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Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light

The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta"

by Karen Bentley

TITLE: Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light
SUBTITLE: The private writings of the "Saint of
AUTHOR: Editing and commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.
PUBLISHER: Doubleday, $22.95 Hardcover
MESSAGE: Confusion between love and suffering

STARS: 3.8 out of 5

This book is a collection of Mother Teresa’s private letters to her superiors, friends and confessors over a 60 year period. The letters are a surprise because they reveal Mother Teresa’s interior feelings of darkness, emotional pain and faithlessness which she hid from everyone except her confessors. “The place of God in my soul is blank--There is no God in me...He does not want me---He is not there...Heaven--souls--why these are just words--which mean nothing to me.” Mother Teresa’s inner suffering began shortly after she formed the Missionaries of Charity and continued relentlessly until her death in 1997.

The letters also document the unexpected difficulties that Mother Teresa encountered trying to persuade the Catholic Church to allow the formation of her new missionary group. Mother Teresa began writing and lobbying for support shortly after September 10, 1946, the day she heard the Voice of Jesus compelling her to do this work. Yet, church officials did not want to hear about or make decisions based on Mother Teresa’s reports of visions and voices. They coached her to stop her thoughts and to be a perfect nun. Believing that obedience was essential, Mother Teresa did her best to comply, but could not. “Day after day, hour after hour, He asks the same question: ‘Wilt thou refuse to do this for Me?’” She finally received permission to form the Missionaries of Charity in 1948.

Mother Teresa begged the recipients of her letters to destroy them, but her wishes were not honored. Come Be My Light enables us to see Mother Teresa unplugged.

Score 3
Why did such a devout, loving being suffer so much pain for so long? That’s the mystery of Mother Teresa’s life. One of her confessors, Father Neuner, explains it this way: “It was simply the dark night of which all masters of spiritual life know -- though I have never found it so deeply, and for so many years as in her. There is no human remedy against it...Thus the only response to this trial is the total surrender to God and the acceptance of the darkness in union with Jesus.”

If you believe that we are powerful beings and that we get exactly what we ask for, then the simplest answer is that Mother Teresa asked for or allowed her suffering, most likely because she believed in the Christian concept of “carrying the cross” or living Christ’s passion (which means sharing in the suffering of Jesus). However, the belief that we must suffer to atone for badness, or to commune with God and/or to win points with God is not exclusive to Christianity. Modern-day suicide bombers, for example, willingly destroy self and others to suffer and kill for God and to win His approval. In fact, the idea that God asks for sacrifice and suffering is the oldest and most persistent belief of all time and came before the emergence of organized religions.

Through Mother Teresa we see that suffering does not uplift. “If there is hell -- this must be one.” We see that suffering does not bring us closer to God. And we see that suffering made Mother doubt the efficacy of every ritual and prayer she ever performed and even made her question the reality of heaven. Perhaps Mother Teresa was learning the lesson we all must learn: suffering is nothing. It is empty. It has no meaning. It has no value. We cannot use it for a bargaining chit.

It is not possible to read Mother Teresa’s words without feeling deeply compelled to BE the light of the world. “It is we who have to be His love, His compassion in the world of today."

In an age where the slightest emotional discomfort is treated with drugs, drinks and support groups, Mother Teresa’s gives a refreshing and new example of how to live. Mother was not undone or thrown off course by her constant bad feelings. She did not call attention to herself through dramatic outbursts or whining. She did not make excuses for herself or ask for exemptions from duties. This is because Mother Teresa had a strategic purpose in life: to be a pencil in God’s hand. Her inner strength and power came from always knowing exactly what she wanted. “Thank God we don’t serve God with our feelings, otherwise I don’t know where I would be.”


Come Be My Light begins in 1928 when Mother Teresa joins the Loreto Sisters at age 18 and continues chronologically to her death. There are many repetitions in Mother’s letters. On the one hand, this underscores “the progression, intensity and duration of her darkness.” And on the other hand, well, there’s a lot of rehashing of the same themes. There’s also the subtle sales pitch for sainthood presented by the narrator/editor Brian Kolodiejchuk. Some people may find the book difficult to stick with or hard to read, but it’s worth the effort.

STARS: 3.8

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Karen Bentley is America's Spiritual Reviewer and exclusively reviews books and movies from a love-based perspective. She also writes about the power of love to solve life's problems and sugar-free dieting. Bentley is the author of 8 books including The Book of Love, 10 Radiant Ideas, The Power to Stop, The Sugar-Free Miracle™ Diet Handbook and move. For more information or to make contact go to
www.karenbentley.com or to www.sugarfreemiracle.com

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