"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

“Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith”

here will only be one St Teresa, among her fellow saints and most especially her namesakes, who would always be remembered fondly as "the mother of the world"—that person is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The reason for this is because she had been mother first long before she was officially called a saint by the Church. David Van Biema, the author of "Mother Teresa: the Life and Works of a Modern Saint," wrote the article entitled, “Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith” (23 August 2007) during his long stint as a TIME contributor. It was featured in this publication a book of letters written by Mother Teresa that she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God. She described a brief period of renewed faith when she was praying for Pope Pius XII at a requiem mass in 1958 when suddenly she was relieved of "the long darkness: that strange suffering." However, five weeks later her spiritual dryness returned. It lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life. After being exposed to all the sufferings in the lives of many people, Mother Teresa faced grave doubts about God's existence and pain over her lack of faith: “Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. ... If there be God–please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.” Her own letters obviously did so little to affect her cause for sainthood since there are many other saints dotting church history who have been tormented too about their faith.

The woman that the world hailed as saint even while still alive battled something that was hidden to both believers and non-believers alike. Unseen by everyone, she bore the cross of her personal life's most difficult spiritual poverty. But she did not allow such a "strange suffering" to get in the way for her to embrace totally the poor people until her last breath. What was her secret? On 20 October 2003, St John Paul II, analyzing her deeds and achievements, said in his address to the pilgrims who had come to Rome for her beatification: "Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart."

Mother Teresa wrote many letters to her confessors and superiors over a 66-year period, most notably to Calcutta Archbishop Ferdinand Perier and Belgian Jesuit priest Fr Celeste van Exem SJ (4 October 1908—20 September 1993) who was her spiritual director and long-time friend through a nearly fifty-year period accompanying Teresa specially during the inspiration and formation of the Missionaries of Charity. In Deus caritas est, then Pope Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa three times and used her life to clarify one of the encyclical's main points: "In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbor but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996 Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: 'We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer'" (DC 36).

She requested that her letters be destroyed out of her concern that "people will think more of me–less of Jesus." However, the Vatican advised not to. The correspondence had been compiled in "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light." One of those that she wrote to was her spiritual confidant Reverend Michael van der Peet. In September 1979, she wrote, "Jesus has a very special love for you. 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 but does not speak. ... I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have His free hand." Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Thanks for sharing this about Mother Teresa, Fr. JM. Our Prayer and of others will always sustain us in our darkest night. Hold on to God and keep doing His work. God bless us!

    1. Thank you too. Prayer is like a leaven that God places in all our actions and other people's actions for the building of God's Kingdom! GBU!


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