Why have you abandoned me?

Nocturne xii by
John Paul Caponigro

Most believers experience times in their spiritual lives when it's difficult, even impossible, to connect with God in prayer. Some times God seems present, at hand, within... and some times God seems distant, absent, gone...

It's not unusual for those experiencing such dryness in their spiritual lives to turn with envy to those who seem to know God so well, whose faith seems always unshaken. But the greatest saints, like all of us, have known the what St. John of the Cross called the "dark night of the soul" when the soul feels abandoned by its Maker.

This week TIME magazine offers an article on Mother Teresa which you can find here. Mother Teresa is perhaps the individual in our own times to whom those who ache in prayer point as the model to which they aspire. And yet, it seems, Mother Teresa identified not only in her lifestyle with the poorest of the poor but also in her spiritual life with those whose hearts hunger for God and who seek the Lord's sheltering embrace.
A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist." That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God.
This will be an interesting addition to the shelves of books on spirituality and a counterpoint to the many books on atheism currently drawing attention.

Perhaps most of all, it will be a book to help all those who, with Mother Teresa, have known times in their lives when it seems that the Shepherd has forgotten one of his sheep.

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