"If I ever become a Saint — I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven — to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth." Blessed Mother Teresa, 1962
The media call it a crisis of faith, (see TIME Mag: Crisis for Mother Teresa) and it is instructive to see how the rabid dogs of unbelief salivate for the unholy water of doubt and despair. They think they've found it in a series of unpublished letters that the Blessed Mother Teresa wrote to her confessors and spiritual directors over the years. Christopher Hitchens, the most outspoken and prolific author on atheism--just witness his current bestseller--has to be doing handstands since he concerns this "saint of the gutters" a pious fraud.
But of course they are all wrong. She suffered terribly from the Dark Night of the Soul, a spiritual desert whose name was coined by St. John of the Cross for the torments of an exceptional holy person who can no longer experience the presence of God. But far from damaging that holy man or woman, that experience becomes the crucible of sanctity, a terrible purgatory that does not lead to darkness but to the Saving Light who is Jesus Christ.
I agree with those commentators who say that this release of letters will turn out to be a great spiritual testament to Mother Teresa and her faith. They will help we ordinary mortals with our own doubts and drynesses. Her great critics will say she threw herself into working with the poor in a spastic attempt to run away from the truth that there is no God. But her critics ought to read other great spiritual autobiographies and anecdotes--perhaps best starting with Jesus' own Dark Night in the Garden of Gethsemane where the Son of God himself feels the absence of his heavenly Father.
The one thing these letters will do is keep Mother Teresa from being a plaster saint. Her whole life was not easy, and many times she must have said to God as another great St. Teresa (of Avila) said when vexed with God's absence: "O Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!" None of the Teresas who became saints had an easy time of it--but none of them ever forsook or disbelieved in God. My hunch is that as much as Mother Teresa is revered by the poor and those of us stunned into silence by her charity, more now will be touched with her ministry to the billions of us who look to the darkness between the stars and wonder if there is a God who strides the heavens and looks after the lowliest. In our doubts and questionings, we have found a kindred spirit, and she is a saint, and she will light a candle for us, to see us through that darkness of a doubting night to the dawn of eternity where her Lord and Savior--and ours--waits to welcome us.