The Light of Mother Teresa’s Darkness (Part 2)
Father Kolodiejchuk on Joy in Suffering
ROME, SEPT. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Without suffering, our work would just be social work, not the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption, said Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The founder of the Missionaries of Charity expressed this in a letter written to a spiritual director, now published with many others letters in a volume titled “Come Be My Light,” edited and presented by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Kolodiejchuk, a Missionary of Charity priest and the postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, discusses his new book and the interior life Mother Teresa kept hidden from the world.
Part 1 of this interview was published Tuesday.
Q: The name of the book, “Come Be My Light,” was a request Jesus made to Mother Teresa. How did her redemptive suffering for others in such extreme darkness connect with her particular charism?
Father Kolodiejchuk: During the 1950s, Mother surrendered and accepted the darkness. Father Neuner [one of her spiritual directors] helped her to understand it by linking the darkness with her charism, of satiating Jesus’ thirst.
She used to say that the greatest poverty was to feel unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and that’s exactly what she was experiencing in her relationship with Jesus.
Her reparatory suffering, or suffering for others, was part of her living her charism for the poorest of the poor.
So for her, the suffering was not only to identify with the physical and material poverty, but even on the interior level, she identified with the unloved, the lonely, the rejected.
She gave up her own interior light for those living in darkness, saying, “I know this is only feelings.”
In one letter to Jesus, she wrote: “Jesus hear My prayer — if this pleases You — If my pain and suffering — my darkness and separation gives You a drop of Consolation — My own Jesus do with me as You wish — as long as You wish without a single glance at my feelings and Pain.
“I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your heart. Don’t mind my feelings — Don’t mind even, my pain.
“If my separation from You, brings others to You and in their love and company — you find joy and pleasure — why Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer — not only now, but for all eternity, if this was possible.”
In a letter to her sisters, she makes the charism of the order more explicit, saying: “My dear children, without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption — Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death.
“All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us He has redeemed up.
“We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of Poor people, not only their Material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed and we must have our share in it, pray thus when you find it hard — ‘I wish to live in this world which is far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them — to take upon me something of their suffering.'”
And that captures what I consider her mission statement: “If I ever become a Saint — I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven — to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth…”
This is how she understood her darkness. A lot of the things she said make more sense and have a much deeper meaning now that we know these things.
Q: So what do you say to those who call her experience a crisis of faith, that she didn’t really believe in God, or somehow imply that her darkness was a sign of psychological instability?
Father Kolodiejchuk: It wasn’t a crisis of faith, or that she lacked faith, but that she had a trial of faith where she experienced the feeling that she did not believe in God.
This trial required a lot of human maturity, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to do it. She would have become unbalanced.
As Father Garrigou-Lagrange said, it is possible to have seemingly contradictory feelings at the same time.
It is possible to have “objective Christian joy,” as Carol Zaleski called it, while at the same time going through the trial or feeling of having no faith.
There are not two people here, but one person with feelings on different levels.
We can really be living the cross in someway — it is painful, and it hurts, and just because we can spiritualize it does not take way the pain, but one can be joyful because one is living with Jesus. And that is not false.
This is how and why Mother lived a life so full of joy.
Q: As the postulator of her cause for canonization, when do you think we might be able to call her St. Teresa of Calcutta?
Father Kolodiejchuk: We need one more miracle — we have looked at a few, but none has been clear enough. There was one for beatification but we are waiting for the second.
Perhaps God has been waiting for the book to come out first, because people knew that Mother Teresa was holy but because of her ordinariness and simplicity of expression, they did not have an understanding of how holy.
I heard about two priests talking the other day. One said he was never a big fan of Mother Teresa because he thought she was just pious, devout, and did nice, admirable works, but then when he heard about her interior life, it changed everything for him.
Now we have more of an idea how developed she was spiritually, and now something of her deeper characteristics are being revealed.
Once the miracle comes in, it could take a couple of years, although the Pope could do it faster if he wanted to.
Q: What has happened to the order since Mother’s death?
Father Kolodiejchuk: The order has grown by almost 1,000 sisters, from around 3,850 at her death to 4,800 today, and we’ve added over 150 houses in 14 more countries.
God’s work goes on.