Mother Theresa & The Dark Night of the Soul

Mother Theresa & The Dark Night of the Soul

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light is a recent book about the late Mother Teresa of India. The media has been discussing the disclosure that in her private writings she describes her religious experience as "dry" "empty" "dark" and "devoid of all feeling." It appears that the founder of the Missionaries of Theresa Charity struggled for almost half a century with a desolate prayer life, but continued to serve God anyway. She experienced problems accepting God’s existence and presence in her life. The secular media suggests a minor scandal about this disclosure. However, spiritual writers over the centuries have documented this experience over and over involving especially mystics. This is usually referred to, by spiritual writers, as "a dark night of the soul." Virtually every one who is considered a mystic or an especially holy person has experienced the same thing during their spiritual development as they grew closer to God. Even Jesus felt abandonment in his crucifixion when he cried out "My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?"

It was St JoSt_theresahn of the Cross, one of the great mystics, who coined the torture as the "dark night of the soul" when he experienced a silent and unresponsive God during his life. This process of purification of abandonment of self for a higher power was even described by Jeremiah in Jewish scripture. My favorite saint, Theresa of Lisieux, once wrote:

"I have experienced it: When I am feeling nothing, when I am incapable of praying, of practicing virtue, then there is a moment for seeking opportunities, nothings which please Jesus more than mastery of the world when suffered with generosity. For example, a smile, a friendly word when I would want to say nothing or put on a look of annoyance."

She also wrote about how on Christmas day in1886 "Jesus flooded the darkness of my soul with torrents of light." We read in The Story of a Soul about Theresa:

"I must tell you about my retreat…Far from experiencing any consolation, complete aridity – desolation, almost – was my lot. Jesus was asleep in my little boat as usual…Well I am not appalled. I bear in mind that little children are just as pleasing to their parents asleep as awake…"

So, instead of Mother Teresa’s trials being a scandal as the secular media would have it, in fact it is badge of honor – an indication of special favor from God. It is the sort unique trial of faith which is reserved only for those whose faith is able to endure it.

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