Mother Teresa

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Gulliver
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Mother Teresa

Post by Gulliver »

Does anyone here have any thoughts about the publication of Mother Teresa’s letters expressing the void she felt in her faith? It certainly surprised me to read that she did not feel God’s presence in her life or the presence of Jesus, in her words
I look but I do not see, I listen but I do not hear.

Because I feel that way too sometimes, her letters make her seem more human to me, less like an unreachable saint on a pedestal. The Christian mystics also talk about dry periods as being natural.

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anna
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Post by anna »

Yes, Gulliver, I read the recent news about her - I am looking forward to reading the entire book. I love biographies of fellow strugglers.

It is at first glimpse surprising, but NOT surprising once we realize that she was a human being, after all, and burdened by all the human frailties that all human beings have. (This is the danger of sanctifying people, we impinge upon them all our dreams and unrealistic hopes.) Since, as I understand it, most of her life she experienced this emptiness, it sounds like either she lived an extended period of "the dark night of the soul", that mystics refer to, and experience, or, possibly, she never did achieve a sense of union with God, but was striving to do so because her religious tradition made that imperative upon her. Or she may have drained her energies with all her good works, which left little to work with when turning to the inner work, perhaps? Certainly she gave away her entire life to others.

We often confuse saints with humanitarians, or delegate the word saint to a humanitarian, who may or may not be a mystic, and it is entirely possible that Teresa was the latter, and obviously, was no mystic, at least that is the impression these letters give. Politically speaking, it was to the church's advantage to encourage that aura of saintliness, based on her extraordinary humanitarian efforts, but that says nothing about the depth of her faith or union with God, that is quite another thing.

On the other hand, she may have been an individual who was a true boddhisatva, one who returns to help those less fortunate, and thus has no interest whatsoever in her own redemption or salvation, because, if a true boddhisatva, she is already redeemed and saved. And her difficulty in achieving union or a sense of God was, in part, possibly due to that fact - there was no "other" in her soul, and thus she could fine no "other" out there to unite with. If this is true, then, the church, in its ignorance, insisted she conform to the lesser lights in the church, and achieve a "sense of God's presence", and because the church does not understand or grasp, or even allow the concept that God may be truly within, and NOT without, she had no method of advancing beyond an external God. And unfortunately, therefore, felt bereft and somehow a failure because she had no explanation for what may have been a truly beatific consciousness.

From this same perspective, which might be relevant: There is a failing I believe in the christian discipline, and that is that it does not address the ego, and the inevitable loss of ego strength that occurs with the advance of union with God. This loss of ego can be experienced as a loss of communion or love when it occurs, and unless understood and addressed, can more than likely create a permanent emptiness that appears to the individual to be lack of faith, whereas it is truly loss of the separated self. Perhaps it was this explanation that accounts for her struggle? There is no doubt in my mind that the woman was an extraordinary woman, who sacrificed her life and, evidently, in some way, her soul, in service to the sick and poor. For that she stands shoulders above the majority of human beings. Whether that made her more than human, and thus a true Saint, by the Catholic interpretation of saint, is another issue, I believe, than who she truly was and where she stands in religious history. Certainly she was greatly rewarded by the love and adoration she received from those she helped throughout her life - maybe that is all that matters in the end, from the perspective of the world. Only God and she truly know who she was from God's perspective.

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W4TVQ
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Post by W4TVQ »

I ws not really surprised to hear abut Mother Teresa's doubts and struggles. Virtually every saint who has written extensively has recorded such struggles and dark priods, the classic example perhaps being St. John of the Cross' The Dark Night of the Soul.

I choose to believe that God, being Father/ Mother, may "carry" us for a distance, but at some point sets us down and says "I think you are ready now to walk without having to have me manifesting a tangible personal presence 24/7. Let's see how you do just following the instructions I have given you so far." It's a compliment, not an abandonment. If we fall too hard and too flat She'll be there to pick us up.

Namaste
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

Strangly, I have questioned certain aspects of Mother Teresa's life after watching the movie of her life recently. This only came from this constant questioning I have for myself of what am I to be doing and how should I be in the world, which I still don't know for sure. The question I asked about her life was one that Anna points out. Yes, I admire and respect her for the amazing work and self sacrafice she did for others, but is this what brings us to communion with God? It seems that helping others is always the 'right' way to live life, and yet I'm so drawn to withdraw. This is so confusing to me. I feel like I'm torn between what I'm drawn so strongly to do from the inside against what the world tells me I should do, which is to be of service to others.
I'm again facing this issue with the discovery that I'm miserable in this new job, which is an acceptable kind of work to help others and feel like I'm dying from the inside out. I'm moving on, to go back to school and to have time to continue focusing on the inward growth that is calling me so strongly.

Maybe there isn't a correct answer, maybe it is a different calling for each of us. I think the fact that Mother Teresa admits feeling this emtiness could be a pointer that maybe we do not only need to do outward things. I think that Mother Teresa was raised to the level of Saint by the public over maybe more inward mystics because of how we value doing. Although, I was most touched by the fact that Mother Teresa saw Jesus in the worst of the sick and poor and this tells me that her soul was open and awake, for that kind of sight. I sure don't think she did for others to receive feel goods.

I can't find the quoted text from Dark Night of the Soul, but for the original question of dry spells, I love the part that states that the soul goes through the fire, and when this is happening, the fire of God is so bright, that the closer it is to the soul, the more blinding it is and just as we cannot look at the sun, this time of intense brightness and fire is the darkest time of all. Kind of the darkest before the light, so I always envision that these hardest times are when the most important work is being done, it makes it easier to make it through. I've been convinced that I've been going through a dark night for the last year and a half.

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

So...the times that are the darkest are acutally when the communion of our soul and God is the closest and most intense. This sure comfort me.

jenjulian
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Post by jenjulian »

I found the quote on http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dar ... iii.v.html

2. But the question arises: Why is the Divine light (which as we say, illumines and purges the soul from its ignorances) here called by the soul a dark night? To this the answer is that for two reasons this Divine wisdom is not only night and darkness for the soul, but is likewise affliction and torment. The first is because of the height of Divine Wisdom, which transcends the talent of the soul, and in this way is darkness to it; the second, because of its vileness and impurity, in which respect it is painful and afflictive to it, and is also dark.

3. In order to prove the first point, we must here assume a certain doctrine of the philosopher, which says that, the clearer and more manifest are Divine things in themselves the darker and more hidden are they to the soul naturally; just as, the clearer is the light, the more it blinds and darkens the pupil of the owl, and, the more directly we look at the sun, the greater is the darkness which it causes in our visual faculty, overcoming and overwhelming it through its own weakness. In the same way, when this Divine light of contemplation assails the soul which is not yet wholly enlightened, it causes spiritual darkness in it; for not only does it overcome it, but likewise it overwhelms it and darkens the act of its natural intelligence. For this reason Saint Dionysius and other mystical theologians call this infused contemplation a ray of darkness—that is to say, for the soul that is not enlightened and purged—for the natural strength of the intellect is transcended and overwhelmed by its great supernatural light. Wherefore David likewise said: That near to God and round about Him are darkness and cloud;108108Psalm xcvi, 2 [A.V., xcvii, 2]. not that this is so in fact, but that it is so to our weak understanding, which is blinded and darkened by so vast a light, to which it cannot attain.109109[Lit., ‘not attaining.’] For this cause the same David then explained himself, saying: ‘Through the great splendour of His presence passed clouds’110110Psalm xvii, 13, [A.V., xviii, 12].—that is, between God and our understanding. And it is for this cause that, when God sends it out from Himself to the soul that is not yet transformed, this illumining ray of His secret wisdom causes thick darkness in the understanding.

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Neo
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Post by Neo »

Art said
I choose to believe that God, being Father/ Mother, may "carry" us for a distance, but at some point sets us down and says "I think you are ready now to walk without having to have me manifesting a tangible personal presence 24/7. Let's see how you do just following the instructions I have given you so far."
Cool. That sounds to me like the conversaton between God and Satan about if Job’s faith would faltre if Job were left alone.
Hast thou not made a fence for him, and his house, and all his substance round about, blessed the works of his hands, and his possession hath increased on the earth? But stretch forth thy hand a little, and touch all that he hath, and see if he bless thee not to thy face.
Art says
It's a compliment, not an abandonment. If we fall too hard and too flat She'll be there to pick us up.
God says to Satan
Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand: only put not forth thy hand upon his person.

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Speculum
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Post by Speculum »

This evening, Nancy and I watched the 1986 documentary “Mother Teresa” narrated by Richard Attenborough.

Watching the film, which closely follows her work in India and in other countries, including the United States, there is no question in my mind that the woman was genuine, that she genuinely believed she was doing “God’s work”, as she called it in the film, and that she truly meant it when she described the poor and sick and lonely and abandoned whom she and her Sisters cared for as “Jesus in a distressing disguise”.

So, what about her apparent inability to feel God’s Presence, Jesus’s Presence, in her heart? How to explain, as Gulliver reports in an earlier post, her having written “I look but I do not see, I listen but I do not hear”. Is it about the Dark Night, as others here have suggested? Maybe. But without having read the book, which we are going to do, I suppose any conclusions we come to based on the scant news reports about its contents, are really just guesses.

But consider this. At one point in the film, Mother Teresa says that by loving others, we love God. Watching her, there is no question in my mind that she believed that. In fact, I think she was so immersed in that perception of reality that it, quite literally, became her. Her very life became an expression, a manifestation, of love for God by loving others. As such, the sense of “inner presence” was irrelevant. For her, whether she knew it or not, whether or not the idea of it would even have been acceptable to her, the inner and the outer had become one, and the Presence she sought was neither within nor without, it was her being her. She had become what she sought.

Or not.

In any case, it is a wonderfully uplifting film.

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Neo
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Post by Neo »

sounds right to me. the line between inside us and outside us is artficial so if she did see god in other people then she must have seen god in herslf too, i think. maybe shw was too active to sit still and get that. I saw the movie on tv a long time ago and her shedule seemed very busy.

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