this tiny woman may be one of these great people, perhaps among the greatest of our time.

The brightest minds of Western Civilization show us that one of the signs of true greatness is the ability to be transparent and vulnerable at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. Such truly great men and women have the courage to face what most of us do not. Rather than diverting their attention from difficult questions and dissipating themselves in selfish pre-occupations, the truly great among us fearlessly deal with themselves and with others. One sees this kind of candor and courage in St. Augustine’s Confessions. Because of his courage and self-awareness civilization has attained a deeper understanding of the divine in human experience.

Hitchens was selective in the citations he provided in his article but even these suggest we are dealing with a kind of courage and candor very similar to Augustine of Hippo. Both Augustine and Theresa push past the accepted boundaries of piety in relentless pursuit of authenticity. True, her rhetoric is much more simple than that of Augustine. Nor is she posing for the Church a new theological synthesis, like we find in the writings of that 4th Century bishop. What she does provide in her private reflections is the very thing that makes Augustine’s public writings so relevant for people today – honest reflection on the experience of faith. Could her witness encourage others to face the dark difficulties in their hearts, especially those Hitchens considers fanatics?

Mother Teresa was not afraid to accept and explore the most difficult feelings every person suffers – feelings like abandonment. She apparently was also someone humble enough to admit that there were things she could not understand, and she did not try to explain them away. She wrestled with them intensely. And, she did this not only for herself, but also for those she loved. Someone who did not hesitate to embrace those dying in the Calcutta gutters had to deal with such feelings, or she would not be able to console those whose extreme distress pierced her heart. What she shows in this struggle is that faith is something deeper than our feelings and deeper than our understanding. She struggled with what seemed to be the absence of God in her life, and by an act of faith in God’s love even when she did not feel it, she was able to help many others find God's love, especially those engaged in their final struggle. Furthermore, throughout her struggle, in different ways, she found support for her faith and help in her struggles through the Church.

At its deepest reality, Catholic Church believes it is a communion of love. The Church publically holds this even though human wickedness often appears to be more powerful than God’s love in its own life. For individual Catholics, such faith is a gift from God. But it is not a feeling. It is a decision, the very decision Mother Teresa made everyday of her own struggles. The good news is that Christians believe that they never struggle alone, even when it seems that way. In the Church, believers find support with one another and with God even when human limitations seem overwhelming, and God seems to have forsaken them. Mother Teresa was part of this communion and relied on it as she persevered in her own struggle to love.

If she did not really believe, she could have diverted her attention from this struggle. This is what most of us in fact try to do with our own difficulties. Our marriages and friendships suffer as a result because we do not find what we need to persevere in our love for one another. She, instead, chose to face her struggles and to do so, her letters show that she humbly sought help from those she trusted. The communion of the Church offered her in this way something of a support, enough of a support that she could persevere in her work of love. This is why she knew how important it was for her to serve the poorest of the poor. She understood in a singular way how much they needed someone to help them too.

Another sign of greatness which Hitchens misinterprets is the courage to proclaim what is unpopular even in the midst of one’s own struggles. Most of us when confronted with difficulties turn in on ourselves and we struggle to be of service to others. In fact, we inflict our unhappiness on those around us, knocking them down so that we feel better about ourselves. This is especially true when our personal difficulties are intense and extended over a long period of time. This tiny woman, rather than writhing in her misery or lashing out in judgment of others, was actually concerned for others beyond herself. Looking past her personal difficulties, she successfully identified the sources of suffering in our culture today and courageously spoke out about them.

It is misleading to say that she towed the party line. In fact, many Church leaders, far from seeing her as a mouthpiece for the Church, started out disagreeing with her. They did not think she truly represented the sense of the faithful, an essential dimension in Catholic teaching. Behind this concern was a deeper question. What she was doing was new and dynamic, but whether it was the real deal was not easy to grasp at first. Some leaders suspected, as does Hitchens now, that she was not a witness to holiness, but an advocate of irrational fanaticism. Most great people must suffer this suspicion at some point. But Mother Teresa was ultimately persuasive for many of her critics because she persevered in her concern for others even as she suffered her own trials of faith. Whenever someone perseveres in love, others are encouraged. In the case of this lady, the hearts of many were pierced because her faith was more than just words. Her faithfulness in love gave her words a spiritual authority difficult to ignore. Her stances on social topics were taken out of a heartfelt concern for others in the belief their lives mattered to the God who loves them, and with the conviction they had the right to know that.

By her faith, what Mother Teresa did what every great man and woman has done, and every true Christian seeks to do. That is this: to live for others. She chose to do this in the context of her faith, even when her emotions and understanding could not support her. Here, the mystery of Mother Teresa’s faith is much richer than Hitchens sees. For Christians, faith means specifically to imitate Christ: to accept God's love even when it cannot be felt and to love as he commanded even when it does not seem to make sense to do so. By her faith, even when she could not feel God’s love and wondered whether it was real at all, Mother Teresa chose to believe in that love enough to reach out to the world: to the lonely, to the abandoned, to the dying, and to the poorest of the poor. For Hitchens living out such a decision is a scandal. For Christians, it is the mystery of the Cross.

9/3/2007 5:01 PM
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September 3

For now, I will take the easy way out again and take this post from Argent by the Tiber on her blog

Adriaen Isenbrant (1490-1551), Mass of St. Gregory

Only thirty-three years after the death of St. Benedict, and almost exactly one century after the date of his birth, the Monastery of Monte Cassino was razed by the invading Lombards. According to tradition the resident monks fled to Rome and found refuge near the Lateran Basilica. Very possibly it was there that the future pope was first introduced to the Rule of St. Benedict.

Gregory I, pope from 590 to 604 and the last of the Latin Fathers of the Western Church, was born the scion of the patrician gens Anicia and the son of a Roman senator in 540. His family was devoutly Christian and had already produced two pontiffs. If further proof were needed as to their place in the Church, history could show that not only his own mother, Sylvia, but two of his father's sisters would eventually be canonized.

In 573, at the age of thirty-three, Gregory was appointed Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of the city of Rome), a position of considerable power, but resigned within a year to pursue monastic life. He founded with the help of his vast financial holdings seven monasteries, of which six were on family estates in Sicily. A seventh, which he placed under the patronage of St. Andrew and which he himself joined, was erected on the Clivus Scauri in Rome.

By 578 his reputation was such that Pope Benedict I appointed him one of the seven Regionarii (deacons) of Rome. In the following year he was dispatched by Pope Pelagius II as apocrisiarus (residential ambassador) to the Imperial court in Constantinople.

The first of his monumental commentaries, MORALIA IN IOB was undertaken at this time. Initially intended as a series of conferences for monks, this reflection on the BOOK OF JOB would eventually grow to thirty-five volumes and was only completed many years later in Rome. The work begins with a discussion of the literal meaning of scripture, and then veers into allegorical and mystical interpretations. The author then presents the moral applications of these interpretations. MORALIA IN IOB, as intended by its author, would contemplate the totality of Christian doctrine and prove to be Gregory's longest work.

Upon his eventual return to Rome Gregory served as Abbot of St. Andrew's for about five years. However, in 590 his life was once again disrupted when Pelagius II died and he was unanimously chosen as his successor. With great reluctance he accepted, and was consecrated on September 3rd of that same year.

At the time he ascended to the papal throne, the Western world was in turmoil. The once-powerful empire had crumpled to its knees before the onslaught of the new barbaric kingdoms of Europe, who in turn were wrestling each other for the the remains. Italy was being ravaged by the Lombards, and confronted by this fury the Imperial Exarchate in Ravenna was helpless.

Thus, since the temporal powers were unable to provide for the security of their citizens, the papacy, in the person of Gregory was forced to assume responsibility for the welfare of the people, a task not formerly under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

Using skills learned during his tenures as prefect and ambassador, he concluded an agreement in 598 between himself and the Lombard duke of Spoleto, thus halting the invasion and restoring some manner of peace and security to the country. He also reorganized the vast holdings of the Church, at the time extending from Tuscany to Sicily, into what was to become the Papal States.

This badly needed unification and consolidation of the patrimony of St Peter further helped to stabilize Italian life by increasing the value of the Church's holdings and making it more responsive to the hungry and suffering.

His concern for the spiritual well-being of the Church, and the pastoral care he lavished upon it is shown in his work on behalf of stricter formation for priests and bishops, in his liturgical developments and reforms, and in his enthusiastic propagation and diffusion of monasticism, for which he is often called the co-founder of the Benedictine Order.

A monk himself, the first to be elected pope, his Anglo-Saxon Mission under the leadership of St. Augustine of Canterbury, would eventually result in the conversion of England to Catholicism and the subsequent introduction of the Rule of St. Benedict. In turn, grateful monasteries would enthusiastically promote the teachings of their greatest patron.

Gregory's reputation as a Doctor of the Church rests on the insights he brought to his studies of spiritual life. His oeuvre encompasses massive correspondence (some 854 extant letters), the MORALIA IN IOB, his "Dialogues" on the lives of the saints of Italy, homilies, and the monumental LIBER REGULAE PASTORALIS.

This book of pastoral rules covering apostolic work and the spiritual life was as important to the episcopacy as Benedict's Rule was to monasticism, and its influence on the Church was to reign unchallenged until the advent of St. Thomas Aquinas many centuries later.

In fact, in the field of moral theology he is often considered first of the Latin Fathers, and St. Thomas himself would cite him some 374 times in the 242 articles of the second part of SUMMA THEOLOGIAE.

Gregory was also active in the liturgical reform of the Roman Rite, though admittedly the extent of his actual contributions to the Gregorian Sacramentary are still to be ascertained.

However, his overall understanding of scripture had a profound influence on the intellectual and spiritual climate of the Middle Ages, and his reputation in the Church can be attested to by the critical attention paid his works even in our post-Vatican II era.

After his death in 604, on the 12th of March, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim. He was subsequently named a Doctor of the Church and is one of only two pontiffs (the other being Pope St. Leo I) to be vested with the title GREAT.

To the popular mind he is perhaps best known for his role in the creation of the forms of musical worship that came to be known as Gregorian Chant.

Gregory originated the title which the Bishops of Rome throughout the centuries have adopted: Servus servorum Dei, "servant of the servants of God."

9/3/2007 7:22 PM
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A life of suffering

The Hindu
Sept. 2, 2007

Today Bharanamganam, in Kottayam district, is known as Lissuex of India after the birthplace of St. Teresa of Lissuex in France.

A life of prayer saturated with suffering is increasingly becoming a ‘no man’s land’ today. However, believers would never dare to deny its value and meaning in their onward journey. This is what Blessed Alphonsa, a Catholic nun from Kerala soon to be declared saint, showed and continues to do so after her death seven decades ago.

On June 1, Pope Benedict XVI authorised the Vatican’s Office for the Causes of Saints to canonise her. When the church officially declares her a saint, Blessed Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception will become the first woman and the second saint from India; the first being Saint Gonsalo Garcia, a Franciscan lay brother from Bassein, nowVasai, near Mumbai. Gonsalo Garcia suffered martyrdom by crucifixion in 1597 in Nagasaki, Japan and Pope Pius IX canonised him in 1862.

Cheerful offering

Unlike Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkota, Blessed Alphonsa was never known for her social outreach ministries. Her life was largely confined to the four walls of her convent and to her bed due to her illness. She transformed her years of suffering into a cheerful offering to Jesus. About suffering she wrote, “Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn into flour. With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist. Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice. This juice turns into wine. Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings.” In all those years of her suffering she was constantly guided by this philosophy.

Other than an insatiable zeal for a total and unconditional surrender to Jesus, there was nothing exceptional in the little girl, Annakutty, as she was affectionately called at home. Born in a traditional Catholic family in Kudamaloor, Kerala in 1910, she lost her mother soon after her birth. At 17 years, she joined the Franciscan Clarist convent at Bharanamganam, Kerala and received her religious name, Alphonsa.

As a nun, she taught briefly in an elementary school. But her continuous and recurring illnesses finally claimed her life on July 28, 1946 when she was 36. Before long, her students began visiting her tomb and offering prayers. As they continued, they started receiving favours. Ever since, her tomb has become a well known pilgrim destination. Today Bharanamganam, in Kottayam district, is also known as Lissuex of India after the birthplace of St. Teresa of Lissuex, France.

Stages of canonisation

In the Catholic Church, pronouncing a person saint is a laborious and time-consuming task. For any deceased Catholic, the process should begin from the local level. At the demand of those who received favours through the intercession of a deceased person, the diocesan authorities begin the process. When this stage ends, the candidate will be called Servant of God. In the case of Blessed Alphonsa, the diocesan process began in 1953 at the diocesan centre, Pala. Then the case is referred to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints (CCS) in Vatican.

In the second stage, the Servant of God receives the new title, Venerable. Then the third phase begins. The CCS will conduct a rigorous investigation into the person’s life and writings to determine whether the candidate demonstrates a heroic level of virtue or suffered martyrdom. This phase also requires a miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate and it has to be proved a miracle. Once this process is complete, the candidate qualifies to be beatified. Upon beatification the candidate gets the title Blessed. In the case of Blessed Alphonsa, Pope John Paul II pronounced her Blessed on February 8, 1986.

The next stage is the canonisation where the candidate is declared saint. This final stage also requires a miracle at the intercession of the candidate. The miracle that paved Blessed Alphonsa’s way to sainthood was the cure of the 10-year-old boy, Jinil of Kuruppanthara, who was born with twisted legs. Upon his birth, medical experts certified that due to the deformity the boy would be a lifelong cripple. In 1999, the boy’s parents took him to the shrine of Blessed Alphonsa to be prayed over. Thereupon the legs became normal and the boy began to walk.

In the Catholic Church, a miracle is understood as an event that can be witnessed by senses but is in apparent contradiction to the laws of nature. The multitude who throng her tomb believe that Blessed Alphonsa continues to bring God’s blessings upon her devotees as she enjoys a special place in heaven through her heroic life of suffering.

In a recent interview to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) Father Francis Vadakkel, Vice Postulator for the canonization of Blessed Alphonsa, said all the formalities related to her canonisation have been completed and a date will be declared after the much-speculated November consistory in Vatican. The Church in India and Syro-Malabar Catholics across the globe are eagerly awaiting the message.

Many a church and shrine across Kerala and in other states already bear the name of Blessed Alphonsa. In the United States, among 1,00,000-strong immigrant Syro-Malabar Catholics, two parishes have already been named after this ‘suffering servant’ of God. As the Catholic Church officially calls her worthy of veneration in the universal church, it is certain that many more churches and shrines across the globe will bear her name calling the believers to the awareness of the perennial worth and value of human suffering.
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