The smile, she writes, is a mask or a cloak that covers everything. Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God tender, personal love, she remarks to an adviser. If you were there you would have said, What hypocrisy.”
Time magazine, which reviewed the book, says the letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half a century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever or, as the book’s compiler and editor, the Rev Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, neither in her heart or in the eucharist.
“If there be God — please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul,” she wrote.
“How painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith.”
The letters paint an astonishing alternate portrait of the nun revered for her selflessness and serenity. In reality, she was tortured for decades by her inability to feel even the smallest glimmer of the Lord’s presence.
She felt abandoned by Christ, referred to Jesus as “the Absent One,” and called her own smile “a mask.”
In the 1960s, after receiving a prize, she wrote, “This means nothing to me, because I don’t have Him.”
In one particularly revealing letter to a spiritual confidant, she writes, Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. That letter is written just 11 weeks after she delivered her Nobel Peace Prize address in which she repeatedly invokes Christ. The two statements are extravagantly dissonant, says Time.
A startling portrait in self-contradiction that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared, the reviewer observed.
The book is not a hatchet job. The author, Rev Brian Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials.
The innocuously titled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, consisting primarily of correspondence between the Mother and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, offers new insights into the tortured mind of a saint.