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Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2008

    Out of the darkness into the Light

    The aim of the book is to plumb the ¿depth of Mother Teresa¿s interior life,¿ it is not a ¿theological study¿ (p. 2). The first letter dates June 28, 1928, it is about her desire to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto (pp. 14-15). The last letter dates May 15, 1995, it is to her Sisters (p. 332). Most of the letters date in the 1940¿s-1970¿s. In each chapter of the book there are many subchapters. The title for each subchapter is taken from a quote of Mother Teresa¿s in that subchapter. The editor then adds a helpful commentary to the text quoted in the title. Mother Teresa wanted the letters destroyed. But her spiritual advisers were reluctant to carry out her request. Then, Mother Teresa undermined her request with her new status as an international icon and a possible candidate for canonization. Her correspondence being the only prime source materials that future generations would have to judge if she is truly canonizable. Privacy is a right in American law, it is not a right in the Catholic monastery. Some reviews allege the release of the letters broke the seal of the confessional. Fr. Kolodiejchuk addresses that objection in the Introduction (p. 11). Such attention has been paid to the spiritual affliction recorded in Mother Teresa¿s letters (chapters 8-12) that it seems the first half of the book is being ignored. For example, in chapter one, she talks about when she felt called to the convent (p. 14). The letter to the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto for admission is also in chapter one (pp. 14-15). There are many other gems in chapter one and two of her time with the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto. Chapters three through five records her desire to leave the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto. In chapter six, Mother Teresa receives permission from Rome to leave the Sisters of Our Lady of Loretto for a trial period of a year. In chapter seven, Mother Teresa prays to suffer to please the Lord (p. 124) and she receives the suffering of her mission. The book is not all doom and gloom after chapter seven. In chapter nine, there is some discussion of her work and the work of the community. In chapter ten, Mother Teresa, after eleven years, comes to love her suffering. She believed she was sharing in Jesus¿ passion. She reveals the foundation for her theology of her missionary work in chapter twelve. In the same chapter, she speaks of how abortion is ¿the greatest destroyer of peace today¿ (p. 292). And Fr. Van der Peet asks her how she copes with her ¿movie star¿ treatment (p. 293). Chapter thirteen records Mother Teresa¿s letter to President George H. W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. Those wanting to avoid the dark letters of Mother Teresa will need to read chapters eight through eleven selectively. But those looking to plumb the depths of Mother Teresa¿s person have a gold mine of information from which to draw. There is a repetition to the letters and even Mother Teresa¿s phraseology. For example, she will use the terms, ¿I have no faith¿ (p. 187, 238), ¿no faith¿ (p. 193, 227), ad nauseam. The letters are also in the style of he loves me, (p. 223-24), he loves me not (p. 232-33). The book has a couple of nice appendixes that are very helpful. The first is the rule of the community (p. 341). The second is retreat notes of Mother Teresa in 1959 (p. 349). The Index is condensed and incomplete. The book is endnoted rather than footnoted. This is most unfortunate for a book so copiously noted and the notes being so integral to the text. It is so easy to read a book superficially and to misunderstand the subject and the author. Hopefully, this reviewer will not make that mistake. St. Thomas Aquinas said, ¿the lover is not satisfied with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to gain an intimate knowledge of everything pertaining to the beloved, so as to penetrate into his very soul¿ (Summ. Theol., la. 2ae., q. 28, a. 2). Accordingly, anyone who loves Mother Teresa cannot desir

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2007

    Even saintly people suffer from spiritual doubts, anguish and darkness of the mind

    This book is so revelatory and startling that, at first, I was almost incredulous. And then I recalled having read some time ago that almost all saints have suffered either chronic physical pain or mental anguish, and also quite often diseases such as leprosy, tuberculosis and even cancer. Reading this book, especially some of the letters Sister Teresa wrote to Archbishop Perier and the Rev. Joseph Neuner and Bishop William Curlin, is a truly shocking experience. 'Perier was the Archbishop who secured for Sister Teresa permission to start her own Order, Missionaries of Charity.' The letters ring like the dissonant sounds of a leaden bell, now heard around the world. The reason we are now able to read about Sister Teresa¿s 'she was called Mother Teresa much later' innermost thoughts and feelings about Christ, and her attempts to communion with Christ, is that she was literally tongue-tied and unable to speak to her confessor about the spiritual darkness and mental anguish she felt at times. So she was advised to confess her thoughts in writing. She wrote down her thoughts in the form of letters. She wished and hoped that the letters would be eventually destroyed someday. But her request to the Rev. Picachy that her letters be destroyed was denied, and the Church ordered that the letters be preserved. 'Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself ¿ for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started 'the work¿,¿ she wrote to the Rev. Perier in March 1953. She writes to him about the smile she often had on her face, ¿The smile is a mask or a cloak that covers everything.' How can a reader digest these painful lines? ¿When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven ¿ there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. ¿ I am told God loves me ¿ and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.¿ And also the famous quote, by now displayed in thousands of articles about the book round the globe: ¿As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, ¿ Listen and do not hear ¿ the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ..¿ She does not feel God¿s presence either in her heart or in the Eucharist, but finds only profound darkness. Reading this book raises some interesting questions: Were there two Mother Teresas? One who always smiled in public and the other who was tormented by anguish and spiritual doubts? One Teresa doubting the existence of God and heaven, and the other speaking of God¿s abundant and unbounded love the very next day? And, finally, this interesting question: Now that the book is published, would it interfere in any way the process of canonization of Mother Teresa into Saint Teresa? This is an engrossing, highly readable, but truly baffling book. It also compels one to acknowledge that no human is exempt from suffering, not even a saintly person.

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