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Even Mother Teresa doubted the whole "religion" thing


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Mother Teresa's shocking struggle with faith

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BY HELEN KENNEDY

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Friday, August 24th 2007, 4:00 AM

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Mother Teresa (center) waved to onlookers after 1997 visit from Princess Diana to Missionaries of Charity Convent in Bronx where saintly nun had been staying.

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Words of agony

Excerpts from Mother Teresa's letters: 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.

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? - Undated, addressed to Jesus

Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself - for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started "the work." - 1953, to Archbishop Ferdinand Perier

Such deep longing for God - and . . . repulsed - empty - no faith - no love - no zeal. [The saving of] Souls holds no attraction. Heaven means nothing. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.

- 1956, to Perier Jesus has a very special love for you . . . [but] 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 [in prayer] but does not speak. - 1979, to the Rev. Michael Van der Peet

Mother Teresa, a globally beloved symbol of saintly devotion to the poor, spent her last 50 years secretly struggling with doubts about her faith, her newly published letters show.

"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," she wrote.

"How painful is this unknown pain - I have no Faith."

The letters paint an astonishing alternate portrait of the nun revered for her selflessness and serenity. In reality, she was tortured for decades by her inability to feel even the smallest glimmer of the Lord's presence.

She felt abandoned by Christ, referred to Jesus as "the Absent One," and called her own smile "a mask."

In the 1960s, after receiving an important prize, she wrote, "This means nothing to me, because I don't have Him."

Sixty-six years worth of her deeply personal letters to superiors and confessors - preserved by the Catholic Church despite her dying wish that they be destroyed - are published in a new book, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," excerpted in Time magazine.

The book is by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, director of the Mother Teresa Center and the driving force behind efforts to canonize her.

She has already been beatified, the step before formally being declared a saint.

"I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented," Kolodiejchuk said. "It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."

He argues that the depth of her spiritual suffering increases her saintliness.

Most believers suffer from crises of faith, but the duration of Teresa's alienation from Christ seems extreme.

It began, she said, soon after she set up her Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in the late 1940s to succor India's poor. And it lasted, with only a joyous five-week respite in 1959 when she refound God, until her death at age 87, a decade ago.

"There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started 'the work,'" she wrote in 1953.

After Pope Pius XII died in October 1958, Teresa prayed to him for proof that God was pleased with her work. "Then and there," she rejoiced, "disappeared the long darkness ... that strange suffering of 10 years."

But five weeks later she reported being "in the tunnel" again, and her dark night of the soul never lifted.

The nun, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to ethnic Albanian parents in what is now Macedonia, coped with what she termed her "spiritual dryness" by likening it to Christ's doubt on the cross.

"I have come to love the darkness for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus' darkness & pain on earth," she wrote in 1961.

Teresa was a 36-year-old convent teacher riding on a train in India on Sept. 10, 1946, when she said Christ spoke to her directly, telling her to become a missionary in the slums to help the poorest of the poor.

"Come be My light," is what she heard.

Back then, she felt a deeply personal bond with Jesus, recounting conversations and visions. It was that loss that she mourned the rest of her life, although she never abandoned her work.

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Very interesting to see her as truly human. With all of the despair and destruction she had witnessed in her life I would be more surprised if she never questioned God. I speak for myself, but I'm sure many followers are the same, there are often times when I wonder if I am truly doing the right thing. Am I truly fulfilling the destiny God wants for me. I've questioned God many times; why God do you let so many people suffer, why do you allow children to be molested, why are so many hungry, etc. It's not easy being human. But more often than not, situations occur in my life that renew my faith and make me a stronger Christian man. The footprints poem always summed it up best for me...

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed

he was walking along the beach with the LORD.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.

For each scene he noticed two sets of

footprints in the sand: one belonging

to him, and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,

he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of

his life there was only one set of footprints.

He also noticed that it happened at the very

lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he

questioned the LORD about it:

"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow

you, you'd walk with me all the way.

But I have noticed that during the most

troublesome times in my life,

there is only one set of footprints.

I don't understand why when

I needed you most you would leave me."

The LORD replied:

"My son, my precious child,

I love you and I would never leave you.

During your times of trial and suffering,

when you see only one set of footprints,

it was then that I carried you."

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Personally any George Carlin rant on religion sums it up for me but I'm definitely a "to each his own" kind of guy. I may not be able to understand in a million years why people belive some of the stuff they do, but as long as they don't try to force it on others then more power to them.

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everyone doubts. even Jesus doubted his Father's plan.

Not everyone. I know some people who are completely insane and any mention of doubt in their particular religion will result in an a profanity laced tirade about how stupid somebody is for having those doubts. Just sayin'

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