Adapted from a post I wrote September 4, 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary of her death, and apparently the 9th pre-anniversary to her canonization.
A lot had been written about Mother Teresa’s “Dark night of the soul“. According to media reports, following her intense vision of a conversation with Christ, the Lord went dark on her and she no longer felt His presence.
This would come as no surprise to the atheist, who believes such feelings of presence would be foolishness; nor would it surprise a deist who would think God has better things to do than deal one on one with lowly human beings. The paranoid would be jealous of her freedom from constant watching and supervision and react in puzzlement to her feelings of frustration.
As a Christian this provides an opportunity to re-assess my own life and how the impression of God’s presence fits in. Coming from a more intellectual entry into the faith, I remember my dissatisfaction at my housemate’s explanation for why he believed in God: “I recognize His works in my daily life.” “That’s it?”, I thought, whereas I would have been prepared to present the Argument from Design, from Conscience, and all the other arguments of Aristotle, Aquinas, and of course, Kreeft.
As I developed my faith intellectually, I continued to ignore God’s yearning to abide in my heart, and secretly rolled my eyes at people who found God’s presence in every silly little thing, like some guy at an Christian Fellowship meeting who believed he saw a cross when he looked up at the clouds and felt like God was telling him something.
I don’t know when the moment was that I started to open up to establishing a bona fide relationship with Him, but seeing how I am today in contrast to where I was as a frosh fresh out of Catholic school, I’m sure that I’ve opened myself up to detecting His presence.
Perhaps it was the energy of World Youth Day and or just witnessing true happiness and determination among those who believed with the clarity of St. Teresa. The feelings of full communion with Christ’s Church are indescribable and thus slip away easily. And it’s hard to argue with seeing friends who were once hardcore atheists return to the Church and fall to their knees in earnest prayer.
But in any relationship, when you know someone enough, you can tell when they’re in the room no matter how quiet their footsteps. When certain random acts of kindness don’t seem so random, but understood to be a decisive act of charity and love. And so it ultimately comes back to the Cross, the ultimate decisive act of charity and love. God decisively suffered and died for me, in order to kickstart the ultimate relationship that would carry throughout my life. The veil of chaos on random events is lifted, and beneath it revealing the hand of God. No longer do I feel alone, but simultaneously loved and challenged. Everything happens for a reason, they say. I believe the Intelligent Design vs Evolution debate falls along the same lines. Science has the rightful authority to say how. But only Theology can answer the why. Suddenly the debate becomes an irrelevant distraction. “Each of us willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.” said our Pope Emeritus.
I can’t say my dialogues with God have been as lucent as St. Mother Teresa’s. But I do have dialogues with Him. The best place is in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, free of iPods and street noise, where only the sound of my heartbeat provides the only appropriate backdrop for Him to speak audibly. I notice Fr. Robert d’Souza credits Mother Teresa’s advice to him to pray before the Blessed Sacrament more regularly as the reason he stayed in the priesthood. I’m thankful that my relationship has grown such that I can be aware His presence, and that Mother Teresa’s feelings of abandonment are part of a cross that I do not have to share as intensely. Such phenomena is not unique to past great figures in Church history, but this was one of the most intense. Goes to show that God’s creativity continues to surprise us.
St. Teresa of Kolkata, pray for us!
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