Saturday, August 25, 2007

never free nor ever chaste....

I've been reflecting on faith lately (which is hardly unusual for me) so was intrigued to see exerpts from Mother Theresa's personal letters today in which she admits to periods of intense personal struggle. Yet on reading her thoughts, and wrestlings with profound doubt, it only seems to make her work more remarkable, her faith more real and her life more authentically human.

"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear," she wrote to the Reverend Michael van der Peet in September 1979.

"I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God - tender, personal love," she wrote to one adviser. "If you were (there), you would have said, 'What hypocrisy'."

"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," she wrote in 1953. "It has been like this more or less from the time I started 'the work'."

Then in 1956: "Such deep longing for God - and ... repulsed - empty - no faith - no love - no zeal. (Saving) souls holds no attraction - Heaven means nothing - pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything."

And then in 1959: "If there be no God - there can be no soul - if there is no Soul then Jesus - You also are not true."

"I utter words of community prayers - and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give - but my prayer of union is not there any longer - I no longer pray."

Something in the explicit honesty of Mother Theresa's writings brought to mind what is perhaps my favourite poem

Batter My Heart

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me and bend
your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
labor to admit you, but, oh, to no end;
reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
but is captived and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you and would be loved fain,
but am betrothed unto your enemy:
divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
take me to you, imprison me, for I,
except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

For those of who have struggled through dark nights of the soul, there is something deeply reassuring that we, while ever restless and sometimes tormented, are not alone in experiencing times of screaming silence.