I ventured out of my blog hermitage yesterday afternoon to find much discussion on the spiritual suffering of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa).
It reminded me of something I had written awhile ago. The words are mine but I do not claim credit. The inspiration, and the meaning between the words, comes from elsewhere.
As flowing water falls to seek the lowest point,
it gives all its energy away until none remains,
and then returns to its source to fall again.
What does the water gain from this falling?
What does life gain?
It seems many people were surprised to learn of her spiritual emptiness and dryness. It just goes to show you that we all take different paths. (And that you shouldn’t read too much of pop religious material. It is just candy, nothing too deep.)
The opportunity to love is the reward for loving. Loving is its own reward. We just don’t see this very well on this side of heaven. Giving goes with receiving. And Bl. Teresa gave almost everything she received spiritually and everything materially. It follows that she would feel empty. She held nothing for herself.
There was also much discussion about her doubt. Again, I am not too surprised. She was after all, human. Doubt is a cold-hearted fact of the spiritual journey. Although that person sitting next to you in church looks confident in their faith, they have had to struggle with doubt as much as you, maybe even more. Ask them? Everyone must face doubt, but not alone. Jesus is right there with us in our doubt, whether we know it or not. From a post the other day:
On the thin border
between faith and doubt walks Christ,
calling all to trust.
Jesus calls for a total and complete trust. A total and complete giving over to Him. A total and complete emptying of oneself of dependence on things of this world, even dependence on oneself, so that one can depend totally and completely on God. If that does not involve doubt—doubt in what is not seen, doubt with oneself—then it is not faith; it is something else. “Narrow is the gate…”
Bl. Teresa is an example for me in answering a question anyone serious about their spiritual journey must face: Do I love God for His consolations? Or do I love God for God’s sake? Do I want to be with God because of what He can give me, or do I want to be with God just because? Although she may have wished for the consolations, Bl. Teresa has shown everyone that she would rather love God (and others) for God’s sake.
A commenter on another weblog noted that sometime ago before this recent round on Bl. Teresa’s suffering, Fr. Cantalamessa, the preacher to the pope, outlined three purposes for her suffering: to provide the humility necessary to inoculate her against the fame and praise the world would shower upon her; to enable her to experience the isolation and desolation of the sick and rejected she ministered to; and as a special gift, a share in the Lord’s spiritual suffering during His passion.
Whether we are married or not, we all sleep spiritually alone until the Wedding Banguet in heaven.
FYI — This Wednesday, September 5th, is Blessed Teresa’s annual memorial day.
Thank you Father for the timing of this. Although I am no where near the levels that your Blessed Teresa experienced, this has helped to put a handle to some of my own experience with dryness and doubt. Thank you for reminding me to remember that it is You I seek, not your consolations. The opportunity to love, to give, is my reward. From You, in You, through You, all is gift. You are in my emptiness. You are in my doubt. Even if I do not see You, You are there. I love You.