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Mother Teresa: A Lamp in the Darkness

st teresa of calcutta

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
  to observe thy righteous ordinances. I am sorely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to thy word!-Psalm 119: 106-107

She founded a religious congregation. She served the poor with radical acts of Christian charity. She fought for the rights of the sick, the downtrodden and the unborn. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. And this week, she was canonized. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a busy little ray of God’s light shining onto a jaded 20th century world.

But Mother Teresa’s achievements, however brilliant, are not what draw me to seek her intercession.  Instead, I find comfort and solace in what the holy nun did not achieve during her life on earth–a lasting spiritual peace or emotional experience of God.

During the same decades that Mother Teresa was changing the world with her presence, Christ was changing her with his seeming absence. With few instances of reprieve, her adult life, even until death, was marked by an extended period of agonizing spiritual dryness, the dark night of the soul. In 1957, she wrote:

“In the darkness . . . Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me?  The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one. The one — you have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer . . . Where 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.  Love — the word — it brings nothing.  I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” (Source)

Mother Teresa wasn’t the only one who had difficulty understanding the meaning of this painful struggle. Once her critics got wind of it, they used it repeatedly in their attempts to discredit her. The famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, who had gone so far as to testify against the nun’s case for canonization, wrote in Newsweek in 2007: “I say it as calmly as I can—the Church should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.”

So why exactly should we rejoice in a life that was so full of inner pain? Why take comfort in the struggle of another? Why canonize someone who could not feel the light of God in her own life, who was dogged by doubts and darkness?

I’m no Mother Teresa, but as a Catholic with depression, I can relate to the hurt and confusion apparent in her writings. I can sympathize with her short periods of solace and sunshine, followed by long times of inner darkness. I can appreciate what it feels like to keep going day after day, stumbling and striving to do your best for a God whom you cannot feel. And I take great hope in the Church’s brave declaration that Christ does not abandon those who cannot sense him emotionally.

St. Teresa of Calcutta is indisputably in heaven, and her example is a lamp to the feet of all of us who travel in mental and spiritual darkness. If we continue to fight, continue to keep going, continue to believe and confess and pray and work and love, we too can ultimately triumph by the light of Christ.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

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A Beloved Pope Becomes a Beloved Saint

pope john paul IIThis Sunday, on Divine Mercy Sunday, our beloved Pope John Paul II will be canonized as a saint. I doubt there was a single person who questioned that this day would one day come. Many of us are so thrilled that it is sooner than later! What a joy this day will be for all of us! I feel very blessed to be able to witness his life, his death, and his official canonization.

In his honor I want to share something I wrote on April 2, 2005. When our wonderful Papa died I felt it very intensely. How funny that a man I had never met, had never talked to, and who didn’t even know I existed would have such an impact on my life. But he did. He was such an influence in my life and I, like so many, mourned when he died. I look up to him for his teachings on life and love, forgiveness and trust. He touched me in so many ways.

I would love if you would share your memories of our amazing Papa with us. In the coming days we are sure to see how the world remembers him but I would love to hear how he affected your life. Has he helped changed the way you view others? Your view on life? Faith? How and why was he important to you?

Below you will find my memories of the days following his death. My heart still misses this great man but I know he has claimed his heavenly inheritance and is surrounded by all the other saints and angels giving praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What better reward could one ask for? On Sunday I plan to celebrate with the world as our Church recognizes and canonizes this great man. May we each live our lives in such a manner that glorifies our Lord in all we say and do. May those who see us in turn see Christ’s light shining brightly in the dark night.

A Sad Day for the World

pope john paul wailing wallRegardless of the faith you profess, the passing of Pope John Paul II is very sad. As a Catholic I am sad for many reasons but mostly because he was such an outstanding human. Notice here I didn’t say Catholic, I didn’t say Christian, I didn’t say man. I said human. The Pope could see past the invisible lines that separate us all from each other. He bridged gaps between Christians and Jews, between Christians and Muslims, between Jews and Muslims. He wanted the world to be united in its love for God. He took tremendous strides in helping to heal past pains and to make steps toward that ultimate unity that he knows the Lord hopes for. Yes, he was the leader of the Catholic Church, but he was a man that mirrored Jesus’ life, one filled with the love of God, concern for others and an unwavering faith.

pope john paul with babyThe Pope was so concerned about human rights that he made it a pillar of his ministry and evangelization. He lifted human life up and reminded us that we are made in God’s likeness and so must respect life in all its forms… from the unborn to the handicapped; from the youth to the elderly; from Americans to Africans to Europeans. All life was sacred and he was at the forefront in helping to defend and preserve the sanctity of life. He was definitely one of the soldiers in God’s army… ready to defend the gifts and the precious life that God gave us.

I have sat watching the news channels, seeing the life of the Pope unfold, hearing the testimonials from not only Catholics but from Jews, Muslims, and other Christians throughout the world. I am in awe at the far reaching affect that Pope John Paul II has had. God certainly worked through this holy man. He has touched so many lives. I think that some might think he had no effect on their lives but his firm stand on moral issues, his willingness to help all others and his desire to unite the world for the Lord does touch every single person.

I feel lucky to have lived in a time that was blessed with a man as holy and as dedicated to the Lord as Pope John Paul II was. We should all strive to have the faith and dedication that he possessed. I am sad that our Pontiff has passed but am thrilled to think of him in Heaven. He is no longer suffering. He is with our Lord Jesus now and one cannot be sad about that!

I pray that we are further blessed with another Pope who is as dedicated to God and His people as Pope John Paul II was. I pray that perhaps others will view the Pope as not just the leader of the Catholic Church but as an ambassador from God. Someone sent to help the world continue to heal, continue to strengthen our bonds and help us to see and live the life that God is calling us all to live.

May Pope John Paul II rest in peace.

pope john paul II