You have probably heard about the book that came out on the 4th of September 2017, “Come Be My Light”, that contains many letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In these letters we discover something that is very unexpected for many: Mother Teresa lived the last fifty years of her life feeling that Jesus/God was absent.
Immediately, many people, and amongst them even big names in the Catholic Church said that this was a “dark night” for Mother Teresa, referring thereby to the contents of the book of St. John of the Cross by the same name: “The Dark Night”. Please note here that “night” in St. John of the Cross’ terminology means “purification”.
Some others, however, amongst them the Postulator of her cause in the Vatican Reverend Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, remarked that this was a different issue. Rv. Brian said that it shouldn’t be understood as a purification, “night” as above-mentioned meaning “purification”, but that it was a participation in the Passion of the Lord. Of course, this position was incomparably different and far better than the former one.
In fact, if one studies her spiritual life carefully, especially the first part of it, i.e. before the beginning of her Foundation, it is patently obvious to see the height of her spirituality and holiness already shining forth. Thus, one needs to take into consideration the whole journey of the person, and not just one period in the life of a person, before judging some of his or her writings.
It seems strange, however, that there does not seem to be any appreciation of the illogicality and rather catastrophic aspect of the first opinion, namely, that what Mother Teresa was undergoing was purification. Surely, we cannot state that Mother Teresa is a saint and simultaneously say that she spent all of her life being purified by God! Isn’t this complete nonsense? If it were the case then this would mean that all the stages of growth that follow purification will not even be achieved, that is, “Spiritual Engagement”, “Spiritual Marriage”, “Transformative Union” and “Death of Love,” as explained by St. John of the Cross! How then can she be considered a saint? It seems that this view reveals a lack of serious knowledge and amateurism in theology! What then is “Holiness” for these individuals? How do they define it? Can one judge and evaluate this lightly or superficially? What is their understanding of “Purification”? Why would a person of such entire dedication endure fifty years in an ongoing purification?
The odd thing is that the same problem arose with the great Carmelite saint, St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In the last eighteen months of her life on earth she had a mysterious Trial where “heaven disappeared”. And in the last 120 years we have also had theologians who commented and wrote about it saying that this was a purification, a “dark night of the spirit” as St. John of the Cross describes it. History repeats itself, in a very short space of time.
This demonstrates that such elementary things in “Spiritual Theology” are not well known by even important theologians. If this shows something, it shows how urgent it is to help the Science of “Spiritual Theology” to grow and develop, in order to let not only the people of God grow in knowledge and wisdom in order to have a stronger spiritual life, but also to help even people, who are in the early stages of their study of theology, know the foundations of theology.
What is the point of knowing Bible, Dogma etc… and not having a sound knowledge of Spiritual life?!! At the end of the day, what is useful is the Science that leads you to know God better, to receive Him in fullness, and grow (i.e. Spiritual Theology). Of course, I am not saying that Dogma, Bible… are of no importance, not at all! I am just saying: when one studies such a wide topic as Theology, one has to see how the different sub-topics are organised, what the links are, what leads to what! One needs to acknowledge the importance of Spiritual Theology.
One has to say that it has been courageous on the part of the Rev. Brian K. to publish these letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual directors, but the important questions that arise are: are we ready to read them? Are we ready to receive them as one of the most precious gifts we have ever had for the last 120 years or so? This is the real issue.
Let us work, study, and help this Science of “Spiritual Theology” to grow amongst us. It is the most thrilling Science that can exist, and the most useful one! And now, the most neglected one! Why? Maybe because it is the most challenging and the most difficult!
In order to understand the Spiritual Journey better, please read the series of thirteen articles under: “The Spiritual Journey in 11 Diagrams”.