Editor's Note: We're excited to reintroduce C. Michael Patton, a distinguished theologian and Christian apologist, as a guest contributor to our exploration of faith and culture.
Patton, the founder of Credo House Ministries and a holder of a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, brings over two decades of ministry experience.
Known for his contributions to biblical interpretation and church history, Patton's insights promise to deepen our faith journey, making him a valuable asset to our readers who seek to navigate the intersection of faith and modern society.
Join us as he discusses Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul, a fascinating peek into her innermost being.
by C. Michael Patton
The memoirs of Mother Teresa were published posthumously. Most everyone was surprised to see the darkness in her soul. Most specifically, she lived most of her life going through the dark night of the soul. With doubts, turmoil, confusion, and her own feelings of inadequacy coming forward Over and over again.
This is from those memoirs. It is a prayer to Jesus.
Part of my confession today:
My own Jesus,
From my childhood, You have called me and kept me for Your own. And now, when we both have taken the same road, I find myself going the wrong way.
People say those in hell suffer eternal pain due to the loss of God. They would endure all that suffering if there were even a little hope of possessing God. In my soul, I feel just that terrible pain of loss—of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing. Jesus, please forgive my blasphemies.
I have been told to write everything. The darkness that surrounds me on all sides is such that I can’t lift my soul to God; no light or inspiration enters my soul. I speak of love for souls, of tender love for God, yet words merely pass through my lips, and I long with a deep longing to believe in them. What do I labor for? If there is no God, then there can be no soul. If there is no soul, then Jesus, You too are not real. Heaven, what emptiness! Not a single thought of Heaven enters my mind, for there is no hope. I am afraid to write all those terrible things that pass through my soul. They must hurt You.
In my heart, there is no faith, no love, no trust—only so much pain, the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul, and yet between us, there is terrible separation. I no longer pray. I utter words of community prayers and try my utmost to find the sweetness in each word. But my prayer of union is no longer there. My soul is not one with You, and yet, when alone in the streets, I talk to You for hours about my longing for You. How intimate are those words and yet so empty, for they leave me far from You. The work holds no joy, no attraction, no zeal.
I remember telling Mother Provincial that I was leaving Loreto for souls, for a single soul, and she could not understand my words. I do my best. I spend myself, but I am more than convinced that the work is not mine. I do not doubt it was You who called me with so much love and force. It was You, I know. That is why the work is Yours, even now, but I have no faith; I don’t believe. Jesus, don’t let my soul be deceived, nor let me deceive anyone.
Years ago, in Your call, You said that I would have to suffer much. Then, my Jesus, You have done to me according to Your will. And Jesus, hear my prayer if this pleases You—if my pain, suffering, darkness, and separation give You a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as You wish, for as long as You wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am Your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your Heart. Don’t mind my feelings, don’t mind even my pain. If my separation from You brings others to You, and in their company, You find joy and pleasure, then why, Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer, not only now but for all eternity, if that were possible.
Your happiness is all that I want. For the rest, please do not take the trouble, even if you see me faint with pain. All this is my will—I want to satiate Your Thirst with every single drop of blood that You can find in me. Don’t allow me to hurt You in any way. Take from me the power of hurting You. Heart and soul, I will work for the Sisters because they are Yours. Each and every one of them is You. I beg of You only one thing: please do not take the trouble to return soon. I am ready to wait for You for all eternity.
-Your little one
Her Dark Life of the Soul?
Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” is a profound aspect of her spiritual life. It refers to a period of intense inner spiritual struggle and feeling of disconnection from God. This concept, deeply rooted in Christian mysticism, describes a phase where a person feels abandoned by God, crying out to Him in doubt and despair..
When it Started: Mother Teresa’s dark night began around 1948-1949, shortly after she started her work with the poor in Calcutta. This was after she had experienced a period of intense closeness to God, which included visions and locutions that inspired her to found the Missionaries of Charity.
Duration: This experience of spiritual darkness continued for nearly fifty years, almost the entirety of her ministry. It was marked by feelings of loneliness, desolation, and a sense of being separated from God, despite her unwavering commitment to her religious work and service.
Her Experience: Despite her external image of a serene and dedicated servant of the poor, internally, she experienced profound spiritual struggles. She often expressed in her private writings a deep thirst for God, feeling of absence, and at times, doubt in God’s existence. These feelings were in stark contrast to her public image and the widespread perception of her as a living saint. She often expressed thankfulness for her ability to fool the other sisters, and those with whom she prayed. These trials are only known due to the posthumously published memoirs and letters.
Impact on Her Ministry: Remarkably, Mother Teresa continued her work with relentless dedication, despite her inner turmoil. Her experience of the dark night did not deter her from her mission to serve the poorest of the poor. It has been suggested that her own inner suffering helped her to connect deeply with the suffering of others.
End of the Dark Night: There’s no clear indication that her dark night of the soul had definitively ended before her death in 1997. Her private letters suggest that she continued to experience this spiritual struggle for the rest of her life.
Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul is a significant aspect of her spiritual journey, offering a deep insight into her personal challenges and the complexity of her faith journey. It’s a powerful example of perseverance in faith amidst profound spiritual trials.
About C. Michael Patton:
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere.
Please feel free to visit Michael's website at Credo House Ministries to read more of his intriguing works.
I hope you found Michael's blog as interesting as I did. Jacki here! If you're wondering what the "dark night of the soul" might be or if you've experienced this on some level, check out my article The Dark Night of the Soul: An Exploration into Spiritual Distress and Growth.
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