Wednesday, 07 September 2016 18:13

SAINT TERESA OF CALCUTTA: A Model of Holiness and A Saint of the Darkness

Written by

IMAGE Saint Teresa of Calcutta Holy and Saint of DarknessMother Teresa has long been known as the Living Saint. At her canonisation, Pope Francis described her as a “generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.” He added: “Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness!”1

At her beatification, Saint Pope John Paul II said: “Contemplation and action, evangelization and human promotion: Mother Teresa proclaimed the Gospel living her life as a total gift to the poor but, at the same time, steeped in prayer.” He continued: “In the darkest hours she clung even more tenaciously to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This harsh spiritual trial led her to identify herself more and more closely with those whom she served each day, feeling their pain and, at times, even their rejection. She was fond of repeating that the greatest poverty is to be unwanted, to have no one to take care of you.”2

Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said: Mother Teresa is “an archetype of what it is to be holy.”3 He spoke about her modelling of 3 Virtues:
1. The radicality of love. To be holy is to be conformed to love, the highest of theological virtues.
2. The centrality of prayer. She spent hours in prayer as it is essential to a life of love.
3. The struggle with spiritual darkness. She had an abiding sense of the absence of God.

He added that Saint Teresa allowed Jesus to live His life in her and that there is only one way to holiness: through the Cross of Jesus.

Fr James Martin SJ, editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, spoke about Mother Teresa’s experience for the last 50 years of her life and how “she felt a profound sense of distance from God. She did not feel the presence of God in her interior life. It was the source of great suffering and confusion for her.”4 However, according to Fr Martin, in her difficulty, we find 3 Spiritual Lessons:
1. Not to let ourselves off the spiritual hook so easily, and that we are all called to sanctity. Many of the saints had it harder than we do.
2. Her life was an example to all of us who have made a commitment, but who may struggle with it. She never doubted that original call to live a radical life of fidelity.
3. She can now be seen as a Patron Saint of the Doubters. Or, as Saint Teresa said it herself: a Saint of the Darkness. For all those who struggle with their faith, you now have another role model and advocate in heaven.

He also mentioned that Saint Teresa was “a faithful woman who struggled with her faith while at the same time loving and serving God whom she sought in utter darkness.”
Fr Louis M Thevalakara OSJ, a doctor in Canon Law, who has worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: “While serving the poor, Mother never neglected her prayer life. Often, her mission to the poor was marked by trials that served to increase her trust in Jesus Christ, as she clung to the feet of Jesus on the Cross, even in the midst of darkness.”5

And for ordinary Catholics, what does her sainthood mean? How can we imitate her?

As a wife, I can look up to her example of fidelity. She reminds me that my yes to my husband is not only for the times when it is easy to be his wife but that I should continue to love him even when I have doubts about our relationship. She reminds me that I have made a commitment and even though I struggle with it sometimes, I have to be faithful to my commitment in this marriage vocation.

As a mother, that even though I struggle with the responsibility of parenting and of passing on the faith to the next generation, I have to persevere in prayer with my family at home or while travelling or in our parish church.

As a friend, when I doubt that I am good enough to be someone’s friend, I have to trust that my friends are able to see something good in me and my friendship. I have to continue to be a friend to others, those I have known since I was young and those whom I have just met this week for the first time.

As a leader, I sometimes doubt if I am called to lead as I see so much of my weakness that shows up in my regular engagements with the people I am supposed to lead. It seems it would be better for me to just stay home, watch television and enjoy my home life with my family. Yet, Saint Teresa reminds me that even when I doubt my skills, my influence, my knowledge and my own faith, that I should keep on serving and sharing God’s message of love with others in our community.

Saint Teresa’s holiness calls us not to give up but to persevere in our efforts to be holy even though we struggle in our experience of emptiness and darkness in our faith, in our purpose, in our dreams and in our life’s journey towards our final destination. Indeed, she is a model of holiness and a saint of the darkness.