The Final Word

The Final Word

April 2016

Recently, as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we celebrated a prayer vigil of 24 Hours for the Lord in St Patrick’s Cathedral. 

It was wonderful that so many Archdiocesan groups prayed holy hours during the vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. Numerous people prayed for mercy for refugees, the sick and aged and all those in need of compassion. 

It was particularly inspiring to see our own Missionaries of Charity from Fitzroy pray a special holy hour, asking the Lord for the canonisation of their Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 

Mother Teresa was one of us and a very human follower of Jesus. Today, accounts of her fragile humanity and struggles sometimes surprise people. A while back, commentators expressed shock at the ‘revelation’ a holy person like Mother Teresa experienced darkness, doubts and trials in her faith journey.

However, such experiences are normal for all followers of Jesus, as they risk the adventure of faith. All of us, as disciples of Jesus, can expect to struggle, like Jacob with an angel. It was no different for Mother Teresa.

We now know of Mother Teresa’s inner struggle (that she spoke of privately to her spiritual director). She was a heroic woman of faith, charity and, above all, mercy.

In hundreds of private letters and notes, she admitted to an almost unremitting inner darkness, a practically unrelenting sense of the absence of God. Paradoxically, many also say they have never known anyone more radiantly joyful than this woman.

Mother Teresa lived through a profound experience of the ‘dark night of the soul’. She suffered aridity, anguish and a deep longing for God to reveal himself to her.

From her serene outward appearance and her compassionate actions one would imagine that her inner self would be filled with joy and peace. But, surprisingly, it was not—often, there was just ‘nothingness’.

Mother Teresa said, ‘If my darkness is light to some soul ... I am perfectly happy.’ Despite this paradox, her letters reveal ‘a depth of spiritual intimacy, a hidden supernatural love’.

We know, however, that these interior struggles and crises did not turn Mother Teresa in on herself into self-centredness. Quite the contrary—they propelled her to an even deeper love of the poor and a desire to be of service to others.

Saints are not gods. They are human beings who struggle with the limitations all of us have, being born in the human condition. They have weaknesses, character flaws and can make mistakes. The difference is they discover, with St Paul, that in Christ ‘when I am weak, I am strong’. The depth of their inner surrender is what makes them holy.

And it is this vulnerability and openness to love that inspires others to carry on their mission and charism of mercy. For there is no greater proof of the love and relevance of Mother Teresa than the remarkable ministry her sisters and their co-workers still undertake on a daily basis—in places like Fitzroy.

‘By their fruits you shall know them’—and what fruits of joyous love and service Mother Teresa has produced in the selfsacrificing love of her Sisters in Fitzroy and beyond!

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, woman of deep faith and servant of the poorest of the poor, pray for us as we look to you in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

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