Memoir & Biography · Non-fiction

Of Darkness and Joy

mother-teresa

I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta A Secret Revealed

Author: Paul Murray
Published: originally 2008, special paperback edition Aug 2016 | Paraclete Press
Length: 125 pages

Buy: Amazon

For anyone who has experienced the feeling of being abandoned by God, or the dark emptiness of unfulfilled longing for him, St. Teresa of Calcutta— who termed herself a Saint of Darkness—provides deep encouragement. Her lonely road of faith without feeling God’s touch lasted for over 10 years, presumably up to her death, but in I Loved Jesus in the Night Father Paul Murray shows us the connection between her darkness and her joy, going so far as to term this darkness not an abandonment but an outpouring of God’s presence.

Though a small volume, this book provides a tender and moving account of the blessing Mother Teresa radiated outwardly, and her private internal journey into understanding her experience of darkness. Though she first felt confusion and feared for her authenticity, she came to view her wintered soul as a gift. Father Paul Murray uses his personal meetings with her, complemented by her letters and journal entries, to paint a holistic picture of Teresa’s journey. He writes in answer to the confusion of some at how such a saintly woman could suffer such deep seeming depression.

The gift that Mother Teresa found was that her aching emptiness connected her with those she sought to restore in Calcutta. She identified with their feelings of being unloved and unwanted, and longed for her darkness to be the means of “light to some soul.” Murray beautifully draws out the blessing that the dark night became to Teresa in a way that I cannot do justice, but suffice to say she experienced God’s silence as a shaping force of her spirit. It brought her into a union with God that coursed through her heart at a deeper level so that she could say “[W]hen I walk through the slums or enter the dark holes—there Our Lord is always really present.” She took it as her opportunity to partake of Christ’s earthly suffering of separation from His father. In spite of everything, she knew herself to be God’s little one, and very dearly beloved.

It is for this reason that her presence radiated joy to all around her. Far from the frown of the depressed, she was defined by humor and life, enjoying simple pleasures and rejoicing with the small successes of others. Murray relays several stories to give veracity to the description so that you almost feel that you know her personally. Rather than being too holy to touch as we often envision saints, she was very down to earth. Teresa herself commented that she could feel God pouring out of her to the women listening when she would talk about Him, her joy and confidence in God’s character and love being almost visceral.

Murray has done an un-paralleled job at showing us the real woman Mother Teresa was beyond stereotypes. She did pour herself out constantly for others, being driven by a compassion that many of us find hard to fathom, but she knew that the greatest gift she had to offer was being “nothing” and continued to offer her nothingness to God throughout her ministry successes. Murray shows her tender faith and abandoned love for Christ that I for one admire greatly, but he also shows her humanity. Our struggles are much the same. When I read the first few pages of this volume I was immediately moved to tears. To see an example of how the most soul-racketing night can blossom into abundant life in a heart, and to hear those words “God is love!” from lips that really own it…this gives me great hope.

[Mother Teresa was beautified by the Catholic Church in 1997, but just two weeks ago, on Sept 04, 2016, Pope Francis canonized her as a saint. You can watch a live stream of the ceremony here.]

Review copy courtesy of Paraclete Press

 

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