Back in 2007, the tenth anniversary year of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s death it was revealed that she endured what is called the “dark night of the soul.” Some people called her a fake and that she had mislead people for years. Fr. Paul Murray’s little book shows how wrong they are. He shows that she endured what several other saints like St. John of the Cross and St. Therese had undergone. Mother Teresa suffered this spiritual darkness for most of her life, but kept her faith amidst this suffering. Murray had several personal contacts with Mother Teresa and discusses these and other aspects of the spirituality of the dark night of the soul.
Murray discusses what the dark night of the soul is and how it affects people in different ways. At times Mother Teresa had periods of consolation during her long period of darkness. As Murray says her spiritual directors and confessors helped her to make sure she did not give into the temptation of doubt. This dark night was a major test of her faith after having enjoyed some time of personal time with God in the early days of her mission of working with and for the poor in India. As Murray says quoting St. John of the Cross, this dark night of the soul was a sign of God’s presence which is bestowed on special and holy people or saints. In the past those who had received this “gift” only had it for a short time because their lives were short or for some other reason. In Mother Teresa’s case it was for most of her life. She must have had strong faith to have endured this.
As Murray points out some have compared the dark night to depression when in fact they are different. He goes into this a bit to clarify things. Depressed people though could benefit from learning about the dark night and those who have had it to receive encouragement for their predicaments. Still they are not the same thing. Mother Teresa always encouraged everyone to smile even in the face of horrible situations like working with people living and dying in extreme poverty and illness.
It is hard to explain how one could smile and be happy while spiritually one is enduring the dark night. Some accused Mother Teresa of being a fraud because she smiled and encouraged others to do that too. She encouraged others to be strong in their faith. She was strong in her faith even in the dark night. She had her moments of doubt and wonder, but she did not give into them.
This is a small book which should not be quickly read, but pondered on instead. This book is highly recommended to those interested in Mother Teresa and the dark night of the soul. Fr. Paul Murray is a Dominican priest from Ireland who is a professor in Rome at the University of St. Thomas otherwise known as the Angelicum. He is the author of several books. He gives retreats and lectures in Rome and other places.