Indian bishop intervenes over Mother Teresa belief row

By Ecumenical News International
September 13, 2007

A media frenzy based on the supposed spiritual emptiness in the life of Mother Teresa, made public in some of her recently published letters, derives from a lack of spirituality, says Roman Catholic Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta - writes Anto Akkara.

"Those who are questioning the faith of the Mother have no idea of what is spiritual life," Sirkar told Ecumenical News International during an interview in his office on 5 September 2007 on the 10th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa.

The collection of letters between Mother Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of more than 60 years is contained in a book, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light". The US news magazine Time recently published excerpts from the letters.

The Time report said the letters showed that during the last decades of her life, Mother Teresa, who was known as "the saint of the gutters" felt no presence of God.

One letter from 1979 has her writing to a spiritual confidant, "Jesus has a very special love for you ... as for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see."

Still, Archbishop Sirkar noted, "The more you move forward in the path to saintliness or holiness, the more you have to struggle against that which is not holy." He noted, "Unfortunately, those who have raised the issue have no understanding of spiritual or sacramental life."

Sirkar added, "Many are weak in their religious life and are not able to grasp the feelings the Mother has expressed in her letters."

During a memorial Mass on the 10th anniversary of Mother Teresa's death, Archbishop Sirkar in a homily hailed her "deep faith". He said this enabled the nun "to dedicate herself to God" and "to give until it hurts" in the service of the poor and the dying.

Born in Skopje in what is now the Republic of Macedonia, Mother Teresa came to India in 1929 as a Loreto nun after receiving training in Ireland. She began to work among the poor, lonely and dying in 1950, and founded the Missionaries of Charity congregation to serve them.

"The church is not disappointed by these letters at all," asserted Archbishop Sirkar.
"This [controversy] is a creation of the media."

Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa's successor and superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, which has over 4800 nuns and 700 novices working in 134 countries, told ENI, "This is a trial only few souls go through. It happens when God enters their hearts in a very powerful way." She said, "The light is so strong and the human capacity is so less. What happens when you look at the blazing sun? You are blinded. It is like that."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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