Revisiting the Mystery – The Dark Night of Mother Teresa
By Father Cantalamessa – Papal Preacher
[FONT=Arial]It is not hard to recognize immediately in Mother Teresa’s experience a classic case of what the scholars of mysticism, after Saint John of the Cross, usually call the dark night of the soul. [/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]Johannes Tauler gives a startling description of this state: “Then we are abandoned in such a way that we no longer have any awareness of God, and we fall into such anguish that we no longer know if we were ever on the right path, nor know if God even exists, or if we ourselves are alive or dead. And so an anguish besets us that is so strange, it seems as if everything in the entire world were joining together to afflict us. We no longer have any experience or awareness of God, but everything else seems repugnant to us as well, and it seems we are trapped between two walls.”
I think one of the contributions, just one, of Mother Teresa and The Dark Night is that it expresses it in a way that tells the inexperienced, “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of The Living God”………….and that the true Dark Night of The Soul is dreadful indeed and a terrible suffering. Doubtless I should think the extremes of the Dark Night of The Soul may vary, as may its length.
By the very same token, it can tell those experiencing a type of extreme spiritual darkness and suffering that all is not lost. It can bring real hope to those who may feel without hope.
The most insidious danger for the soul that is in the dark night is that of realizing that she is, in fact, in the dark night, in what the great mystics before her had experienced, and that she is therefore part of a circle of privileged souls. With the grace of God, Mother Teresa avoided this danger, hiding her torment from everyone under an ever-present smile. “Always smiling, is what the sisters and the people say of me. They think that inside I am full of faith, trust, and love… If they only knew how true it is that my joyfulness is nothing but a cloak I throw over my emptiness and misery!” A saying of the desert Fathers says: *“However great your sufferings may be, your victory over them lies in silence.” *Mother Teresa put this into practice in an heroic way.