August 24, 2007

'Good TIME Article' Not Oxymoronic After All

I was all ready to bash the TIME article on Mother Teresa, ready to see in it the usual parade of ignorance and ignominy and bias. But I was startled by how good it is (with the disclaimer that I haven't read the unreleased book yet). Still, David Van Biema deserves much credit. (I'm surely biased, but Hitchens comes off as a buffoon.) Surely anyone who speaks of a reparative purgation has done his or her homework:
Catholic theologians recognize two types of "dark night": the first is purgative, cleansing the contemplative for a "final union" with Christ; the second is "reparative," and continues after such a union, so that he or she may participate in a state of purity even closer to that of Jesus and Mary, who suffered for human salvation despite being without sin. By the end, writes Kolodiejchuk, "by all indications this was the case with Mother Teresa." That puts her in rarefied company.
Indeed, the lack of feelings Mother Teresa had are completely astonishing - nay miraculous - given what she was able to accomplish. Aquinas said that man cannot live without pleasure and up until a few years ago I'd thought she'd gotten all her pleasure from prayer. Not so.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. God sends us saints that speak to the exact trouble of the time. The secular world declares: feelings are all that matter. God, through Mother Teresa, declares the opposite.

The period I'm especially interested in is around 1947 when she was plunged into darkness and 1961 when a spiritual advisor gave her a way to look at the darkness such that she could deal with it.

It seems an unimaginable cruelty that she live 10-15 yrs without that coping mechanism and thinking that you yourself may be the cause of the dryness. God does seem casual in his relief efforts, something Christ experienced on the Cross when he felt forsaken. The author makes the point that the darkness could've been necessary in order to keep her pride down and I understand that, but I don't understand why the 10-15 yrs without even a coping mechanism.

One could look at this a couple ways. One is that we can't *earn* a thing! Even Mother Teresa who deserved, if anybody ever did, God's felt-love - did not. So it teaches that lesson very effectively.

And I think just as we can must treat life as sacred even though a third of all embryos die in the womb due to failure to implant, we must treat everyone with utmost compassion even if God exercises compassion in a very different way that we're used to.

But I do think the article has a great power. In a world with great physical pain, it's hardly surprising that there is great spiritual pain, even (especially?) in a saint! I love Mother Teresa all the more for this.

As I told a hurting friend, Mother Teresa is to those suffering depression what St. Padre Pio is to those suffering physical disabilities. Just as Padre Pio was gratuitously given the painful stigmata to show that God is close to those physically suffering, Mother Teresa was gratuitously given a lack of closeness to God to show that those with flawed brain chemistry that God IS close to them too.

No comments: