Producer Mary Rose Bacani and I recently had the pleasure of appearing on ListenUp TV to discuss Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The episode, airing on Salt + Light, October 3rd at 8:30pm ET, explores the recently released book "Come Be My Light," which details the pious Sister of Calcutta's great spiritual suffering.
"I have no faith," splashed headlines accompanied by photos of Mother Teresa. To which I thought "I have no faith in those headlines!" It seemed a little odd to me that a woman who had served her Church and served Christ so lovingly had no faith. Regardless, I was intrigued by the headlines because it provided a different perspective on Mother Teresa.
I had always viewed her as "that nun working with the poorest of the poor." Her work was heroic, but for whatever reason, I did not connect with Mother Teresa the way so many others did. I suppose it's like many of the saints -- we can all agree to their greatness, but each of us are drawn to different ones.
When the news broke about Mother Teresa's extreme dark night, my interest was piqued. It's not that I myself have experienced a dark night but I, like many people, have experienced struggles in my spiritual life. We all experience doubts, have fears, feel frustrations, feel alone and even abandoned. We tend to presume that saintly figures have a satisfying and consoling relationship with God. To learn otherwise is oddly comforting. Far from discouraging, it reminds me that many holy men and women have experienced what I may be experiencing. I now have them as my intercessors, and I can learn from their experiences (and Mother Teresa's experience is captured so honestly and so raw in "Come Be My Light"). I also appreciate the fact that Blessed Teresa's account shows us the importance of having spiritual directors and confessors to lead us through the spiritual life. As Mother Teresa's life shows us, having a spiritual director does not mean we won't experience problems, but it does provide a voice, insight, and encouragement that can guide us along the way.
As I read "Come Be My Light," I can't help but entertain the notion that Mother Teresa's suffering exceeded her own purgation, and was an expiation for the sins others. She was willing to bear the burden of the sins of those around her, of you, of me, because we are far too weak. This is not a radical statement if we consider how Blessed Teresa desired so ardently to unite herself with our Lord's Passion, to satiate His thirst:
"If my separation from You, brings others to You and in their love and company -- You find joy and pleasure -- why Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer -- not only now, but for all eternity, if this was possible."
During her life time she brought God to the poor and destitute, and by her example brought God to us. Now, ten years later, she continues to draw us to God, now through her writings. As she physically helped the poor on earth who were abandoned and alone, now she helps those who spiritually and mentally feel abandoned and alone. Her example of perseverance, and of love shines forth. She becomes a beacon for us, and as she once wrote when speculating about becoming a saint:
"... I will constantly be absent from heaven -- to light the light of those in darkness."
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.