by Greg Spearritt
The September 3 issue of Time Magazine tells us that Mother Teresa persevered with her ministry despite feeling no sense of God in her life for decades on end. On one occasion she wrote: 'the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul'.
Compiler and editor of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, considers this spiritual heroism and a grand example for others.
Surely, though, what she was doing was worthwhile in itself. Many people give of their lives tirelessly for organisations like Oxfam, or take in foster children, or work in soup kitchens without having any overtly religious belief or imperative behind their actions. Do we need God up there or in there or anywhere at all to love our neighbour?
I’d like to think that in the end it was the humanitarian impulse, shorn (as it apparently was) of religious feeling, that sustained her.
It IS interesting that someone can "pretend" to have a vibrant religious faith for almost 50 years and carry out such significant humanitarian work and maintaining the appearance of a strong connection with God. Perhaps that's the point about faith. And why the church is promoting this story and noting that St John of the Cross in the 18th century experienced a similar uncertainty and lack of connection for 45 years - in his case recovering eventually.
I take a different message from the two stories, confiming my view that there was nothing to connect with.
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Mother Teresa fits comfortably in the great mystic traditions of the world.People like her seem to access the sort of vision denied to workers of soup kitchens and others sacrificing their lives in the best secular traditions of selfless humanitarian works.
It doesnt help when the detractors of such people to even begin to imagine what the mystic experience is when we are all so far removed from it.We have to just accept that there are degrees of spiritual refinement that defy description.
The Buddhists through insightful meditation and spiritual exercises have come to the conclusion that there is no God as such but only a deep Void at the heart of Ultimate Reality.Kierkegaard also speaks of this Void as a frightening Void that calls for an exercise of faith by leaping into it to know it.
I know this experience is rare, but it does exist.I believe it does. I cannot give you reasons why I do because it calls for a selection of language i simply do not have but when some others talk about their experience I can understand from where thy are coming. I do not doubt their integrity or diminish their experiences by offering parallel examples of a more credible and secular type. Any analogies will also prove inadequate.
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