Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Born August 26, 1910

Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu was born on August 26, 1910, in Skopje (now part of Macedonia). The Albanian girl received her First Communion at the age of five and a half, and died at the age of 87, on September 5, 1997.

During those eight decades she
  • Joined the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland
  • Changed her name
  • Was assigned to Calcutta, India
    • As part of the city's Loreto Entally community
  • Taught at a girls' school there
  • Took her Final Profession of Vows
    • After which she was called Mother Teresa
  • Founded the Missionaries of Charity
  • Cared for " 'the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for' "
Mother Teresa of Calcutta is no Princess Di of England. She wore the same uniform as the rest of her religious community, a white sari, and lived a simple life among "the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for" and won a Nobel Peace Prize (1979). Princess Di was against land mines (CNN), and helped get a Nobel Peace Prize for anti-land-mine activists twenty years later. (CNN)

Mother Teresa's Letters and the Dark Night of the Soul

About two years ago, if you believe what you read in the press and the blogosphere, we found out that Mother Teresa was an atheist, a fake, a fraud - not spiritual at all.

That's because letters were made public, showing that for a very long time, she didn't feel all that uplifted and peppy about Jesus. She went about her work and prayers, relying on her will, not her feelings.

As far as some people are concerned, a person just isn't spiritual without that HALLELUJAH! feeling.

Catholics recognize a prolonged dry period like that as the dark night of the soul - a name that comes from "The Dark Night," by St. John of the Cross, which described and discussed this part of a soul's growth. I discussed the letters, and clueless reactions to them, in another blog. (August 31, 2007)

Many saints, and many Catholics who haven't been canonized, went through that experience. I can't think of one who was given as long a dark night of the soul as Mother Teresa's, though.

I see a spiritual dryness, a lack of emotional uplift, as something like Special Forces training: rigorous; definitely not for everybody; reserved for those few who can handle it.

Calling Mother Teresa a hypocrite or an atheist because she went through an unusually long dark night of the soul is like saying that a Green Beret isn't a real soldier because he's had training most GIs don't get.

Related posts:

Correction (August 26, 2009)

I extend sincere thanks to Sr Constance, lsp, Little Sisters of the Poor, for pointing out an error in this post.

Little Sisters of the Poor was founded by Jeanne Jugan.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta founded the Missionaries of Charity.

Jeanne Jugan was beatified in 1982, and will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

Several pages of information about Jeanne Jugan are on the Little Sisters of the Poor website ( Briefly, she was born October 25, 1792, and formed Servants of the Poor in 1842. The group was re-named "Sisters of the Poor" in 1844 and "Little Sisters of the Poor" in 1849. There's a great deal more information on the Little Sisters of the Poor timeline.

Updated (January 21, 2010)

Another resource about the dark night of the soul, and related topics:


Anonymous said...

I beg your pardon, but Mother Teresa did not found the Little Sisters of the Poor; she founded the Missionaries of Charity. The Little Sisters of the Poor were founded by Jeanne Jugan, who is being canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.
Thank you,
Sr Constance, lsp
Little Sisters of the Poor

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Sr Constance, lsp,

Nothing to pardon! I was in error - and will make a correction and addition to the post.

I deeply appreciate the time you took to point this error out. I've learned to welcome correction. Particularly since this gave me an opportunity to learn a little about Jeanne Jugan.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.