The Final Word
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.