Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thoughts on the Anniversary of Mother Teresa's death

"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love"
Mother Theresa

I guess it took me by surprise that Mother Theresa death occurred so closely after Princess Diana's death. It was 10 years ago on Sept 5th. I am not Catholic, but that doesn't mean I don't have respect for her. She had a great deal of influence on a lot of people. A friend of mine went to India to spend time with her and work with her and the other nuns. It was the hardest work he had ever done, and yet it changed him. I admired her because she could do the hard thing and say the hard thing.

Now we read that in letters she wrote, she suffered what she called the "silence of God. "

"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. Since this new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light has been published, the news media has been calling it her "crisis of faith." Time magazine's "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith". or read Newsweek's: Teresa, Bright and Dark.

I find her more admirable that she did have a crisis of faith, if you want to call it that, or that she felt empty or experienced the silence of God. I don't know though that I like that the letters she wrote and asked to be kept confidential were not. It feels like someone taking advantage of her or trying to put her in a bad light.

But, I don't know of anyone who has not gone through a crisis of faith or felt empty or experienced the silence of God. It is part of being human, part of being Christian, part of being on a spiritual journey. If you read of Jesus' experience in the garden of Gethsemane and even on the cross was exactly that. Following Jesus is not easy, we carry a cross too. Being called by God to Pastor or any form of ministry is not easy. You will have dark nights of the soul, desert times, loneliness, emptiness, silence, and dark night of the soul. But you will also have times of joy, sheer joy, not happiness, joy, peace, peace that has no earthly explanation, you will have the things promised.

Lets ask this, was she depressed? Perhaps. Burned out? Perhaps. Did she have compassion fatigue? Good possibility. Would medication have helped, maybe. Would time away and time out help, most likely. Would spiritual direction help, yes. It makes you wonder if the persons on the other end of the letters knew she suffered so, why didn't they try to get her help or encourage her to get help? Maybe they did try. I wonder if she carried the pain of the world, the sadness, the horror, the emptiness of the world, the silence of the world towards itself? She had to have great compassion to do what she did, and yet where was she getting fed and nourished for such a task?

Have I experienced such times in my life, my walk with Jesus, my ministry, you bet I have, and I can only imagine they will come again. I ordered the book, and plan to read it when I get it.


Iris Godfrey said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post. I too have admired Mother Theresa deeply for many years. These letters do not change that. Everyone who follows our Lord will experience such in life at one time or another. To publish these most private of letters where she shared the wrenching of her heart is unkind in my opinion. Doesn't change anything and attempts to put her in a bad light. Oh well, the Lord will use that also.

Rev. Dulce said...

Mother Teresa was one of my favorite religious figures of the modern era. I used to close all my emails with a quote of hers, "it is doing the small things well that matters."

Glad to know that other non-Catholics appreciated her, as well.

The whole printed letters that she wanted destroyed begs the question, "Why didn't she do it herself?" However, I don't believe there was an maliciousness behind the release of the letters.

Rev Kim said...

This is a lovely post. I felt quite uncomfortable with these very private letters being shared after her death. If she had given approval ahead of time that would be very different. It just seems an invasion of privacy.

Thank you again for this thoughtful, beautiful post.

mompriest said...

I ordered the book too. I guess I think that if you live around that kind of deep, pervasive suffering you may begin to wonder where God is in all this. Why. Why SO MUCH suffering?

I get your point about the public release of her letters. But, given what I have been through, I also think her letters may prove to be a HUGE help to people who are lost and wondering....and suffering....

Serena said...

Thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful reflection. I don't know how Mother Theresa could have not been depressed and wonder why. And, I have mixed emotions about her letters being published. I know I've gotten rid of a lot of my journal entries that I don't want read. Since she didn't, I pray that God will turn any "bad" of their being published to "good" in the healing that others experience because of reading about her struggles.

Michael said...

I'm pretty sure I read in the news reports that the one who made these letters public is the priest who is leading the charge for her canonization/beatification toward sainthood. I forget his name, but his statement about her "dark" moments was such: one cannot long for something one is not consciously aware of. I think in that light it was crisis - or lack - of genuine sabbath time. I don't know that she ever took a break. How could one not find darkness and isolation when actually engulfed in it?