10 September 2007

Mother Theresa's Crisis Practice of Faith

I don't know if others have already blogged about this, but I recently read this article in our Time magazine about a new book that will reveal letters written by Mother Teresa over a 66-year period. Teresa requested that these letters be destroyed, but the Vatican decided against her wishes and published them in book form.

Apparently, in these letters, she writes to several confessors/ spiritual directors about her inability to sense the presence of God, or hear God's voice. She is able to see God's work, but feels as though God is removed and far from her. At some points she even voices her terrifying doubt that God is there, though she quickly apologizes for her "unbelief."

Despite the fact that Teresa's wishes were ignored, which is somewhat troubling, I think, I'm glad that these letters are published. Mother Teresa is arguably the most well-known servant of Christ in the world. To find that she was someone who struggled in ways familiar to most of us, yet still did extraordinary things will be helpful to many, I think.

Of course, as the article mentions and recent letters to Time following the publication of the article demonstrate, those who wish to disprove the existence of God quickly latch on to Mother Teresa's seeking and distress. They find it hypocritical that she would profess the joy of Christ even while not feeling it herself.

But, for Christians, if we are honest, I think most of us will confess times in our lives when the well has run dry. And most of us have not done anything near as spiritually challenging as serving the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. But I think it is a near-universal experience among the faithful to have had times when we have felt removed from God, or had a "crisis of faith" (the term the magazine used to describe as the article described Mother Teresa's long sojourn in the spiritual desert).

What comes to light in these excerpts from Teresa is the difference between those who turn from God and those who continue to move forward towards the hope of a resurrection of faith and that is -- even while we are distressed by our circumstances and challenged by our fears and doubt, we also believe that this is part of the very essence of faith. We believe the words Paul writes in Hebrews, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen." And we realize that belief is not real until it is lived out. Put into our lives. Practiced.

I can't imagine what life was like for Teresa. I can't imagine doing what she did without daily assurance that she was being accompanied by the Spirit of God. But despite the apparent fact that she did not feel the Spirit moving, she moved. And she moved in God's name, doing everything to God's glory.
I hope that in examining these letters published against her wishes, her demonstrated faith is what, once again, emerges as Teresa's legacy. She may indeed have had a "crisis" of faith for 66 years. But it was the extraordinary practice of those 66 years in light of her very human struggle that truly instructs.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Oh, Amen. I feel the same way. The letters in no way disappoint me nor mar my thoughts of her. They confirm that she was human - and that she extraordinarily lived out her faith in an amazing way. She trusted - even though she couldn't see how it all worked. She's an inspiration.