This is not a book for those who are looking for a feel good story. It's a deeply personal story of a woman who loved God beyond everything, and struggled... as we all do... in the darkness. It's an encouragement to those of us who have lost the feelings of God. It's wonderful fruit for daily prayers, and the 'real stuff' of faith. God bless the priests who had the courage to save her letters and publish them for our benefit. Her humility desired them to remain private, but we are blessed to have them. Mother Theresa, Pray for us!
Was this review helpful to you?
What initially attracted me to 'Come Be My Light' was the fact it is based on the personal corespondence Mother Teresa had with her spiritual advisors and others throughout her life. After her death it was revealed that she suffered through periods of spiritual darkness-this was something i wanted to explore in more detail. What shocked me about the book is the fact that after Mother Teresa heard 'the call' while on a train to Darjeeling to leave her teaching position and go into the slums of Calcutta, she had no sense of the presence of God again throughout her life. This is the core of the book-her letters are a form of reaching out for help from her spiritual advisors who seem to do nothing more than reframe things so she can continue with her work. I found the book disturbing in that it showed, at least for me, Mother Teresa's convoluted view on suffering (if God allows it you must accept it) and the church's collaboration in its attempt to make her a modern day saint. The book eventually became tedious and I found myself skimming through the final chapters.While 'Come Be My Light' provides a rather startling glimpse of Mother Teresa's inner life, it wasn't nearly as inspiring as I had hoped.
Was this review helpful to you?
There is hope in this book for anyone who has ever felt despair especially in yearning for contact with God and not finding it except perhaps in the goodness (Godness?) of others. Despite a darkness and dryness which seems to have persisted for all but one month of her adult life as a woman religious, Mother Teresa admits to this kind of loneliness, while still putting on a "happy face". I'm identifying.
The reality is that the world would likely not know of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta apart from the work of Malcolm Muggeridge who found her and who then produced the film, "Something Beautiful for God". When I was a secondary school teacher I showed this film to my classes year in and year out. I still wonder what happened to that tiny baby girl to whom Mother talks at one point and tells Muggeridge that there is a light in the baby's eye and she thinks "she will make it".
I have had the opportunity to visit the motherhouse of the community in Calcutta. I had hoped to see the babies there but couldn't because "The children are having chicken pox", the sign outside the orphanage said. I was offered the chance to wait to meet Mother Teresa herself as she made her way to the chapel but decided I wasn't up to that. I might actually have been afraid to meet her and I still don't know why. Would she have seen the progressive version of Christianity which is now my own approach to the tradition? And would she perhaps not have approved?
I'm glad the book was written. I could do without the pious language of the priest who is her postulator. I can deal with it in terms of Mother Teresa herself because it was the language of the spirituality of the Roman Catholic Church when I was growing up.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
A fellow reader found my "one" star rating problematic. I agree. Blessed Teresa's writings deserve more than 5 Stars!. My problem is that she requested the letters be burned not published. If that's her request, then what kind of respect is that for her? Correct me if I'm wrong. No star to the National Post. The journalist and Editor need a theology lesson before they attempt to write about something they no nothing about. The Editor of the book should be ashamed of publishing words that were meant to be between her and God, confessions under the seal of secrecy (even though she is "dead") Saturday Morning: I stepped out of the elevator to go to work at C.I. Religious Supplies in Toronto. Someone had left a copy of the National Post on the counter. I saw Mother Teresa's photograph and read the quote above it: 'I have no faith'. Yes, it caught my eye and I picked it up. The National Post had done its job of catching my attention. I had the feeling it would be slanderous yet I read on. Out of 224 pages, the NP chose 4 words to sum up Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's life. Of course, what made it eye-catching is that a woman of "great faith" said 'I have no faith'. If it was a photo of me or the journalist it would not have that impact. What immediately jumped to my mind was "the Dark Night of the Soul" experienced by all Saints, including Christ Himself when He said, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" To keep it short, the "Dark Night of the Soul" is what EVERY Saint experiences in their journey towards God. God seemingly abandons the soul in order to bring it closer to Him and increases the soul's faith and trust in Him. This was affirmed by many renowned theologians who said the same thing. Do a Google search and read about St. John of the Cross.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
342 of 364 people found the following review helpful
The Dark Night of the SoulSept. 13 2007
Robert W. Kellemen
- Published on Amazon.com
Consisting primarily of correspondence between Mother Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, the book offers insight into the inner life of a believer known mostly through her external works of mercy. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by the Catholic Church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she experienced the absence of the presence of God. As the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, she experienced Christ's presence "neither in her heart or in the Eucharist."
From a psychological perspective, research into the nature of faith, such as that done by James Fowler in "Stages of Faith" suggest that Mother Teresa, in continuing to serve Christ by serving others while experiencing the absence of the presence of God, was revealing the highest level of faith. Hers was not the trust of a child, nor the blind faith of those at lower levels of belief, but the highest, deepest, and most dependent reliance.
From a historical perspective, Mother Teresa's experience has been so common for so long that it has its own name: "the dark night of the soul." Great believers of the past, of all shapes and sizes, types and denominations, have experienced lengthy bouts of agonizing doubts.
Amongst Catholics, to name a few, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Saint Teresa of Lisieux (from whom Mother Teresa took her religious name) all endured the absence of God's presence. Of many representative Protestant believers, Martin Luther is a primary case study. So intangible was Luther's Christ, that Luther developed an entire "theology of the Cross" to explain the paradox of a God who is most present in His very absence. Historical biblical characters (think Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Thomas--the Patron Saint of Doubters--among many others) all lived lives of faith even while doubting.
So what diagnosis would or should a physician of the soul offer concerning Mother Teresa? First, it is important to recall that she did have soul physicians--her confessors and spiritual directors to whom she wrote this now debated letters. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act." One need not be a Catholic, nor a Catholic apologist, nor even a Mother Teresa backer to acknowledge the psychological, historical, and spiritual realities behind the inner spiritual life of the former Agnes Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa's birth name).
Personally, rather than taunt her for her torment, I applaud her. More than that, I identify with her. Her candor combined with her tenacious clinging to Christ gives me hope that my doubts are a severe mercy of God designed to harpoon me to His Spirit while the irrepressible tsunami of God's absence batters my soul.
Her clinging faith reminds me once again of the clinging faith of enslaved African American Christians. Nellie, a former slave from Savannah, Georgia sounds like a modern-day Mother Teresa with her startling candor.
"It has been a terrible mystery, to know why the good Lord should so long afflict my people, and keep them in bondage--to be abused, and trampled down, without any rights of their own--with no ray of light in the future. Some of my folks said there wasn't any God, for if there was He wouldn't let white folks do as they have done for so many years".
When her mistress questions her about her faith, a slave known to us only as Polly explains her hope. "We poor creatures have need to believe in God, for if God Almighty will not be good to us some day, why were we born? When I heard of his delivering his people from bondage I know it means the poor Africans."
Mother Teresa's faith was not a case study in self-contradiction. Instead, she placed her faith in Christ rather than placing her faith in her faith. Entrusting her soul to an invisible Savior, the world saw Christ in her even when she could not see Christ in the world.
Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Soul Physicians, and Spiritual Friends.
168 of 182 people found the following review helpful
An inspiring book you don't want to miss. An open book to her heart.Sept. 3 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Mother Theresa began her missionary work in the late 40s and has become one of the most beloved figures of the twentieth century. Her compassion for the poor and her devotion to the cause has brought her great admiration from believers and non-believers alike.
For the first time we are able to get a glimpse of the inner workings of her brain and heart. "I am told God lives in me -- and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul," she writes in one of her letters that help shed light into her plight to feel the presence of God. Mother Theresa suffered for her faith. "There is nothing but emptiness and darkness," she declared. They say suffering is needed for Sainthood. She definitely passed that test. Some may find it disappointing that a person as holy as Mother Theresa struggled with her faith. I personally found it rather consoling. It helps me relate during those moments of doubt and questioning.
She might have questioned her faith; she might have felt the emptiness of God's presence, from time to time, but she never questioned her mission to serve and to do God's will. These types of dichotomies abound the entire book. Here is a perfect example: "But when I was eighteen, I decided to leave my home and become a nun, and since then, this forty years, I've never doubted even for a second that I've done the right thing; it was the will of God. It was his Choice."
Although Mother Theresa had asked that these letters, that spanned decades, be destroyed upon her death, they have been published in this book that will inspire millions to live her example of faith; to live her example of sacrifice and to get closer to God. She didn't want her writings to divert attention from Jesus, that's why she wanted them destroyed. The result, however, is quite the opposite.
Many people have made the struggle of her faith the cornerstone of this book. I feel, however, that they have missed so much of the inspiration; the beautiful writing; her poems; her dedication and her beautiful heart.
As an aside note, I really enjoyed the way Mother Theresa ended her letters. Here is one, addressed to Father Michael, which spoke on her desire to be an instrument of Jesus: "I pray for you that you let Jesus use you without consulting you. Do the same for me."
This is a very inspirational book that I will read again, for sure. Enjoy!
70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
You need to know thisOct. 2 2007
Bernard W. Ernette
- Published on Amazon.com
I am an Evangelical pastor of nearly 25 years. Nobdoy has spoken of the spiritual dryness that we SO reluctantly admit to, as Mother Theresa. No wonder she wanted her letters burned, we may still not be ready for the reality of Christ. She approaches only the Apostle Paul in doing so. She teaches that if we aproach the benefits of following our risen saviour only in terms of self-gratification, we miss the whole point. Our Lord will withhold it, to test and clarify our desire to follow him for no other reason than to gain Him. I do not claim to have grasped the things she testifies to, only to see at a distance that she is correct and the things she suffered where not punishement for sin, but the course of growth in Christ which, as Augustine ponted out, is only achieved for it's own sake, with no regard to present benefit. She moved forward, without regard to personal gain, because she grasped the overwheleming reality of Christ our Saviour. Buy the book when you are ready to be drawn into Christ centered spiritual maturity that no seminary,Sunday School, nor Sunday preaching could have prepared you for.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
An Incredibly Candid and Important Christian WorkOct. 21 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
"I am told God loves me--and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."
I wrote this quotation on the white board at the beginning of a recent Sunday School lesson on the Israelites' wilderness wanderings and asked the kids who they thought had written it. Their guesses ranged from Kurt Cobain to Alanis Morissette to Sylvia Plath...people we associate with acute depression or drugs or angry rejections of the world. No one supposed the meek, humble, seemingly always-at-peace saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This response from my junior and senior highers mirrored the response of Christians all over the world when these private letters and journals of Mother Teresa were made public for the first time a couple months ago. For those who have not yet seen the book, it offers a remarkably candid and penetrating insight into the depth of Mother Teresa's spiritual life, revealing a surprising and tragic absence of any sense of God's presence or comfort with her for most of the final 50 years of her life. I have found myself reading her letters and diary entries with a mix of voyeuristic curiosity, heartwrenching concern, and a desire to glean wisdom from this luminary of Christian history. Many times Mother Teresa begged that these papers be destroyed, and I can't blame her for desiring that; I would be mortified if my deepest thoughts and feelings-- intended for myself, for God, or for my closest confidants-- were made public. And there would be an added sense of betrayal, as opposed to, say, posting something on a myspace page that eventually made its way to unintended eyes. Ultimately, the Catholic Church decided that Teresa's own spiritual experience belonged not to herself, but to the Church. And, in spite of feeling like part of the betrayal when I immerse myself in her descriptions of the depths of her soul, I do have to agree that the potential benefits of Mother Teresa's personal writings for the spiritual development of every Christian outweigh other concerns. Some of the valuable lessons from Mother Teresa's words:
A Deeper Understanding of Spiritual Darkness "There is no God in me--when the pain of longing is so great--I just long & long for God--and then it is that I feel--He does not want me--He is not there..."
Although the darkness and sense of abandonment that Mother Teresa suffered was, it seems, more profound than that which most of us are likely to experience (corresponding to her unusually high calling), her words will connect powerfully with anyone who has gone through a period of doubt, darkness, or depression, as well as enlightening everyone's understanding of the complexities of such a spiritual state. Too frequently those in the Church rush to interpret spiritual dryness as a sign of spiritual failure or unfaithfulness; indeed, Mother Teresa initially regarded her own feelings of being abandoned by God as resulting from her own sinfulness. But there is not always such a simple, formulaic explanation for these "dark nights of the soul"--would it not seem rather naïve and foolish to conclude from Mother Teresa's spiritual condition that she was not praying enough, or that she wasn't being faithful enough to God's call? As surprising as the revelation of Mother Teresa's spiritual darkness may seem to us, it is consistent with the Apostle Paul's understanding of the Christian's sharing in Christ's sufferings. But rarely do we accept this suffering as the call of a modern-day Christian--and never do we expect this suffering to include Christ's anguished cry from the cross: "My God--why have you forsaken me?!" This is not to imply that those in spiritual anguish--Mother Teresa included--are free of sin, but that there is not a set correlation between our faithfulness and the happiness--or even the joy--that we experience. And yet these feelings of spiritual darkness are often compounded exponentially by feelings of guilt and failure..."I'm not a good enough Christian," "I'm not faithful enough," "It's all my fault that I can't seem to experience the joy of Christ right now." Mother Teresa reminds us that there is an element of mystery to suffering in this age, that its causes cannot be identified the way we diagnose the roots of lower back pain or of a toothache.
An Extraordinary Model of Faithfulness "I know there have been things which could have been better, but in all sincerity I have tried to refuse nothing to God to answer His every call."
So often we want to know what God desires of us--so long as that calling does not interfere with the plans we have already made for our life, or draw us into a place where we would feel uncomfortable, or where we would have to give up things or freedoms we are unwilling to surrender. Even things as simple as rearranging our schedules, repairing a relationship, or making small sacrifices in our standard of living we tend to reject as too difficult--as if God were asking us to go evangelize a colony of single-celled organisms on Mars. Mother Teresa voluntarily spent decades of her life in utter poverty, without even the comfort of God's presence with her--and she did not leave her mission field to seek the limited pleasures and comforts the world could offer, all because she knew that she was doing what Christ (or "the Absent One," as she came to call Him) had called her to do. Her faithfulness--with so few spiritual comforts and supports--is both humbling and inspiring.
A Powerful Witness to Hope "The joy of loving Jesus comes from the joy of sharing in His sufferings...In all of our lives, as in the life of Jesus, the Resurrection has to come, the joy of Easter has to dawn."
It seems particularly cruel that Mother Teresa's darkness did not ultimately lift before she died in 1997. Even the most famous of the spiritually desiccated, St. John of the Cross, suffered in his similar condition for a mere 40-some years before finally experiencing God's presence again in his final years. How could Mother Teresa love so deeply while feeling so abandoned? How could she keep going for half a century? How could she experience any joy at all? Mother Teresa lived her life in a condition of pure faith and hope, trusting that God's reality was greater than her sensation of His absence, that the hope of resurrection was a concrete certainty, that "the Absent One" would indeed return, as He had promised in the scriptures. Her life defines "hope"...a life built on Christ's promises, and not on her own experiences. Her witness can be heard as a word of hope to all who suffer, have suffered, or will suffer from the agony of Christ's absence--there is a greater reality than what we can perceive, there are mysteries that we cannot comprehend, and there is a hope that transcends our understanding.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Dark Night of the SoulMay 17 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Saint John of the Cross initiated the term 'Dark Night of the Soul.' It essentially refers to an arrid period in our spiritual journey - one whereby we feel somewhat abandoned by God. God is always there however; we just feel as though He has left us to our own devices.
Many of the great saints and mystics experienced this dark night and Blessed Mother Teresa was no exception. She has been unfairly criticized by many, especially some media sources. They paint a picture of someone who actually did not believe but simply went through the motions - a kind of faith facade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read this book and see for yourself what she really experienced and how she managed to overcome her anxieties. The Lord Whom she loved and served saw her through it all until the end.
One has to ask themselves logically why a woman of her age and length of service to humanity years would even go into the areas she did. What drives someone to leave a relatively comfortable life and embark into areas totally foreign to them being subject to all manner of inconvenience and potential dangers? Why would anyone ever 'volunteer' for such work as Mother Teresa chose picking up and carrying maggot-infested people from the gutters and taking them to a shelter, albeit a warehouse she was able to obtain, and clean the maggots from them, give them food and drink, comfort and assurance so they could die with dignity?
Critics abound everywhere and do so from the comfort of their air-conditioned dwellings sipping a latte' and knowing that their next meal is in their grasp. They shower with imported soaps, get facials and manicures...yet, they are able to criticize an elderly Nun who is out in the world remaining free of its attractions so as to see in all men and women the Christ she so loved and served. Dark night's incidentally are actually a sign that God has favored someone. It is a test of sorts and in my judgment and that of millions of others, Blessed Mother Teresa passed that test with flying colors.
Read this book and see for yourself the strength and character that was Mother Teresa.