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Darkness, a Weak Religion, and the Regular Christian Life


I posted this initially just a few years in the past, however I’m posting it once more as we’re within the Christmas season. I do know people who find themselves struggling mightily with despair and religious darkness as a result of it’s Christmas time. Typically it helps to know you aren’t alone.

On and off over the previous few months, I’ve been studying Mom Teresa: Come Be My Gentle: The Personal Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. The primary half of the guide recounts the prolonged course of by which Mom Teresa lastly acquired permission to maneuver to Calcutta and start the Missionaries of Charity.

In 1953, after her work had begun and after years of silent struggling, she wrote this letter to Archbishop Périer.

Your Grace,

. . . Please pray particularly for me that I could not
spoil His work and that Our Lord could present
Himself—for there’s such horrible darkness
inside me, as if every part was lifeless. It has
been like this kind of from the time I
began “the work.” Ask Our Lord to present me
braveness.

        Please give us Your blessing,
        Your devoted baby in J.C,
        M. Teresa, M.C.

A few issues strike me right here. The primary is how Mom Teresa’s ideas echo what we learn in Psalm 88, which is the darkest of the Psalms. God’s presence has deserted the psalmist, and the closing line reads: “my companions are in darkness.”

Truly—to not geekify this submit greater than mandatory—however the NRSV has it incorrect. For one factor, the psalmist is the one in darkness, not the psalmist’s companions.

Additionally, there isn’t any “in” within the Hebrew. It merely reads, “my companions [are] darkness.” Darkness is the one companionship the psalmist has.

Second, and extra vital, Mom Teresa doesn’t sit alone within the darkness however confides in one other.

I believe that’s the arduous half for a lot of—letting another person in, letting down our protecting armor, casting apart the concern of being shamed or dismissed as having “weak” religion, of not “having all of it collectively.

I think about this could have been a very tough admission for Mom Teresa, given how lengthy and plenty of letters it took her to persuade her superiors to depart her order and enterprise to the slums of Calcutta. Her letters learn like gross sales pitches; how ashamed she will need to have felt when she lastly acquired her want and was shortly overcome with a way of darkness, of God’s abandonment.

Maybe this is the reason it took her so lengthy to let the archbishop know what was taking place to her—the disgrace of admitting God’s absence when God’s presence had been so clear to her for thus lengthy, and about which she had been so forthright in her letters.

Nonetheless, she wrote the letter.

I ponder typically how tough it might need been for the author of Psalm 88 to place his ideas in writing. In any occasion, I for one am glad he did.

Our price shouldn’t be measured by how nicely we are in a position to maintain doubt at a distance, by how a lot we are in a position to challenge that we have their acts collectively. Doubt and darkness are not an indication of a “lack” of religion however a traditional and anticipated a part of the journey of religion.

[I explore some these themes in The Sin of Certainty]

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