Sunday, December 23, 2007

Book Review: "Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the 'Saint of Calcutta'"

by Peter Menkin

This is the story of a holy woman's journey with Christ, her growth in relationship and spirit told through her letters, with narration by a man of the Roman Catholic cloth. A stunning and revealing story, "Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the `Saint of Calcutta'" edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Ph.D. tells us of Christ's thirst, his loneliness for human souls, and the same expression returned in love through need by reciprocity--a mirror of living the Cross in letters and in service to others by a Roman Catholic Nun. There is lots of light in this book.

In the chapter, "God Shows his Nothingness to Show his Greatness," Mother Teresa's spiritual experience is described:

"Her long experience of darkness, her sense of rejection, her loneliness, the terrible and unsatisfied longing for God, each sacrifice and pain had become for her as one more `drop of oil' that she readily offered to God, to keep the lamp--the life of Jesus within her--burning, radiating His love to others and so dispelling the darkness."

A sometimes apophatic experience of Christ, after years of much darkness and unknowing, Mother Teresa came to recognize and live the Christ experience as a knowing by his feeling of God's abandonment on the Cross, and his tears and need, his suffering and darkness at his time of the Cross and during his life. Mother Teresa found a union of understanding with Christ--through Christ a holiness of spirit and a gift to mankind.

This is a work of religious history, through letters of intimacy; the work is a service of literary religious feeling and belief. The book reveals her service to the poorest of the poor. Her obedience to the Church and her obedience in faith is literally a marvel of discipline and rigor. It is by the strength of God that she was given such Obedience, and to God she devoted her life in service. So this book demonstrates in words and letters.

A marvelous revelation of personal letter writing, the confession of an unknowing-knowing journey and suffering which she recognized as sharing in the suffering of Christ. Observers have claimed that her journey was a failure of faith, and a darkness of spirit that made her despair. True, she experiences despair and writes of her pain, but evidenced by her continued work and prayer, she maintained faith and journey with Christ in the most holy of ways. So I postulate based on her letters and the narrative written by Father Kolodiejchuk, a member of the Missionaries who works towards the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

A famous Nun of her time in the 20th Century, Mother Teresa's book of letters and her life as a light of Christ, will have a place in religious literature for decades to come. This book is a most interesting and fulfilling book for people interested in the religious life, and living with Christ through their own relationship and religious life as Christians. For Mother Theresa and her religious worked tirelessly for the poorest of the poor, in a special way of religious devotion. Many of these poor lived and live on the streets of Calcutta, in a hole, or a dirt floor shack. The religious Order Mother Teresa founded, the Missionaries of Charity, provide their service in many cities in India and other parts of the world including the United States.

Many or much of the poor helped by Missionaries of Charity (mostly Nuns, but a few Brothers and some Priests), are as poor or many significantly poorer than those poor described in the sociology book "Poor People," by William T. Vollmann. From the Rules of her Order, started and led during her lifetime mostly as Mother Superior:

"The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for the love and souls by the Sisters [through] absolute poverty, angelic charity, cheerful obedience." To do this they carry "...Christ into the homes and streets of the slums, [among] the sick, dying, the beggars and the little street children..."

People all over the world admired this woman who was born in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1910 and died 1997. The Roman Catholic Church beatified her in 2003. The dust cover quotes her famously: "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." A chilling note, a note enough to give one a chill, Mother Teresa lived a good life and her Order remains active today. They bring light to darkness.

This calling is a noble means of doing God's work, and in the religious life serving and connecting to Christ. The book tells of this work and its development, both the order itself as a developing group of religious, but mainly of Mother Teresa's relationship and struggles of spiritual and religious significance in her saintly life and holy connection to Jesus Christ: Letters that cast a light on Christ and his relationship with mankind.

--Peter Menkin, 4th week of Advent (Sunday) 2007

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