A new book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light contains some of the confession letters of Mother Teresa in which she doubts her faith. Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu who was born in the Republic of Macedonia moved to India in 1929 to become a nun. It was on September 10, 1946 that she experienced “the call within the call”, a mystical union with Jesus, in which she reports hearing the words of Jesus and started her missionary work.
For people around the world, this Nobel peace prize winner was a the selfless social worker who always was there to look after the poor and the dying. She herself did not see her work that way. While talking to Christopher Hitchens, she mentioned that she was not a social worker and she was working to expand the number of Catholics and did all her work for Christ and the church.
The new letters, which she asked to be destroyed, reveal that she doubted the existence of God, heaven and the soul. This period of darkness started around the same time she started her missionary work in 1948 and lasted her entire life. Her spiritual life was similar to that of St. Paul of the Cross, who went through “dark night”, but recovered after 45 years, but unlike St. Paul, she never found the light. Mother Teresa finally came to the conclusion that Jesus was not true. ( “What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true“)
Even when she had this realization, she did not display it in public and she continued to save souls for the church till her very end. She expressed her doubts to her superiors and they convinced her that what she was experiencing was the same sense of abandonment that Christ experienced on the cross. Present day priests say that she is a role model since she did not waver from her path even during doubt and this humanizes Mother Teresa as a role model for all seekers.
Others think that she was involved in verbal deception, telling something to the public which she herself did not believe. Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a scathing book on her, thinks that she was like one of those Communists who could not believe that the ideology failed.
“There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance,” he says. “They thought, ‘Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I’m not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.’ They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired.” That, he says, was Teresa.[Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith]
See Also: On Point: Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith