Reading about Mother Teresa's crisis of faith in TIME magazine left me with a (slim) hope that sainthood could be in the works for me someday.
Why not? I was baptized Catholic. I help the poor. (Once in a while, at least, when it isn't too much trouble.) And I've got lots of doubts about God, like Teresa did.
Until I read the article I didn't know that someone who felt divorced from God could be on the road to sainthood. But this was Mother Teresa's condition for nearly the entire last fifty years of her life.
In previously unpublished letters that are included in a recent book about her, she said:
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 — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — 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 & 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. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated
This shows: (1) You can do good works without feeling any connection with God, and (2) Supposedly saintly people can have two spiritual selves, an outer holy persona that is presented to other people and a more honest inner self that is filled with doubt, lack of faith, and darkness of the soul.
Naturally Christian apologists will look upon Teresa's divine dryness as part of God's plan for her, the cross she had to bear. However, I look upon her situation more in line with this passage from the TIME article:
But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument [God's absence is a divine gift] will seem absurd. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country and western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned.
My wife enjoyed reading about Teresa because she is distinctly skeptical that any human being can rise above the imperfections that are the hallmark of humanity.
When I mention a guru-figure who is considered to be God in human form, Laurel likes to say, "I sure would like to be able to observe them through every moment of the day, not just when they're on a public podium."
Good point. These newly discovered letters of Mother Teresa point to the above-mentioned duality (some would call it hypocrisy) in which the outer message of revered religious men and women turns out to be at odds with their inner realization.
Anne Lamott has a quote which has become one of my favorites. She says, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty." Mother Teresa proves this point in a lovely and very human way. In having her letters published there has been something new to see about her and about the notion of faith. She has become very human. The work she did, even as she doubted even as she feared that there was no ultimate reward, no invisible friend to guide her through life, showed that she was a humanist at heart. She helped people for the sake of helping. Not for convictions that were ironclad and unexamined.
The notion of faith is more and more narrowly defined, and the "true believers" think that they own the word. But they don't. And as an atheist I resent being told I am a person of no faith. I have lots of faith, even as I have doubts. I doubt the Yankees will make it, but I have faith that they will get the pitching staff in shape and will get to the playoffs. It isn't really a contradiction, it is just two sides of the same coin. I have faith in humanity, in gravity, in medicine and in many other things. I just don't have faith in the big guy in the sky.
I thank Mother Teresa for the example she gives me, not only as a humanitarian but as a human. And I hope that the people who think that they know for sure that there is a god can allow for some doubt. Even a wisp of doubt will erase the arrogance and ultimately allow for more faith in more things. This will especially help if we are going to start to bridge the gap between "them" and "us" which will only happen if we can sit down and have a conversation.
Nica, I don't follow baseball very closely. But since I live in Oregon I'm aware that the Yankees are three games ahead of the Mariners (the northwest's only major league team) in the race for a playoff spot. So it looks like your faith is well-founded.
Jesus may not be alive in your heart, but Alex Rodriquez surely is.