In the wake of JustMe's recent comment on my previous post about John the Baptist, here is some commentary on the current Mother Teresa "publicity" from the Papal preacher, Capuchin Fr. Cantalamessa. (By the way, does anyone know what his name means in Italian? Isn't it something like "sing the Mass"?)
Seriously, though, I think Father Cantalamessa does a great job of pointing out what is important and unique about Mother Teresa's unique path to God. Depression doesn't always equal a dark night of the soul. That's journalistic oversimplification at work.
But in our "happy-happy" society, the spiritual value provided by Mother Teresa's witness of constancy and discretion is worth noting.
Mother Teresa's Dark Night Unique, Says Preacher
Father Cantalamessa Calls Her Saint of the Media Age
VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).-
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's dark night of the soul kept her from being a victim of the media age and exalting herself, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said this in an interview with Vatican Radio, commenting on previously unpublished letters from Mother Teresa, now made public in Doubleday's book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of the cause of Mother Teresa's canonization.
In one of her letters, Mother Teresa wrote: "There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God -- so deep that it is painful -- a suffering continual -- and yet not wanted by God -- repulsed -- empty -- no faith -- no love -- no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing -- to me it looks like an empty place."
Father Cantalamessa explained that the fact that Mother Teresa suffered deeply from her feeling of the absence of God affirms that it was a positive phenomenon. Atheists, he contended, are not afflicted by God's absence but, "for Mother Teresa, this was the most terrible test that she could have experienced."He further clarified that "it is the presence-absence of God: God is present but one does not experience his presence."
Father Cantalamessa contended that Mother Teresa's spiritual suffering makes her even greater. He said: "The fact that Mother Teresa was able to remain for hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, as many eye-witnesses have testified, as if enraptured … if one thinks about the condition she was in at that moment, that is martyrdom!"Because of this, for me, the figure of Mother Teresa is even greater; it does not diminish her."
The Capuchin priest further lauded Mother Teresa's ability to keep her spiritual pain hidden within her. "Maybe, this was done in expiation for the widespread atheism in today's world," he said, adding that she lived her experience of the absence of God "in a positive way -- with faith, with God."
Father Cantalamessa affirmed that Mother Teresa's dark night should not scandalize or surprise anyone. The "dark night," he said, "is something well-known in the Christian tradition; maybe new and unheard of in the way Mother Teresa experienced it."
He added: "While 'the dark night of the spirit' of St. John of the Cross is a generally preparatory period for that definitive one called 'unitive,' for Mother Teresa it seems that it was one stable state, from a certain point in her life, when she began this great work of charity, until the end."
In my view, the fact of this prolongation of the 'night' has meaning for us today. I believe that Mother Teresa is the saint of the media age, because this 'night of the spirit' protected her from being a victim of the media, namely from exalting herself."In fact, she used to say that when she received great awards and praise from the media, she did not feel anything because of this interior emptiness."