Mother Teresa's Dark Night

Time magazine has published a cover story entitled The Secret Life of Mother Teresa, revealing that according to her own letters she spent the vast majority of the years between establishing her hospice in Calcutta and her death in a state of deep spiritual desolation. In 1979 she wrote:

…the silence and emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see—listen and do not hear—the tongue moves but does not speak…I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have free hand.

The sad thing here is not Mother Teresa’s darkness, or dryness, or loneliness, or even torture, terms she herself used, but rather the fact that she never found how to accept this emptiness or see it as a blessing or at least an indispensable phase. Instead, she remained stuck in denial, imagining a convoluted scheme where some friend praying for her would would help her let God have free hand—as if it was not precisely His free hand that had her where she was in the first place.

Almost as startling is the ludicrous assertion by one theologian that “Come Be My Light,” the new book in which Mother Teresa’s letters were published, will “eventually rank with St. Augustine’s Confessions… as an autobiography of spiritual ascent.” How one could view Mother’s vast, empty, arid mental vistas, and her unyielding refusal to accept them, as “spiritual ascent” simply boggles the mind. Other theologians are even more divorced from reality, spinning ridiculous stories about how Christ’s absence in Mother Teresa’s life was “part of the divine gift”.

The hyperprolix Christopher Hitchens, whose new book “God is Great” is to be reviewed here shortly, has a typically simplistic analysis of the situation:

She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person.

As in his book, he throws out the spiritual baby with the religious bathwater, failing to understand the crucial difference between a simple lack of belief and the experience of emptiness.

When in Kolkata several years ago, I visited Mother Teresa’s tomb. Standing before it, I sensed at least a bit of her spiritual void. People today are so starved for goodness, or the appearance thereof, that we not only award Nobel Prizes to people that set up facilities to take care of a few dying people, but then once they themselves die move to bestow on them religion’s highest posthumous honor of sainthood.

2 Responses to “Mother Teresa's Dark Night”

  1. mitch Says:

    Quotes from the New King James Holy Bible.
    Romans 11:5 “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6And if by grace,then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

    Romans 11:8 Just as it is written:
    “God has given them a spirit of stupor,
    Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”
    Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

    John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you,”unless one is born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”

  2. Lisa Wang Says:

    I think Mother Teresa’s words, though interpreted as manifestations of spiritual desolation, simply indicate her being human. Every one of us, at some point, feels detached from what our faith promises. We are humans.

    Lisa Wang of

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