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  1. #1
    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Default Mother Teresa's crisis of faith

    Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - Yahoo! News

    By DAVID VAN BIEMA
    Thu Aug 23, 12:05 PM ET



    Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
    - Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979


    On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had "[made] himself the hungry one - the naked one - the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere - "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive."


    Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as 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 [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me - that I let Him have [a] free hand."


    The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction - that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.


    And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever - or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."


    That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and - except for a five-week break in 1959 - never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God - tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."


    The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa's correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.


    The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the "dark night" of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Teresa's may be the most extensive such case on record. (The "dark night" of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.) Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John's context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.


    Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone."


    Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Says Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position, a scathing polemic on Teresa, and more recently of the atheist manifesto God Is Not Great: "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself." Meanwhile, some familiar with the smiling mother's extraordinary drive may diagnose her condition less as a gift of God than as a subconscious attempt at the most radical kind of humility: she punished herself with a crippling failure to counterbalance her great successes.



    <<<<Snipped, read rest at above link>>>>
    Wow, I am suprised she kept on going, I couldn't do it.

    Might explain this though:

    Christopher Hitchens Interview
    The Final Verdict
    '+'

    If she didn't actually have as much faith as was originally thought, or constantly shown, then being corrupt wouldn't be that much of an issue.

    Interesting morning read.
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Thinking about it, the article says that her loss of faith happpened after she went to calcutta, could her loss of it have been more to do with realising the corruption she had to accept as part of organised religion?

    Having maybe not spoken out, or having gone along with the vanishing money, do you think she then felt she recieved no personal communication/feeling from jesus or god, feeling not worthy of it and eaten up with guilt?

    The idea of this all is really suprising to me, as she was one of the figures who made accepting certain parts of islam hard, ie the belief that any non muslim was destined for hell, then I would inevitably ask "But what about mother Teresa", who I was sure I could hold up as a good moral example of a non muslims in a way that muslims understand morality.

    I can understand minor shakes of faith, but the article said she struggled with this for just over 50yrs, which is a very long time and hard for me to wrap my mind around. Yet she continued to wear this mask of pure belief.
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

  3. #3

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    I don't know what to make of it.

    Isn't it Saint Teresa now?

    My understanding is that many of the great leaders and spirtual people were accused of similar displays (Washington, Lincoln, King, Ghandi, and even Buddha) of being image consious. "Corrupt" seems strong.

    But it wouldn't surprise me if any of them were a bit calculating towards their image, and secretive about their doubts and fears (maybe that's how they become famous).

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
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    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I don't know what to make of it.

    Isn't it Saint Teresa now?

    My understanding is that many of the great leaders and spirtual people were accused of similar displays (Washington, Lincoln, King, Ghandi, and even Buddha) of being image consious. "Corrupt" seems strong.

    But it wouldn't surprise me if any of them were a bit calculating towards their image, and secretive about their doubts and fears (maybe that's how they become famous).

    I'm using the word corrupt more in regards to the missing millions?

    Honestly though my amazement is more to do with her having felt no real faith in over 50yrs, and yet still maintaining a public charade to having it. I am just curious about wether her loss may have coincided with her appointment to calcutta and watching money not being used for the right things etc. Was she involved, is her loss of faith to do with guilt, stuff like that.
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

  5. #5

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    I read the article you linked to and I must admit I found it very disappointing and disturbing until I remembered it was Hitchens that wrote it.

    As for Mother Teresa's crisis of faith, I am surprised by it but not necessarily troubled by it. I think any person that has dedicated the whole of themselves to an idea or a cause doubts themselves at times. Hell, even Jesus had his 40days in the desert.

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    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMWarner View Post
    I read the article you linked to and I must admit I found it very disappointing and disturbing until I remembered it was Hitchens that wrote it.
    Only one of the links was Hitchens.


    As for Mother Teresa's crisis of faith, I am surprised by it but not necessarily troubled by it. I think any person that has dedicated the whole of themselves to an idea or a cause doubts themselves at times. Hell, even Jesus had his 40days in the desert.
    Yes, but we are talking over 50yrs here, that's a long time.

    Where did the millions go that were raised by and in her name? (genuinely curious here, no offence meant)
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sahara View Post
    I'm using the word corrupt more in regards to the missing millions?

    Honestly though my amazement is more to do with her having felt no real faith in over 50yrs, and yet still maintaining a public charade to having it. I am just curious about wether her loss may have coincided with her appointment to calcutta and watching money not being used for the right things etc. Was she involved, is her loss of faith to do with guilt, stuff like that.
    It's late for me, I should be asleep, but I have insomnia. I missed the other links.

    If the allegations prove true. That would be quite a blow to her sainthood, and the process the Church uses to name saints.

    About her letters of doubt....

    Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned
    Not sure she was devoid of faith, though.

    I'm not Christian, but every person of faith that I know well (in any religion) has had at least one crisis in faith, if not several.

    Not also in one of her letters she asks for prayers for God to restore her faith (which would indicate a form of faith also).

    But, this is way too deep for me to think about right now.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Guess I go with the athiest perspective as to what it means, but I can see where it is explainable to those who have faith.

    See I had a crisis of faith, I prayed for it to return, it didn't, I left, 50yrs would be such a long time for me to still feel unsure about something. (thats me though, I didn;t realise such a high figure when it comes to piety and dedication could be so unsure, breaking apart yet another preconcieved notion of mine lol)
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

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    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    what about that link of Jen's re: RLP's discussion on this very topic?
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
    C.S. Lewis

  10. #10
    Senior Member Sahara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Usehername View Post
    what about that link of Jen's re: RLP's discussion on this very topic?
    I didn't realise there was one , I will look for it now, thanks.
    "No one can be free of the chains that surround them"

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