I finished reading this before going on vacation, and the story is still compelling to me. The book is an edited compilation of Mother Teresa's private letters. It reveals the deep joy she had as a young nun, which caused one confessor to warn her of the dangers of "ecstasy". It then goes on to explore the horrifying emptiness of her soul, which began shortly after the commencement of her work among the poor. It is not my purpose to assess the truth of what Mother Teresa believed, but rather to accept that her world view was valid for her.
I feel compelled to point out that Mother Teresa vehemently denied that she was a humanitarian, insisting that her purpose was to bring souls to Jesus. This is an important point for me to make because of the conservative Protestant view that she was trying to gain salvation by works. Quite to the contrary, Mother Teresa wrote that she would gladly continue to endure her desperate earthly existence for eternity if it would bring glory to God.
I find the progression of the way Mother Teresa coped with her depression to be fascinating. I don't think that it detracts from her virtue to say that she was depressed. It is my opinion that she would have felt the same personal bleakness of soul no matter what her course in life, and that she interpreted it as the feeling of God's absence in the context of her life. She works through this darkness in a way that gives personal meaning to it. She refuses to accept her feelings as truth, continuing to pour her life into work for a God whose presence she does not perceive emotionally, but cognitively. By the end of her life, she has transposed what she believes gives God pleasure onto her own persona in such a way that it becomes the only pleasure she is able to experience.
If I interpret Mother Teresa's story in light of my own world view, it is true that I find her more than somewhat pathetic; however, in accepting her set of values, she becomes one of the strongest women in history, a truly selfless saint, a single-minded soul who is true to her ideals throughout her lifetime. Although Mother Teresa felt deep despair for most of her life, she is known for her cheerful smile.
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