Saturday, September 08, 2007
Mother Teresa, Theresian
Athos offered a very nice post on Mother Teresa's dark night here. I wanted to follow up with a few thoughts sparked by a selection in my Therese devotional reader:
"God is admirable, but above all he is lovable, so let us love Him . . . let us love Him enough to suffer for Him whatever He chooses, even griefs of soul, aridities, anguish, seeming frigidities. Ah! that is indeed a great love, to love Jesus without feeling the sweetness of that love, there you have martyrdom. . . .All right! Let us die martyrs!
Martydom unrealized by men, known to God alone, undiscoverable by the eye of any creature, martyrdom without honor, without triumph. . . .There you will have love pushed even to heroism. But one day a grateful God will cry out: 'My turn now.' Oh! What shall we see then? What is that life, to which there shall be no end?"
Letter to Celine, July 14, 1889
from The Little Way of Therese of Liseux: Into the Arms of Love, John Nelson, Liguori, 1997
Well, anyone who has dipped into Therese's spirituality will recognize this as essential Therese. I remember from an EWTN series that when Therese was invited to a Lourdes retreat, she refused, saying, "I prefer the monotony of suffering to ecstasy." In the Theresian universe, the dark night seems to be not, as with St. John of the Cross, a passage on the way to a higher road, but itself the highest kind of earthly spirituality there is--the kind of private "martyrdom" described above. So, I am struck by the strong Theresian element in Mother Teresa's long, dark night, which shows her to be a true disciple of The Little Way (possibly more than she knew).
I seem to remember (though I can't track down the source for that right now) that Mother Teresa chose the name Teresa after Therese of Lisieux (rather than Teresa of Avila), and it is certainly clear that much of her mission and sprituality drew on The Little Way. Some connections are noted, for instance, here. Another connection, between the dark night of Teresa and the suffering in the last years of Therese's life, is briefly noted in by Andrew Greeley here.
So, Mother Teresa, even in her long, dark night, is very Theresian. I should add that this is not the kind of spirituality I "aspire" to, because I doubt I could handle it, but maybe I can at least aspire to aspire, and certainly recognize it as wayyyyy superior to anything I could ever actually aspire to . . .