Mother Teresa and the Antarctic Night of the Soul

by Steve Ray on September 1, 2007

From Jimmy Akin's Blog at www.jimmyakin.org – one of the Catholic blogs to watch!  :-)

Spiritual writers often refer to "the dark night of the soul"–the experience of great souls of seemingly being abandoned by God, as (perhaps) when Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes ("Vanity, vanity; all is vanity!"), or (even more perhaps) when Jesus cried, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Mother Theresa, it was revealed after her death, experienced this phenomenon as well, and recent evidence suggests that it lasted for a very long time–decades, in fact. Truly an antarctic dark night of the soul.  GET THE STORY.   See here also.

Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamesa comments here: http://www.zenit.org/article-20348?l=english. Article in First Things here.

For Liz Lev's usual brilliant thoughts, visit http://www.zenit.org/article-20371?l=english

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Ray August 27, 2007 at 6:21 PM

Phil Lawler from http://www.CWN.com wrote recently:

This weekend a few secular commentators wondered whether the cause for canonization of Mother Teresa would be set back by the “discovery” of her letters to spiritual directors, revealing her years of doubt and feelings of spiritual emptiness.

Wow; how wrong can you get?

Never mind the fact that these letters, which have only been “discovered” recently by the mainstream American press, have been well known to the Vatican for several years now. More important, dozens of great saints have reported the same spiritual battle.

Why would God put the saints through such trials? Maybe it’s pure coincidence that this Sunday we heard, in the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews,

…for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.

Was it a coincidence that reading popped up on the schedule for this particular Sunday? Maybe. But in the spiritual life I don’t think there are any coincidences.

- Phil Lawler

Charles Upton September 7, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Dear People:

The public response to the “revelation” that Mother Theresa was subject to doubts and long periods of spiritual dryness says more about the spiritual state of our culture than it does about her. People nowadays can’t understand why she would remain a Catholic if she wasn’t “getting off” on it. Where’s the euphoria? Where’s the payoff? If Catholicism was such a “downer” for her, why didn’t she just move on? The idea of suffering for one’s Beloved (human or Divine!) as being a high privilege is meaningless to such people.
(Remember Don Novello’s character of Guido Sarducci, gossip columnist for La Osservatore Romano on Saturday Night Live? In one of his sketches he talked about a plan to remove the cross from Catholic churches because “the logo is a downer.” I’m not sure people could understand the humor of that today.)

It may be that God was calling Mother Theresa, who in “natural” terms was a “cataphatic” contemplative, subject to visions and auditions and sensible consolations, to a different vocation: that of the apophatic contemplative, who encounters God in the barrenness, mortification and dark night of all the faculties of the soul — until he or she learns that the feeling of God’s absence is the very SIGN of His presence. And she may not have fully understood everything that such a call might entail.

We mustn’t forget that Christ felt abandoned by God too: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Clearly he never doubted God’s existence; atheists never feel “abandoned by God.” And I’m sure that Mother Theresa never doubted His existence either; she simply mourned His felt absence, like John of the Cross, and Rumi, and so many other mystics always have. So what else is new? What else is new is that people are clueless nowadays about the fundamentals of the spiritual life.

Sincerely,
Charles Upton
cupton@qx.net

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