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Santiago de Compostela

The Way …

Today was a day to “not labor!” I think everybody has been glued to the tv as of late watching hurricane Gustav hit the gulf coast. Thank God, it doesn’t look as drastic as Katrina was. And I guess that’s a good thing. I just can’t bring myself to add to the political discussion today because it is just insane.

I finished the reading of “The Way is made by Walking.” And now I am reading the indexes at the back of the book. I thought that I would have tidbits of information to share with you. I did circle some page numbers and highlighted a few sentances here and there.

Lord teach us to be Prayerful…

“I wonder what it would be like to have God’s will neatly laid out for discernment with vivid flechas amarillas [yellow blazes]. Why the constant work of prayer, journaling, Scripture reading, pondering, consulting with fellow believers? And then often we still are not sure that we have it right!  But even here, while matters were clearer there was much discernment required.” pg. 50

Your Pack’s Too Big …

“As I prepared for my pilgrimage I assembled careful lists of what I would need, and I kept weighing accumulations (unlike my pilgrim forebears, I included shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and a change of clothes; I did not intend to need that incineration pit.) (read the book) Somewhere I read that thirty pounds was a good goal and aimed for that, although once I was in Europe people kept telling me that my bag was too heavy and I ought to cut down to nineteen or fewer pounds!”  pg. 57

Well, that’s the Camino…

“I heard intriguing theological insinuations in discussions of “the Camino.” People personalized, even divinized, this route. They spoke of it mystically, as if it is a wise caring mentor: “It will teach you what you need to know” ; “It surfaces what you must face” ; “If you walk it more than once, you did not get it.” And Italian chef, Stefano wrote from Italy, months after we’d parted, “The Camino works in me … step by step.”pg. 105

No “Ustedes” Por Favor…

“Philo of Alexandria, an ancient Jewish philosopher, is reputed to have said “Be compassionate, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” This is invaluable counsel in ministry. It gives one patience and helps one listen. I use it when teaching about dealing with conflict and difficult behavior. How can we maintain such a mindset? On the Camino, as matters grew harder and our energy depleted, people became more inclined to help one another. As conditions worsened, compassion increased as well. We were all fighting a great battle, taking on a huge challenge, but we reminded each other that none of us was alone.” pg. 116

Focal ways of Life …

“North American culture is highly mobile. I myself have moved way too often, and I am not alone. I like to think I answered God’s call in those transitions, but I suspect that I also did so because of career opportunities, if not advancement. I am challenged in this regard by a fellow resident of Indiana, essayist Scott Russell Sanders, to take more seriously the merit of “Staying Put.” Our unsettled way of life detracts from our ability to honor any place. If we don’t learn how to detect God standing still, we’ll not find God when we’re moving around either. Thus one of three central Benedictine vows is stability, the promise to remain committed to a single place and its community for the rest of one’s life, trusting that God will speak and convert even — and perhaps especially — when that place no longer easily entertains.”

“Once, I was struggling with my work as a pastor and felt tempted to find easier work without the complications of congregational life. Henri Nouwen encouraged me to stay instead and, in his words, “go deeper.” pg. 133

After reading for two nights and coming to the end of the narration, I had the thought that I had missed something in the read, and therefore I would have to re-read the book because there was so much information and spiritual teaching in the text. Each of these quotes is nestled in between much more context in the read, You just have to read the book yourselves. They say that this book is not just a one off read, that you will pick it up again and again… I wanted to share some of the book with you anyways.


The way is made by walking…

Buy the book here: Amazon

I’m going to add to the discussion about politics because so many of you have as well. We need a woman vice president, Sara Palin, like we need a hole in our heads. I hope this choice that McCain made severely backfires on him. I am sure that many of Hillary’s supporters will not vote for him just because of his VP pick. Obama really needs to capitalize on this. America needs to vote. Everybody needs to vote. Presidential scholars and many other people are questioning her qualifications to be “second in command” God forbid the old man croak, we could see Sara becoming President of the United States. “Where is Gina Davis when you need her?”

We are T-minus 2 days and counting until the beginning of the Fall term at Concordia University. And I am well on my way to finishing my Pastoral Ministry Certificate. The schedule goes something like this:

  • Gospels and Acts Biblical Study (Downtown) 6:00 – 8:15 p.m. Monday
  • Pastoral Ministry (Loyola Campus) Ugh I must commute!! 6:00 – 8:15 p.m. Wednesday
  • Introduction to XT Ethics (Downtown) 6:00 – 8:15 p.m. Thursday

We are ready for school now. I still have to pick up my books on Tuesday, no big issue. Yesterday and today were spent shopping for new clothes and shoes for school. We got some good deals at Old Navy and that was very kool. We went out for lunch at the Central District food court at the Eaton Centre.

We made a stop at Indigo booksellers to round out our downtown excursion and I picked up a book and renewed my I-Rewards membership, which is a good deal because I never leave that store without buying a book or two. So we are reading “The Way is made by Walking” by Arthur Paul Boers, a pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago. This would be the second book that I have read in preparation for my journey to Compostela next Spring. The other book was by Paulo Coelho named “The Pilgrimage.” I was disappointed by that read. It wasn’t as good as The Alchemist.

Pilgrimage is a spiritual discipline not many consider.

Aren’t the destinations far? Don’t they involve a lot of time and walking? Just a few years ago Arthur Paul Boers wasn’t thinking about pilgrimage either. But he began to sense a deep call from God to walk the five hundred mile pilgrimage route known as Camino de Santiago, ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, at the cathedral that is said to hold the relics of the apostle James.

In these pages he opens to us his incredible story of renewed spirituality sprining from an old, old path walked by millions before him. It’s a stroy of learning to pray in new ways, enbracing simplicity, forming community, living each day centered and focused, depending on God to provide. Joined by hundreds of others from all over the world, Boers points the way to deeper intimacy with God — a way made by walking in faith.

Arthur Paul Boers is associate professor of pastoral theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He is an ordained minister in the Mennonite Church USA and a Benedictine oblate at St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan.

This should be an interesting read. I was standing there looking at books in the Chrisrianity section of the Religion department at the book shop and at first I picked up a book by Henri Nouwen, but it seemed short and came with a cd to listen to. This book was stuck between other volumes on the shelf and I happen to glance over it and I immediately picked it off the shelf and looked at the picture on the front cover and I knew that this was the next book that I was going to read. It just resonated with me strongly. That’s how it always works, when looking for something to read. Books usually jump off the shelf, so to speak, there is some immediate resonation between the text and the reader. I’ve read so many books this past year that I am going to need to buy another book case to house them, because they are stacked all over the place in my bedroom and on the shelves of the one bookcase we do have.

So that’s all for this installment … more to come, stay tuned…


Quietness…

Do you ever have one of those days when you start to get out of bed, and the bed says “No, stay a little while longer!” That is the kind of day its been. I skipped class because I just felt too tired to move from my warm and cozy bed. It has been a quiet couple of days, not much to report. Session One of summer school ends in two weeks then I have a short break before session two begins.

I am having a meeting with the Principle of the United Theological College here in Montreal next week to start finalizing my trip to France and Spain next Spring to walk the Compostela Pilgrimage route.


For the Bible Tells Me So …

For The Bible Tells Me So – Trailer

For more information go to: For The Bible Tells Me So…

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Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp (as a literal reading of scripture dictates).

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

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Evangelicals Fear Thompson Too Soft On Gays

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SEE: God’s Warriors – Christianity

This is the exact kind of Religious SHIT that I hate – HATE about Christian Fundamentalists. That you believe that you hold sway over the government any more than the rest. This is why America needs a clear SEPARATION between CHURCH and STATE.

In the year 2007, Straight Evangelical Minions are so concerned with Gay Rights, Hate Crimes Legislation, AIDS funds, Gay Marriage, that you are going to spend millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of lobby time to sway the electorate to elect a God Damned President?

Oh the Gays are gonna come and get us, they threaten the sanctity of marriage, Oh the gays want Special Treatment, Rights, and Protection from Hate Crimes!! Oh Oh Oh….

The Evangelicals are on another Witch Hunt. They are going to press the Gay Issue on the Candidates and they will attempt to KILL any nomination of any candidate who is soft on the Homosexuals, Gays and Lesbians. I guess we are not past the wedging of Sexual Orientation or Sexual Orientation issues into a Presidential Campaign.

It is really sad when you think that all Evangelicals do with their spare time is THINK about all things GAY!!! Does this strike anyone as problematic for them and informative for us?

God, We pray for Salvation from Evangelical…

Meanwhile,

  1. Osama Bin Laden is still alive [See Video]
  2. The United States is engaged in a war [Read:IRAQ] that they cannot win
  3. President George Bush is an idiot – And needs to be IMPEACHED
  4. Your foreign policy needs work
  5. People need health care
  6. There are children going without food
  7. There is not enough money for People with AIDS across the board
  8. All you Christians can think about is the GAY AGENDA!! Pardon me while I THROW UP!!! You limey bastards…And God Wept!!!

by The Associated Press

Posted: September 9, 2007 – 3:00 pm ET

(Washington) Prominent evangelical leaders who spent the summer hoping Fred Thompson would emerge as their favored Republican presidential contender are having doubts as he begins his long-teased campaign.

For social conservatives dissatisfied with other GOP choices, the “Law & Order” actor and former Tennessee senator represents a Ronald Reagan-like figure, someone they hope will agree with them on issues and stands a chance of winning.

But Thompson’s lack of a full endorsement of a federal gay marriage amendment and his delay in entering the race are partly responsible for a sudden shyness among leading evangelicals.

“A month or two ago, I sensed there was some urgency for people to make a move and find a candidate,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based conservative Christian group. “Right now, I think people are stepping back a little and watching. The field is still very fluid.”

A loose network of influential evangelical leaders known as the Arlington Group met privately Wednesday and Thursday in Washington to discuss presidential politics and other issues, participants said.

Although the group does not endorse candidates, individual members have done so in the past, and one of the organization’s founding principles is to get the movement’s leaders on the same page when possible.

Some in the meeting shared their presidential leanings, but the consensus was that more time is needed to gauge Thompson’s performance, according to a participant.

A clearer picture may develop Oct. 19-21 during a “Values Voter Summit” in Washington that will include a presidential straw poll.

In June, Thompson met privately with several Arlington Group members, many of whom are uncomfortable with the GOP top tier for various reasons: Arizona Sen. John McCain for championing campaign-finance overhaul and labeling some evangelical figures “agents of intolerance”; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for backing abortion rights and some gay rights; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his social-issue policy reversals and – for some members – his Mormon faith.

With the post-Labor Day primary push under way, the 65-year-old Thompson faces a crucial month to prove he is the best alternative for a key GOP constituency.

“He’s got a real opportunity to be the most credible conservative candidate across the board,” said Gary Bauer, a one-time presidential aspirant who heads the advocacy group American Values. “Whether he can put it all together remains to be seen. But he’s got a real chance to emerge as the major conservative alternative to Giuliani.”

Others are skeptical about whether Thompson can fill that role.

Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptist preacher and president of Texas-based Vision America, said that while he is encouraged by Thompson’s strong voting record in the Senate against abortion, he questioned the candidate’s commitment to social issues.

“The problem I’m having is that I don’t see any blood trail,” Scarborough said. “When you really take a stand on issues dear to the heart of social conservatives, you’re going to shed some blood in the process. And so far, Fred Thompson’s political career has been wrinkle-free.”

Thompson’s long-delayed entry is another concern, Scarborough said. “The hesitancy has made us wonder whether he has the stomach for what it’s going to take,” he said.

Earlier this summer, doubts crept in following reports on Thompson’s role in crafting campaign finance reform and stories that he lobbied for an abortion rights group.

More recently, Thompson has come under scrutiny for his position on a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, a defining issue for the Christian right.

Thompson over the past month has stated on more than one occasion that he supports an amendment that would prohibit states from imposing their gay marriage laws on other states. (story) That falls well short of what evangelical leaders want: an amendment that would bar gay marriage nationwide.

Thompson’s position surprised evangelical leaders who say they met with him in June and came away thinking he shared their desire for a more sweeping constitutional change. Now, they wonder if he is flip-flopping.

One person in attendance – Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based conservative legal group – said Thompson described going back and forth about the merits of an amendment prohibiting gay marriage nationwide.

“At one time, he said he was against it,” Staver said. “Then he said in June he was for it. So if now he’s saying he’s against it, to me that’s a double-minded person. And that would be a real concern for religious conservatives.”

Messages left with Thompson campaign were not returned.

Several Christian right leaders said opposition to a broad amendment would hurt Thompson with evangelicals, but not necessarily cause irreparable harm. Others played down the issue, pointing out that their favored approach was politically impossible anyway because Democrats control the House and Senate.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Thompson’s position is consistent with the former senator’s support for limited federal government and giving power to the states.

Land said it is healthy that expectations for Thompson have diminished from unrealistic levels and he does not think evangelical excitement has dimmed for a man he described as a “masterful retail politician.”

Many evangelical leaders said one of Thompson’s biggest draws is his perceived electability. Some are watching whether former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, can build on his second place finish last month in the Iowa straw poll.

Tim Wildmon, president of the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, said that while he likes Huckabee, Thompson’s better name recognition and fundraising potential is a strong draw for evangelicals.

“This is a dilemma a lot of people have,” Wildmon said. “They want to support the candidate that most reflects their values. “But at the same time, you have to balance that against finding someone who can actually win.”

©365Gay.com 2007


Bishop Orama's Courageous Biblical Christianity

Originally read on:“The Anglican Scotist”

Probably by now you have heard that Bishop Orama of Oyo in Nigeria claimed

Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man…

Though one hopes Orama was completely misquoted, still, one might reasonably suspect that this opinion is authentic to Nigerian Anglicanism and the Global South faction; it might well be that strong, international criticism will serve not to change the opinion, but merely silence it, driving it underground where it can continue to operate unseen and unheard.

I. Curious Conservative Reactions
While some Western conservatives might disavow Orama’s comments, one might be forgiven for wondering why they would bother. Here’s Father Kendall Harmon of T19:

These words are to be utterly repudiated by all of us–I hope and trust.

Well, why is that? He wrote (beackets added):

[1]We are all in the global village now, like it or not, and the world is indeed flat. So what we say needs to take seriously the resonances that it may bring out in contexts other than our own. There could hardly be a worse statement in a Western context than to say of ANYONE that he or she is “not fit to live.” [2] It immediately brings to mind the Nazi language of Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) and in flood images and activities too horrendous and horrific for any of us to take in even at this historical distance from the events themselves.

According to [1], the problem is that others will hear–we live in a global village after all, and comments like this will gain a wide enough audience to most likely hurt the Separatist cause. Why? Part [2] gives Father Harmon’s answer: it will remind hearers of Nazi language. And of course he is right about that. Bishop Orama is not a Nazi or fascist so far as I know, but he has no trouble employing their Eliminationist rhetoric. Some bishop.

But I am utterly stunned by Father Harmon’s reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama’s rhetoric. There is nothing specifically Christian–no laudable Biblical principle–invoked in Father Harmon’s words. And there is nothing significantly moral either. The trouble with Bishop Orama’s words is strictly instrumental: it will hurt the cause by bringing to mind Nazi depravity. I suppose such an instrumental reason could have a moral resonance for Father Harmon: the end–Separation–justifies the means perhaps. He did not say that Bishop Orama was in error, or that Bishop Orama’s words were unscriptural or anti-Christian. The problem? Bishop Orama could hurt the cause.

Here is Greg Griffith of Stand Firm (I do not know if he is ordained like Father Harmon: no disrespect intended):

[1] About the horrible nature of the remark, the injury to the Christian witness it does, and yes, even the “rhetorical violence” it commits… I agree completely.

[2]Describing homosexuals as “unfit to live,” or implying that that sentiment is in any way part of the Gospel message, is where I get off the bus. “Life not worthy of living” is the phrase Nazis used to describe Jews, dissenting Christian clergy, the physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, and anyone else who might spoil their vision of a pure Aryan world.

[3]If being homosexual makes one unfit to live, then being the kind of sinner Bishop Orama is makes him similarly unfit to live; and of course, that is not the Gospel of Jesus, not the Good News we have been entrusted by Christ to carry to the world.

I think it is pretty clear that Griffith does alot better than Father Harmon in stating his reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama’s remarks. The remark has a “horrible nature” perhaps due to its “injury” to Christian mission and its “rhetorical violence.” On the latter count, Griffith invokes comparisons with the Nazis in [2]. He goes further than Father Harmon, saying explicitly that the Nazi message of Elimination is not part of the Gospel message: thanks for that. Finally, in [3] there is some kind of half-baked argument that Bishop Orama deserves to die if homosexuals deserve to die–and that this is not the Gospel message.

While Griffith’s response has unmistakable specific moral content, and even refers to the Goispel message, still it leaves one wondering. What exactly in the Gospel message contradicts Bishop Orama’s message? It is odd–even comic–to see biblical conservatives in the tradition of Barth and Childs run to secular notions of moral good when push comes to shove. Guys, one does not need to hear the Good news of Christ to condemn Nazis, their Eliminationist rhetoric, and rhetorical violence: one can do that on purely secular moral grounds.

II. Throwing Down the Gauntlet
When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama’s remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these–or any–Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop’s remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible–as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation–on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law–not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die–what does Father Harmon’s Bible say? Or Griffith’s? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part–ashamed–under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You ‘d have to extract the authority’s argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.

****************************
From:
Father Jake Stops the World

There’s been quite a bit of discussion over the last 24 hours regarding Bishop Orama of Nigeria’s disturbing remarks. There have been condemnations of the declaration that gays are “unfit to live” from all corners of the Episcopal Church. For that we can be thankful.

Yet, even in light of these condemnations, this incident has given me cause to wonder if the sentiments expressed by Bp. Orama are really an isolated incident, or are they more broadly accepted, but just not so bluntly stated?

Mark Harris points us to an interesting article in the Boston Globe, which includes this paragraph describing a reporter’s experience at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya:

…Criticizing the Episcopal Church’s embrace of gays and lesbians, the Rev. Samuel Muchiri told the 1,000 worshipers “we in Kenya feel this is not what God wants.” An usher advised a visiting reporter to “remember that Sodom and Gomorrah was demolished because there were homosexuals.” Another warned that the reporter could be assaulted if he asked worshipers about the issue, and said that America’s permissiveness toward homosexuality had led Osama bin Laden to attack…

Where are they getting these strange ideas? To some degree, they are probably being taught this by their leaders. For instance, in the same article, the Archbishop of Kenya made the following statement:

“God cannot be mocked,” said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya. “Here, in the context of Kenya, if we take somebody who is polygamous and we make him a lay reader or a priest, we would be doing the wrong thing. . . . If I know somebody is a homosexual, and I make him a lay reader, or I make him a priest, or I make him a bishop, I am sanctioning what he is doing as right. I am saying ‘no’ to this, and the church is saying ‘no’ to this.”

Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, is also notorious for his hateful words regarding gay and lesbian Christians. With leaders like Nzimbi and Akinola at the helm, it is not surprising that bishops and clergy might feel free to perpetuate ideas such as gays and lesbians being unfit to live, and that they could be assaulted because they caused 9/11.

I think that the leaders giving either explicit or implicit permission for such rhetorical violence is a big part of the problem. But I think there is something more to it than that. In the Boston Globe article, the Primate of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables, know as one of the more careful voices among the extremists, points us towards that “something more”:

…”Sadly, the sexuality issue isn’t the issue – it’s about Scripture,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Venables, the primate of South America. “What’s happened in the States is that they’ve moved away from the view that God has revealed himself in Scripture, and they’re rewriting that with post-modernity relativism”…

The erroneous accusation that “the States” have “moved away from the view that God has revealed himself in Scripture” might sound like nonsense to us. Most Episcopalians that I know, including myself, affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be regarded as divine revelation, which completes natural revelation. Our difference of opinion is over the matter of how we interpret this revelation.

And, it is on this point that the Global South extremists find allies among some North Americans.

This causes some problems in the current discussions regarding rhetorical violence, and gives us reason to seek further explanations regarding some of the condemnations of Bp. Orama’s remarks. Anglican Scotist offers us a good explanation of why this supposed stance rooted in “biblical authority” is problematic:

…When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama’s remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these–or any–Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop’s remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible–as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation–on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law–not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die–what does Father Harmon’s Bible say? Or Griffith’s? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part–ashamed–under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You’d have to extract the authority’s argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.

The reality, which most thoughtful people accept without a second thought, is that scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, but also includes lots of other stuff as well. The argument has never been “The bible said it, I believe it, that ends it.” Otherwise, we’d be executing disobedient children, to give but one bizarre example of the biblical mandate. The debate has been over how to define what exactly is “necessary for salvation,” and what is “other stuff.”

Apparently, there are some bishops, such as Orama, who have not been informed of this particular nuance in the discussion regarding scripture. That is a rather frightening realization, it seems to me.

Regarding our continued discussion of this topic, I want to draw your attention to a recent reflection from Elizabeth Kaeton entitled What the Anglican Communion Can Learn from Dog Fights. Elizabeth affirms what the Anglican Scotist has pointed out:

…People like Fred Phelps don’t make up the hateful words on the signs they hold up during the funerals of people with AIDS or soldiers who have died in Iraq. That self-proclaimed but unlicensed minister of God takes them right out of “The Good Book.”

It is Levitical logic, of course, almost pristine in its purity and simplicity. Indeed, some of us in the LGBT community have said to our orthodox and conservative sisters and brothers that if they really believe every literal thing in Scripture, then they are compelled to pick up a rock and stone every last LGBT person to death…

But then Elizabeth continues with some thoughts that I think it is important for us all to hear:

…The worst thing we mongrel dogs can do is to allow ourselves to be baited into a blood-sport by those who glorify and are entertained by violence.

We must resist that temptation with every thing that is in us. This is not about us. It is not about homosexuality or even scriptural interpretation.

This is about power and violence and we who claim the high calling of Christ Jesus must be about peace and justice, mercy and compassion, and walking humbly with God.

This is neither our fight nor our sport. Let’s not dignify it with our blood. Let us not insult the blood that was shed for our salvation.

Let us, instead, like our Samaritan sisters and brothers in Christ, use our wit and our intelligence.

The Samaritan woman, that mongrel dog, said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Mt. 15:27)

And Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” (Mt 15:28)

May it be so for us in our day and time.

And may God have mercy on us all.

I understand that some will need to express their outrage and indignation. But let’s not allow ourselves to be baited into pointless arguments that just may tempt us to toss out our own forms of rhetorical violence.

This is not some kind of rhetorical game. We must stand against violence and oppression. But let us make our stand with intelligence, wit and dignity.

J.

 


Bishop Orama’s Courageous Biblical Christianity

Originally read on:“The Anglican Scotist”

Probably by now you have heard that Bishop Orama of Oyo in Nigeria claimed

Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man…

Though one hopes Orama was completely misquoted, still, one might reasonably suspect that this opinion is authentic to Nigerian Anglicanism and the Global South faction; it might well be that strong, international criticism will serve not to change the opinion, but merely silence it, driving it underground where it can continue to operate unseen and unheard.

I. Curious Conservative Reactions
While some Western conservatives might disavow Orama’s comments, one might be forgiven for wondering why they would bother. Here’s Father Kendall Harmon of T19:

These words are to be utterly repudiated by all of us–I hope and trust.

Well, why is that? He wrote (beackets added):

[1]We are all in the global village now, like it or not, and the world is indeed flat. So what we say needs to take seriously the resonances that it may bring out in contexts other than our own. There could hardly be a worse statement in a Western context than to say of ANYONE that he or she is “not fit to live.” [2] It immediately brings to mind the Nazi language of Lebensunwertes Leben (“life unworthy of life”) and in flood images and activities too horrendous and horrific for any of us to take in even at this historical distance from the events themselves.

According to [1], the problem is that others will hear–we live in a global village after all, and comments like this will gain a wide enough audience to most likely hurt the Separatist cause. Why? Part [2] gives Father Harmon’s answer: it will remind hearers of Nazi language. And of course he is right about that. Bishop Orama is not a Nazi or fascist so far as I know, but he has no trouble employing their Eliminationist rhetoric. Some bishop.

But I am utterly stunned by Father Harmon’s reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama’s rhetoric. There is nothing specifically Christian–no laudable Biblical principle–invoked in Father Harmon’s words. And there is nothing significantly moral either. The trouble with Bishop Orama’s words is strictly instrumental: it will hurt the cause by bringing to mind Nazi depravity. I suppose such an instrumental reason could have a moral resonance for Father Harmon: the end–Separation–justifies the means perhaps. He did not say that Bishop Orama was in error, or that Bishop Orama’s words were unscriptural or anti-Christian. The problem? Bishop Orama could hurt the cause.

Here is Greg Griffith of Stand Firm (I do not know if he is ordained like Father Harmon: no disrespect intended):

[1] About the horrible nature of the remark, the injury to the Christian witness it does, and yes, even the “rhetorical violence” it commits… I agree completely.

[2]Describing homosexuals as “unfit to live,” or implying that that sentiment is in any way part of the Gospel message, is where I get off the bus. “Life not worthy of living” is the phrase Nazis used to describe Jews, dissenting Christian clergy, the physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, and anyone else who might spoil their vision of a pure Aryan world.

[3]If being homosexual makes one unfit to live, then being the kind of sinner Bishop Orama is makes him similarly unfit to live; and of course, that is not the Gospel of Jesus, not the Good News we have been entrusted by Christ to carry to the world.

I think it is pretty clear that Griffith does alot better than Father Harmon in stating his reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama’s remarks. The remark has a “horrible nature” perhaps due to its “injury” to Christian mission and its “rhetorical violence.” On the latter count, Griffith invokes comparisons with the Nazis in [2]. He goes further than Father Harmon, saying explicitly that the Nazi message of Elimination is not part of the Gospel message: thanks for that. Finally, in [3] there is some kind of half-baked argument that Bishop Orama deserves to die if homosexuals deserve to die–and that this is not the Gospel message.

While Griffith’s response has unmistakable specific moral content, and even refers to the Goispel message, still it leaves one wondering. What exactly in the Gospel message contradicts Bishop Orama’s message? It is odd–even comic–to see biblical conservatives in the tradition of Barth and Childs run to secular notions of moral good when push comes to shove. Guys, one does not need to hear the Good news of Christ to condemn Nazis, their Eliminationist rhetoric, and rhetorical violence: one can do that on purely secular moral grounds.

II. Throwing Down the Gauntlet
When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama’s remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these–or any–Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop’s remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible–as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation–on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law–not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die–what does Father Harmon’s Bible say? Or Griffith’s? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part–ashamed–under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You ‘d have to extract the authority’s argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.

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From:
Father Jake Stops the World

There’s been quite a bit of discussion over the last 24 hours regarding Bishop Orama of Nigeria’s disturbing remarks. There have been condemnations of the declaration that gays are “unfit to live” from all corners of the Episcopal Church. For that we can be thankful.

Yet, even in light of these condemnations, this incident has given me cause to wonder if the sentiments expressed by Bp. Orama are really an isolated incident, or are they more broadly accepted, but just not so bluntly stated?

Mark Harris points us to an interesting article in the Boston Globe, which includes this paragraph describing a reporter’s experience at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya:

…Criticizing the Episcopal Church’s embrace of gays and lesbians, the Rev. Samuel Muchiri told the 1,000 worshipers “we in Kenya feel this is not what God wants.” An usher advised a visiting reporter to “remember that Sodom and Gomorrah was demolished because there were homosexuals.” Another warned that the reporter could be assaulted if he asked worshipers about the issue, and said that America’s permissiveness toward homosexuality had led Osama bin Laden to attack…

Where are they getting these strange ideas? To some degree, they are probably being taught this by their leaders. For instance, in the same article, the Archbishop of Kenya made the following statement:

“God cannot be mocked,” said Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya. “Here, in the context of Kenya, if we take somebody who is polygamous and we make him a lay reader or a priest, we would be doing the wrong thing. . . . If I know somebody is a homosexual, and I make him a lay reader, or I make him a priest, or I make him a bishop, I am sanctioning what he is doing as right. I am saying ‘no’ to this, and the church is saying ‘no’ to this.”

Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, is also notorious for his hateful words regarding gay and lesbian Christians. With leaders like Nzimbi and Akinola at the helm, it is not surprising that bishops and clergy might feel free to perpetuate ideas such as gays and lesbians being unfit to live, and that they could be assaulted because they caused 9/11.

I think that the leaders giving either explicit or implicit permission for such rhetorical violence is a big part of the problem. But I think there is something more to it than that. In the Boston Globe article, the Primate of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables, know as one of the more careful voices among the extremists, points us towards that “something more”:

…”Sadly, the sexuality issue isn’t the issue – it’s about Scripture,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Venables, the primate of South America. “What’s happened in the States is that they’ve moved away from the view that God has revealed himself in Scripture, and they’re rewriting that with post-modernity relativism”…

The erroneous accusation that “the States” have “moved away from the view that God has revealed himself in Scripture” might sound like nonsense to us. Most Episcopalians that I know, including myself, affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be regarded as divine revelation, which completes natural revelation. Our difference of opinion is over the matter of how we interpret this revelation.

And, it is on this point that the Global South extremists find allies among some North Americans.

This causes some problems in the current discussions regarding rhetorical violence, and gives us reason to seek further explanations regarding some of the condemnations of Bp. Orama’s remarks. Anglican Scotist offers us a good explanation of why this supposed stance rooted in “biblical authority” is problematic:

…When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama’s remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these–or any–Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop’s remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible–as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation–on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law–not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die–what does Father Harmon’s Bible say? Or Griffith’s? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part–ashamed–under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You’d have to extract the authority’s argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.

The reality, which most thoughtful people accept without a second thought, is that scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, but also includes lots of other stuff as well. The argument has never been “The bible said it, I believe it, that ends it.” Otherwise, we’d be executing disobedient children, to give but one bizarre example of the biblical mandate. The debate has been over how to define what exactly is “necessary for salvation,” and what is “other stuff.”

Apparently, there are some bishops, such as Orama, who have not been informed of this particular nuance in the discussion regarding scripture. That is a rather frightening realization, it seems to me.

Regarding our continued discussion of this topic, I want to draw your attention to a recent reflection from Elizabeth Kaeton entitled What the Anglican Communion Can Learn from Dog Fights. Elizabeth affirms what the Anglican Scotist has pointed out:

…People like Fred Phelps don’t make up the hateful words on the signs they hold up during the funerals of people with AIDS or soldiers who have died in Iraq. That self-proclaimed but unlicensed minister of God takes them right out of “The Good Book.”

It is Levitical logic, of course, almost pristine in its purity and simplicity. Indeed, some of us in the LGBT community have said to our orthodox and conservative sisters and brothers that if they really believe every literal thing in Scripture, then they are compelled to pick up a rock and stone every last LGBT person to death…

But then Elizabeth continues with some thoughts that I think it is important for us all to hear:

…The worst thing we mongrel dogs can do is to allow ourselves to be baited into a blood-sport by those who glorify and are entertained by violence.

We must resist that temptation with every thing that is in us. This is not about us. It is not about homosexuality or even scriptural interpretation.

This is about power and violence and we who claim the high calling of Christ Jesus must be about peace and justice, mercy and compassion, and walking humbly with God.

This is neither our fight nor our sport. Let’s not dignify it with our blood. Let us not insult the blood that was shed for our salvation.

Let us, instead, like our Samaritan sisters and brothers in Christ, use our wit and our intelligence.

The Samaritan woman, that mongrel dog, said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Mt. 15:27)

And Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” (Mt 15:28)

May it be so for us in our day and time.

And may God have mercy on us all.

I understand that some will need to express their outrage and indignation. But let’s not allow ourselves to be baited into pointless arguments that just may tempt us to toss out our own forms of rhetorical violence.

This is not some kind of rhetorical game. We must stand against violence and oppression. But let us make our stand with intelligence, wit and dignity.

J.

 


Resistance is Futile… You will be Assimilated

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I needed a day off. I needed to regenerate because I was tired. Too many thoughts going on in my head, baggage that is not mine, responsibility that has been thrust upon me as of late, friends in difficulty, what’s on television. Disaster, mine collapses, hurricanes, fires and floods. It’s the god damned Armageddon!

Icheb is our guide.

It seems that some of my blogging brothers are creating drama for one of my friends, who happens to be dealing with a medical situation that I am all too familiar with. And I tell them now, this too shall pass. The internet is fickle and people will find something else to focus on eventually. Just remember that when you write, you are responsible for what you write. The truth or lies, the facts or the fiction. You are also responsible for the reactions because of what you write. We call that publishing responsibility. YOU are RESPONSIBLE for what you write, every word, every feeling every opinion. So beware what you write.

Over the last few days I have written a great deal about God’s Warriors and I have to say that I have reached new highs in traffic that this blog has ever seen. I taped the first segment of Judaism from Wednesday night. The more I think about it, in watching the documentary again, I find myself wanting to learn more about the conflict. Something to bring up in my theology classes in the coming months. I am still a strong Christian Zionist.

Last night I watched a two hour documentary about “Surviving Katrina” on the Discovery Channel. I remember we sat here that week and watched on live television the march of hurricane Katrina over New Orleans. We lived it here as they lived it there, minus the direct one on one experience. It was hell. Discovery took the time to explain the minutiae of what happened, even to employ “brownie” to explain his role in the failure of all levels of government to adequately take responsibility and care for those in New Orleans and in other hurricane affected areas. I was mortified to say the least.

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Of Special Remembrance: August 24th, Friday, was the one year anniversary of the death of the sainted woman, my great aunt Sister Georgette Cote. There was no call from the mother house, no memorial mass, one year on. I knew the date was coming and I did my best to ignore it because that meant I’d have to write about one truly painful time in my life, since coming to Montreal:

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August 24 2006 – Blog Entry

At 11:30 a.m. this morning, Sister Georgette Cote peacefully met the Lord and entered into her heavenly inheritance.

I had literally just went to take a nap, and the phone rang, it was the hospital.

She waited for me to leave.

Blessed be the Lord our God

Eternal Rest grant her and may perpetual light shine upon her.

Blessed be Marguerite D’Youville.

I had spent the previous 18 hours with her in the ICU ward of the General up the hill. It was me, sister Agathe and sister Monique that last night of her life. The buzzing and whistling of the machines were upsetting her with that huge oxygen mask on her face, she just wanted everything off. So it went. They hooked up the Morphine drip and the clock started ticking.

By midnight the sisters thought that they should get back to the Mother House, so it was just the two of us. I sat reading the Tibetan Book of the dead, while the single nurse came and went without a word. It was dark, quiet and morbid. I had walked home to shower and change out and get some food before the last conversation at 3 a.m. when her surgeon came in to check on her, a very sainted woman, strong of character and voice. You will be ok Ms. Cote. I am here with you. Sister Georgette was fading, her hands waving in front of her face. The surgeon left after bidding us a good night.

Sister Georgette has said to get to devil away from her and to find a priest – well it was 3 a.m. in the morning, who was I going to call then? So I grabbed my rosary and I began to recite prayers over her. She said that “I was a good boy and that God would bless me” then she closed her eyes, and that was the last thing she said. That would be our very last conversation.

As the sun rose – we had a great view out th windows to the South Shore and the Victoria Bridge. She was gone, mentally and emotionally. The male nurse that came on shift started to clean her up and bathe her and change her dressing gown. It was around 9 in the morning. The two sisters had come back from the mother house and around 10 am I set off for home to rest.

I got home and changed out. Had a bite to eat and crawled into bed. While I was lying there, I could smell her and it waifed through my room. A few minutes later the phone rang – it was the hospital, Sister Georgette was dead. She waited for me to leave. It has been a year. I miss her more than most will know.

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When I entered the world of mentoring and the foster parent program I nested. I learned that I was exceptionally maternal in my motivations, yet I kept very manly counsel. I found myself channeling my father at times. I have few rules. Do not lie to me, Do not steal from me or anyone else. If you need something you ask and if I can help you I will. All of my boys know the ground rules. The ground rules are set in stone. If I catch you in a lie or you manipulate me into a position then you have lost my support and your right to be trusted.

He lies to us and he cheats and he is dishonest. He manipulates us and forces us to the wall with his tests to see how far we will go to punish him and stop his manic anger tantrums.

I am not going to have any of this. As of late, I take this boy to bed with me and I ruminate in my head at night, because I want to be a good example. Now I am parent and I am setting the law of the land. And this child has cheated, lied and manipulated. This is a waste of my time. His behavior is unacceptable. If he thinks he is going to push me to anger myself, then he is getting nothing from me until he learns that there are rules in my house and failure to follow these rules will be met with swift execution of consequences.

I have accepted this “location” because mom has failed to exact rules and regulations on her son so I have to step in and set the rules down and play daddy. While the biological father, who has NO RIGHTS, who gave up his parental rights long ago works behind the scenes to manipulate him and he works against everything that we (mom and I) have been working for. And for what? Jesus H. Christ…

Now I have contracted for daily visits with the “wild child” and I have a schedule book to make sure I can fit him into my schedule when school starts. If he thinks I am going to put up with his bullshit – he can think again. I must be patient and understand that he is not like all other normal kids. I get that. And I am patient and kind, but what do I have to do to get him to understand that this is NOT a game.

I am not in this to play games.

Fuck with me and you will learn what it feels like to get on my bad side. And I promise you that I am not fucking around here. Do Not Test me young man because if you do, You will Loose, I promise you, there will be certain consequences for pushing me to the limit of my patience. I am not going to be taking extra baggage to bed with me at night and I surely am not going to waste my time working with kids who do not listen or cannot learn.

You know what I am talking about and you sure as shit know when you are manipulating us and when you LIE to us as well. We know where the money is coming from, and if this happens again, we will bring the law down and you won’t be able to access the daddy bank again. You are smarter than you look, and you know I mean business. I sure as shit am not going to waste my time and talent trying to help you – while you back-stab us and continue to push us to the brink of insanity. I am not going to have this, PERIOD!!!

I am starting to get resentful and angry because you fuck with me, You will not fuck with me. If I am in the role of parent, then you will see what it means to suffer consequences for your behavior.

Jesus, the drama… end of rant…

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It seems that Mother Teresa has brought traffic to this blog that has never been seen before, more than the God’s Warriors traffic. If you look in the PAGES section of this blog you will find that I have written much on the topic of Mother Teresa. I believe that every Christian goes through the Dark Night, and at some point questions, “what the hell am I doing here, and why do I waste my time? (Read above)

Is there a God and if there is He needs to make himself present to me before I loose my mind! It is interesting to see how traffic changes every twenty four hours. I mean it is great that traffic has doubled in recent days. That means that religious writing has changed again. That what I do here is important to many readers and I thank you for stopping by. No one I know has written one word on any topic that I have addressed from my blog list in recent days.

Yet there are blogs that have stopped by that I have never seen before, and I get closer to the Top List blogs. Those who are really knowledgeable about world events, they are critical of writers and they know things that I don’t which is in itself very educational because I know there is a slant in cable news reporting, but what I did not know from this writer – “Right Truth,” helped to inform me to a level I had not been aware of.

As a writer, I am responsible for what I write, and I accept that. I took a step to write about topics that I am educated about, and others come by to read and they impart certain knowledge that I did not have before. Which raises the bar for me as a writer. The more I study and the more I write the higher up the level of professional blogging I rise to. It’s all about being informed and educated on the topics we write about and it is up to us to take the time to read other bloggers points of view so that we can more roundly write on what we are writing about. The article at Right Truth, linked above is very informative. Take some time to visit that blog because they are a great Blog and the writing is incredible.

Well, that is a lot of writing for today, So I am going to close and bid you all a good night.


Mother Teresa Cont'd…

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ABCNews.com 

In dozens of letters spanning 66 years, Mother Teresa described the “emptiness” she felt and confessed her struggles with faith and the existence of heaven in pages she had planned to have destroyed.

A decade after her death, they have been published in the book “Come By My Light” as part of the petition for her sainthood.

“The lives of the saints are personal, but they are not private,” said The Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, who is publishing the letters. “The documents are really are quite valuable in that they speak of her own holiness and the value … to people who can relate to what she was going through.”

They offer surprising revelations, including one instance in which she writes, “no faith — no love — no zeal — [The saving of] souls holds no attraction — Heaven means nothing … it has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.'”

Her work began when she heard God tell her to open a mission in Calcutta. The book includes her Jan. 13, 1947 letter in which she wrote to the Archbishop of Calcutta to request permission to found her own order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Several years later, she composed a letter as an exercise from her spiritual adviser to express her devotion to Jesus and passionately wrote, “I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Don’t allow me to do you wrong in any way.”

To millions her work still shines as the example of Christlike devotion. It brought her the Nobel Peace Prize and beatification by Pope John Paul. But once she began her work in India she never heard God’s voice again. Nine years after she founded her mission in Calcutta she wrote, “What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true.”

“Even the sisters around her had no idea of the length and the depth,” Kolodiejchuk said.

Faith vs. Benevolence

As many Catholics learn how long she suffered this crisis of faith, they are even more awed by her deeds.

“Unlike the other saints, who might have been going through their day with a lot of consolation from their prayer, Mother Teresa was running on empty and doing all these wonderful works,” said Father James Martin.

But while the faithful see her struggle as inspirational, some atheists are taking it as confirmation of their own rational doubts and proof that the faithless can display enormous benevolence.

“Of course nonbelievers all over the world display compassion,” said Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “She was forced to go through the motions and admitted her own hypocrisy.”

Ten years after her death, her Missionaries of Charity claims to have over a million volunteers comforting the sick and orphaned in 40 countries. This book is certain to stir those who pray the Vatican will canonize the nun from the slums. If it does, Mother Teresa may just be the patron saint of skeptics.


Mother Teresa Cont’d…

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ABCNews.com 

In dozens of letters spanning 66 years, Mother Teresa described the “emptiness” she felt and confessed her struggles with faith and the existence of heaven in pages she had planned to have destroyed.

A decade after her death, they have been published in the book “Come By My Light” as part of the petition for her sainthood.

“The lives of the saints are personal, but they are not private,” said The Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, who is publishing the letters. “The documents are really are quite valuable in that they speak of her own holiness and the value … to people who can relate to what she was going through.”

They offer surprising revelations, including one instance in which she writes, “no faith — no love — no zeal — [The saving of] souls holds no attraction — Heaven means nothing … it has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.'”

Her work began when she heard God tell her to open a mission in Calcutta. The book includes her Jan. 13, 1947 letter in which she wrote to the Archbishop of Calcutta to request permission to found her own order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Several years later, she composed a letter as an exercise from her spiritual adviser to express her devotion to Jesus and passionately wrote, “I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. Don’t allow me to do you wrong in any way.”

To millions her work still shines as the example of Christlike devotion. It brought her the Nobel Peace Prize and beatification by Pope John Paul. But once she began her work in India she never heard God’s voice again. Nine years after she founded her mission in Calcutta she wrote, “What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus — You also are not true.”

“Even the sisters around her had no idea of the length and the depth,” Kolodiejchuk said.

Faith vs. Benevolence

As many Catholics learn how long she suffered this crisis of faith, they are even more awed by her deeds.

“Unlike the other saints, who might have been going through their day with a lot of consolation from their prayer, Mother Teresa was running on empty and doing all these wonderful works,” said Father James Martin.

But while the faithful see her struggle as inspirational, some atheists are taking it as confirmation of their own rational doubts and proof that the faithless can display enormous benevolence.

“Of course nonbelievers all over the world display compassion,” said Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “She was forced to go through the motions and admitted her own hypocrisy.”

Ten years after her death, her Missionaries of Charity claims to have over a million volunteers comforting the sick and orphaned in 40 countries. This book is certain to stir those who pray the Vatican will canonize the nun from the slums. If it does, Mother Teresa may just be the patron saint of skeptics.


Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith …

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By DAVID VAN BIEMA

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the “Saint of the Gutters,” went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her.

“It is not enough for us to say, ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'” she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had “[made] himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one.” Jesus’ hunger, she said, is what “you and I must find” and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world “that radiating joy is real” because Christ is everywhere – “Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.”

Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. “Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, – Listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me – that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama.

Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction – that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.

And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works.

The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever – or, as the book’s compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist.”

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and – except for a five-week break in 1959 – never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain.

In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.”

Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God – tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'” Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa’s doubts: “I’ve never read a saint’s life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness.

No one knew she was that tormented.” Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light’s editor: “I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her.”

The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa’s correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.

The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the “dark night” of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Teresa’s may be the most extensive such case on record. (The “dark night” of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.)

Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John’s context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.

Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine’s Confessions and Thomas Merton‘s The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book “a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life,” and says, “It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone.”

Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa’s inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn’t there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.’s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book’s Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned.

Says Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position, a scathing polemic on Teresa, and more recently of the atheist manifesto God Is Not Great: “She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself.” Meanwhile, some familiar with the smiling mother’s extraordinary drive may diagnose her condition less as a gift of God than as a subconscious attempt at the most radical kind of humility: she punished herself with a crippling failure to counterbalance her great successes.

Come Be My Light is that rare thing, a posthumous autobiography that could cause a wholesale reconsideration of a major public figure – one way or another. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind great achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. That it does so not in any organized, intentional form but as a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight should leave readers only more convinced that it is authentic – and that they are, somewhat shockingly, touching the true inner life of a modern saint.

Prequel: Near Ecstatic Communion

[Jesus:] Wilt thou refuse to do this for me? … You have become my Spouse for my love – you have come to India for Me. The thirst you had for souls brought you so far – Are you afraid to take one more step for Your Spouse – for me – for souls? Is your generosity grown cold? Am I a second to you?
[Teresa:] Jesus, my own Jesus – I am only Thine – I am so stupid – I do not know what to say but do with me whatever You wish – as You wish – as long as you wish. [But] why can’t I be a perfect Loreto Nun – here – why can’t I be like everybody else.


[Jesus:] I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children … You are I know the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?


– in a prayer dialogue recounted to Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, January 1947

On Sept. 10, 1946, after 17 years as a teacher in Calcutta with the Loreto Sisters (an uncloistered, education-oriented community based in Ireland), Mother Mary Teresa, 36, took the 400-mile (645-km) train trip to Darjeeling. She had been working herself sick, and her superiors ordered her to relax during her annual retreat in the Himalayan foothills. On the ride out, she reported, Christ spoke to her. He called her to abandon teaching and work instead in “the slums” of the city, dealing directly with “the poorest of the poor” – the sick, the dying, beggars and street children.

“Come, Come, carry Me into the holes of the poor,” he told her. “Come be My light.” The goal was to be both material and evangelistic – as Kolodiejchuk puts it, “to help them live their lives with dignity [and so] encounter God’s infinite love, and having come to know Him, to love and serve Him in return.”

It was wildly audacious – an unfunded, single-handed crusade (Teresa stipulated that she and her nuns would share their beneficiaries’ poverty and started out alone) to provide individualized service to the poorest in a poor city made desperate by riots. The local Archbishop, Ferdinand PÉrier, was initially skeptical. But her letters to him, preserved, illustrate two linked characteristics – extreme tenacity and a profound personal bond to Christ. When PÉrier hesitated, Teresa, while calling herself a “little nothing,” bombarded him with notes suggesting that he refer the question to an escalating list of authorities – the local apostolic delegation, her Mother General, the Pope.

And when she felt all else had failed, she revealed the spiritual topper: a dramatic (melodramatic, really) dialogue with a “Voice” she eventually revealed to be Christ’s. It ended with Jesus’ emphatic reiteration of his call to her: “You are I know the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?”

Mother Teresa had visions, including one of herself conversing with Christ on the Cross. Her confessor, Father Celeste Van Exem, was convinced that her mystical experiences were genuine. “[Her] union with Our Lord has been continual and so deep and violent that rapture does not seem very far,” he commented. Teresa later wrote simply, “Jesus gave Himself to me.”

Then on Jan. 6, 1948, PÉrier, after consulting the Vatican, finally gave permission for Teresa to embark on her second calling. And Jesus took himself away again.

The Onset

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love – and now become as the most hated one – the one – You have thrown away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I can cling – no, No One. – Alone … Where is my Faith – even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness – My God – how painful is this unknown pain – I have no Faith – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God – please forgive me – When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
– addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated

In the first half of 1948, Teresa took a basic medical course before launching herself alone onto the streets of Calcutta. She wrote, “My soul at present is in perfect peace and joy.” Kolodiejchuk includes her moving description of her first day on the job: “The old man lying on the street – not wanted – all alone just sick and dying – I gave him carborsone and water to drink and the old Man – was so strangely grateful …

Then we went to Taltala Bazaar, and there was a very poor woman dying I think of starvation more than TB … I gave her something which will help her to sleep. – I wonder how long she will last.” But two months later, shortly after her major triumph of locating a space for her headquarters, Kolodiejchuk’s files find her troubled. “What tortures of loneliness,” she wrote. “I wonder how long will my heart suffer this?”

This complaint could be understood as an initial response to solitude and hardship were it not for subsequent letters. The more success Teresa had – and half a year later so many young women had joined her society that she needed to move again – the worse she felt. In March 1953, she wrote PÉrier, “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself – for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.'”

PÉrier may have missed the note of desperation. “God guides you, dear Mother,” he answered avuncularly. “You are not so much in the dark as you think … You have exterior facts enough to see that God blesses your work … Feelings are not required and often may be misleading.” And yet feelings – or rather, their lack – became her life’s secret torment. How can you assume the lover’s ardor when he no longer grants you his voice, his touch, his very presence?

The problem was exacerbated by an inhibition to even describe it. Teresa reported on several occasions inviting a confessor to visit and then being unable to speak. Eventually, one thought to ask her to write the problem down, and she complied. “The more I want him – the less I am wanted,” she wrote PÉrier in 1955. A year later she sounded desolate: “Such deep longing for God – and … repulsed – empty – no faith – no love – no zeal. – [The saving of] Souls holds no attraction – Heaven means nothing – pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

At the suggestion of a confessor, she wrote the agonized plea that begins this section, in which she explored the theological worst-possible-case implications of her dilemma. That letter and another one from 1959 (“What do I labour for? If there be no God – there can be no soul – if there is no Soul then Jesus – You also are not true”) are the only two that sound any note of doubt of God’s existence. But she frequently bemoaned an inability to pray: “I utter words of Community prayers – and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give – But my prayer of union is not there any longer – I no longer pray.”

As the Missionaries of Charity flourished and gradually gained the attention of her church and the world at large, Teresa progressed from confessor to confessor the way some patients move through their psychoanalysts. Van Exem gave way to PÉrier, who gave way in 1959 to the Rev. (later Cardinal) Lawrence Picachy, who was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Neuner in 1961. By the 1980s the chain included figures such as Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, N.C.

For these confessors, she developed a kind of shorthand of pain, referring almost casually to “my darkness” and to Jesus as “the Absent One.” There was one respite. In October 1958, Pope Pius XII died, and requiem Masses were celebrated around the Catholic world. Teresa prayed to the deceased Pope for a “proof that God is pleased with the Society.” And “then and there,” she rejoiced, “disappeared the long darkness … that strange suffering of 10 years.”

Unfortunately, five weeks later she reported being “in the tunnel” once more. And although, as we shall see, she found a way to accept the absence, it never lifted again. Five years after her Nobel, a Jesuit priest in the Calcutta province noted that “Mother came … to speak about the excruciating night in her soul. It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years.” A 1995 letter discussed her “spiritual dryness.” She died in 1997.

Explanations

Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?
– to the Rev. Lawrence Picachy, August 1959

Why did Teresa’s communication with Jesus, so vivid and nourishing in the months before the founding of the Missionaries, evaporate so suddenly? Interestingly, secular and religious explanations travel for a while on parallel tracks. Both understand (although only one celebrates) that identification with Christ’s extended suffering on the Cross, undertaken to redeem humanity, is a key aspect of Catholic spirituality.

Teresa told her nuns that physical poverty ensured empathy in “giving themselves” to the suffering poor and established a stronger bond with Christ’s redemptive agony. She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus’ life that she was interested in sharing: “I want to … drink ONLY [her emphasis] from His chalice of pain.” And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected.

Kolodiejchuk finds divine purpose in the fact that Teresa’s spiritual spigot went dry just as she prevailed over her church’s perceived hesitations and saw a successful way to realize Jesus’ call for her. “She was a very strong personality,” he suggests. “And a strong personality needs stronger purification” as an antidote to pride. As proof that it worked, he cites her written comment after receiving an important prize in the Philippines in the 1960s: “This means nothing to me, because I don’t have Him.”

And yet “the question is, Who determined the abandonment she experienced?” says Dr. Richard Gottlieb, a teacher at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute who has written about the church and who was provided a copy of the book by TIME. “Could she have imposed it on herself?” Psychologists have long recognized that people of a certain personality type are conflicted about their high achievement and find ways to punish themselves.

Gottlieb notes that Teresa’s ambitions for her ministry were tremendous. Both he and Kolodiejchuk are fascinated by her statement, “I want to love Jesus as he has never been loved before.” Remarks the priest: “That’s a kind of daring thing to say.” Yet her letters are full of inner conflict about her accomplishments. Rather than simply giving all credit to God, Gottlieb observes, she agonizes incessantly that “any taking credit for her accomplishments – if only internally – is sinful” and hence, perhaps, requires a price to be paid.

A mild secular analog, he says, might be an executive who commits a horrific social gaffe at the instant of a crucial promotion. For Teresa, “an occasion for a modicum of joy initiated a significant quantity of misery,” and her subsequent successes led her to perpetuate it.

Gottlieb also suggests that starting her ministry “may have marked a turning point in her relationship with Jesus,” whose urgent claims she was finally in a position to fulfill. Being the active party, he speculates, might have scared her, and in the end, the only way to accomplish great things might have been in the permanent and less risky role of the spurned yet faithful lover.

The atheist position is simpler. In 1948, Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: “There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance,” he says. “They thought, ‘Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I’m not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.’ They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired.” That, he says, was Teresa.

Most religious readers will reject that explanation, along with any that makes her the author of her own misery – or even defines it as true misery. Martin, responding to the torch-song image of Teresa, counterproposes her as the heroically constant spouse. “Let’s say you’re married and you fall in love and you believe with all your heart that marriage is a sacrament.

And your wife, God forbid, gets a stroke and she’s comatose. And you will never experience her love again. It’s like loving and caring for a person for 50 years and once in a while you complain to your spiritual director, but you know on the deepest level that she loves you even though she’s silent and that what you’re doing makes sense. Mother Teresa knew that what she was doing made sense.”

Integration

I can’t express in words – the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me – for the first time in … years – I have come to love the darkness – for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a ‘spiritual side of your work’ as you wrote – Today really I felt a deep joy – that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony – but that He wants to go through it in me.
– to Neuner, Circa 1961

There are two responses to trauma: to hold onto it in all its vividness and remain its captive, or without necessarily “conquering” it, to gradually integrate it into the day-by-day. After more than a decade of open-wound agony, Teresa seems to have begun regaining her spiritual equilibrium with the help of a particularly perceptive adviser. The Rev. Joseph Neuner, whom she met in the late 1950s and confided in somewhat later, was already a well-known theologian, and when she turned to him with her “darkness,” he seems to have told her the three things she needed to hear: that there was no human remedy for it (that is, she should not feel responsible for affecting it); that feeling Jesus is not the only proof of his being there, and her very craving for God was a “sure sign” of his “hidden presence” in her life; and that the absence was in fact part of the “spiritual side” of her work for Jesus.

This counsel clearly granted Teresa a tremendous sense of release. For all that she had expected and even craved to share in Christ’s Passion, she had not anticipated that she might recapitulate the particular moment on the Cross when he asks, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The idea that rather than a nihilistic vacuum, his felt absence might be the ordeal she had prayed for, that her perseverance in its face might echo his faith unto death on the Cross, that it might indeed be a grace, enhancing the efficacy of her calling, made sense of her pain. Neuner would later write, “It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus’ passion.” And she thanked Neuner profusely: “I can’t express in words – the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me – for the first time in … years – I have come to love the darkness. ”

Not that it didn’t continue to torment her. Years later, describing the joy in Jesus experienced by some of her nuns, she observed dryly to Neuner, “I just have the joy of having nothing – not even the reality of the Presence of God [in the Eucharist].” She described her soul as like an “ice block.” Yet she recognized Neuner’s key distinction, writing, “I accept not in my feelings – but with my will, the Will of God – I accept His will.” Although she still occasionally worried that she might “turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness,” with the passage of years the absence morphed from a potential wrecking ball into a kind of ragged cornerstone. Says Gottlieb, the psychoanalyst:

“What is remarkable is that she integrated it in a way that enabled her to make it the organizing center of her personality, the beacon for her ongoing spiritual life.” Certainly, she understood it as essential enough to project it into her afterlife. “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,” she wrote in 1962.

Theologically, this is a bit odd since most orthodox Christianity defines heaven as God’s eternal presence and doesn’t really provide for regular no-shows at the heavenly feast. But it is, Kolodiejchuk suggests, her most moving statement, since the sacrifice involved is infinite. “When she wrote, ‘I am willing to suffer … for all eternity, if this [is] possible,'” he says, “I said, Wow.”

He contends that the letters reveal her as holier than anyone knew. However formidable her efforts on Christ’s behalf, it is even more astounding to realize that she achieved them when he was not available to her – a bit like a person who believes she can’t walk winning the Olympic 100 meters. Kolodiejchuk goes even further.

Catholic theologians recognize two types of “dark night”: the first is purgative, cleansing the contemplative for a “final union” with Christ; the second is “reparative,” and continues after such a union, so that he or she may participate in a state of purity even closer to that of Jesus and Mary, who suffered for human salvation despite being without sin. By the end, writes Kolodiejchuk, “by all indications this was the case with Mother Teresa.” That puts her in rarefied company.

A New Ministry

If this brings You glory – if souls are brought to you – with joy I accept all to the end of my life.
– to Jesus, undated

But for most people, Teresa’s ranking among Catholic saints may be less important than a more general implication of Come Be My Light: that if she could carry on for a half-century without God in her head or heart, then perhaps people not quite as saintly can cope with less extreme versions of the same problem. One powerful instance of this may have occurred very early on.

In 1968, British writer-turned-filmmaker Malcolm Muggeridge visited Teresa. Muggeridge had been an outspoken agnostic, but by the time he arrived with a film crew in Calcutta he was in full spiritual-search mode. Beyond impressing him with her work and her holiness, she wrote a letter to him in 1970 that addressed his doubts full-bore. “Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you,” she wrote. “He must be forcing Himself to do so – because he loves you so much – the personal love Christ has for you is infinite – The Small difficulty you have re His Church is finite – Overcome the finite with the infinite.” Muggeridge apparently did.

He became an outspoken Christian apologist and converted to Catholicism in 1982. His 1969 film, Something Beautiful for God, supported by a 1971 book of the same title, made Teresa an international sensation.

At the time, Muggeridge was something of a unique case. A child of privilege who became a minor celebrity, he was hardly Teresa’s target audience. Now, with the publication of Come Be My Light, we can all play Muggeridge. Kolodiejchuk thinks the book may act as an antidote to a cultural problem. ”

The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on,” he says. “And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t ‘feeling’ Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”

America’s Martin wants to talk precisely in religious terms. “Everything she’s experiencing,” he says, “is what average believers experience in their spiritual lives writ large. I have known scores of people who have felt abandoned by God and had doubts about God’s existence. And this book expresses that in such a stunning way but shows her full of complete trust at the same time.” He takes a breath.

“Who would have thought that the person who was considered the most faithful woman in the world struggled like that with her faith?” he asks. “And who would have thought that the one thought to be the most ardent of believers could be a saint to the skeptics?” Martin has long used Teresa as an example to parishioners of self-emptying love. Now, he says, he will use her extraordinary faith in the face of overwhelming silence to illustrate how doubt is a natural part of everyone’s life, be it an average believer’s or a world-famous saint’s.

Into the Light of Day

Please destroy any letters or anything I have written.
– to Picachy, April 1959

Consistent with her ongoing fight against pride, Teresa’s rationale for suppressing her personal correspondence was “I want the work to remain only His.” If the letters became public, she explained to Picachy, “people will think more of me – less of Jesus.”

The particularly holy are no less prone than the rest of us to misjudge the workings of history – or, if you will, of God’s providence. Teresa considered the perceived absence of God in her life as her most shameful secret but eventually learned that it could be seen as a gift abetting her calling. If her worries about publicizing it also turn out to be misplaced – if a book of hasty, troubled notes turns out to ease the spiritual road of thousands of fellow believers, there would be no shame in having been wrong – but happily, even wonderfully wrong – twice.


Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith …

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By DAVID VAN BIEMA

Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the “Saint of the Gutters,” went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her.

“It is not enough for us to say, ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'” she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had “[made] himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one.” Jesus’ hunger, she said, is what “you and I must find” and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world “that radiating joy is real” because Christ is everywhere – “Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive.”

Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. “Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, – Listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me – that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama.

Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction – that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.

And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works.

The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever – or, as the book’s compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist.”

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and – except for a five-week break in 1959 – never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain.

In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.”

Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God – tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'” Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa’s doubts: “I’ve never read a saint’s life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness.

No one knew she was that tormented.” Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light’s editor: “I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her.”

The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa’s correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.

The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the “dark night” of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Teresa’s may be the most extensive such case on record. (The “dark night” of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.)

Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John’s context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.

Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine’s Confessions and Thomas Merton‘s The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book “a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life,” and says, “It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone.”

Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa’s inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn’t there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.’s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book’s Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned.

Says Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position, a scathing polemic on Teresa, and more recently of the atheist manifesto God Is Not Great: “She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself.” Meanwhile, some familiar with the smiling mother’s extraordinary drive may diagnose her condition less as a gift of God than as a subconscious attempt at the most radical kind of humility: she punished herself with a crippling failure to counterbalance her great successes.

Come Be My Light is that rare thing, a posthumous autobiography that could cause a wholesale reconsideration of a major public figure – one way or another. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind great achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. That it does so not in any organized, intentional form but as a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight should leave readers only more convinced that it is authentic – and that they are, somewhat shockingly, touching the true inner life of a modern saint.

Prequel: Near Ecstatic Communion

[Jesus:] Wilt thou refuse to do this for me? … You have become my Spouse for my love – you have come to India for Me. The thirst you had for souls brought you so far – Are you afraid to take one more step for Your Spouse – for me – for souls? Is your generosity grown cold? Am I a second to you?
[Teresa:] Jesus, my own Jesus – I am only Thine – I am so stupid – I do not know what to say but do with me whatever You wish – as You wish – as long as you wish. [But] why can’t I be a perfect Loreto Nun – here – why can’t I be like everybody else.


[Jesus:] I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children … You are I know the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?


– in a prayer dialogue recounted to Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, January 1947

On Sept. 10, 1946, after 17 years as a teacher in Calcutta with the Loreto Sisters (an uncloistered, education-oriented community based in Ireland), Mother Mary Teresa, 36, took the 400-mile (645-km) train trip to Darjeeling. She had been working herself sick, and her superiors ordered her to relax during her annual retreat in the Himalayan foothills. On the ride out, she reported, Christ spoke to her. He called her to abandon teaching and work instead in “the slums” of the city, dealing directly with “the poorest of the poor” – the sick, the dying, beggars and street children.

“Come, Come, carry Me into the holes of the poor,” he told her. “Come be My light.” The goal was to be both material and evangelistic – as Kolodiejchuk puts it, “to help them live their lives with dignity [and so] encounter God’s infinite love, and having come to know Him, to love and serve Him in return.”

It was wildly audacious – an unfunded, single-handed crusade (Teresa stipulated that she and her nuns would share their beneficiaries’ poverty and started out alone) to provide individualized service to the poorest in a poor city made desperate by riots. The local Archbishop, Ferdinand PÉrier, was initially skeptical. But her letters to him, preserved, illustrate two linked characteristics – extreme tenacity and a profound personal bond to Christ. When PÉrier hesitated, Teresa, while calling herself a “little nothing,” bombarded him with notes suggesting that he refer the question to an escalating list of authorities – the local apostolic delegation, her Mother General, the Pope.

And when she felt all else had failed, she revealed the spiritual topper: a dramatic (melodramatic, really) dialogue with a “Voice” she eventually revealed to be Christ’s. It ended with Jesus’ emphatic reiteration of his call to her: “You are I know the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?”

Mother Teresa had visions, including one of herself conversing with Christ on the Cross. Her confessor, Father Celeste Van Exem, was convinced that her mystical experiences were genuine. “[Her] union with Our Lord has been continual and so deep and violent that rapture does not seem very far,” he commented. Teresa later wrote simply, “Jesus gave Himself to me.”

Then on Jan. 6, 1948, PÉrier, after consulting the Vatican, finally gave permission for Teresa to embark on her second calling. And Jesus took himself away again.

The Onset

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love – and now become as the most hated one – the one – You have thrown away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I can cling – no, No One. – Alone … Where is my Faith – even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness – My God – how painful is this unknown pain – I have no Faith – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God – please forgive me – When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
– addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated

In the first half of 1948, Teresa took a basic medical course before launching herself alone onto the streets of Calcutta. She wrote, “My soul at present is in perfect peace and joy.” Kolodiejchuk includes her moving description of her first day on the job: “The old man lying on the street – not wanted – all alone just sick and dying – I gave him carborsone and water to drink and the old Man – was so strangely grateful …

Then we went to Taltala Bazaar, and there was a very poor woman dying I think of starvation more than TB … I gave her something which will help her to sleep. – I wonder how long she will last.” But two months later, shortly after her major triumph of locating a space for her headquarters, Kolodiejchuk’s files find her troubled. “What tortures of loneliness,” she wrote. “I wonder how long will my heart suffer this?”

This complaint could be understood as an initial response to solitude and hardship were it not for subsequent letters. The more success Teresa had – and half a year later so many young women had joined her society that she needed to move again – the worse she felt. In March 1953, she wrote PÉrier, “Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself – for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.'”

PÉrier may have missed the note of desperation. “God guides you, dear Mother,” he answered avuncularly. “You are not so much in the dark as you think … You have exterior facts enough to see that God blesses your work … Feelings are not required and often may be misleading.” And yet feelings – or rather, their lack – became her life’s secret torment. How can you assume the lover’s ardor when he no longer grants you his voice, his touch, his very presence?

The problem was exacerbated by an inhibition to even describe it. Teresa reported on several occasions inviting a confessor to visit and then being unable to speak. Eventually, one thought to ask her to write the problem down, and she complied. “The more I want him – the less I am wanted,” she wrote PÉrier in 1955. A year later she sounded desolate: “Such deep longing for God – and … repulsed – empty – no faith – no love – no zeal. – [The saving of] Souls holds no attraction – Heaven means nothing – pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

At the suggestion of a confessor, she wrote the agonized plea that begins this section, in which she explored the theological worst-possible-case implications of her dilemma. That letter and another one from 1959 (“What do I labour for? If there be no God – there can be no soul – if there is no Soul then Jesus – You also are not true”) are the only two that sound any note of doubt of God’s existence. But she frequently bemoaned an inability to pray: “I utter words of Community prayers – and try my utmost to get out of every word the sweetness it has to give – But my prayer of union is not there any longer – I no longer pray.”

As the Missionaries of Charity flourished and gradually gained the attention of her church and the world at large, Teresa progressed from confessor to confessor the way some patients move through their psychoanalysts. Van Exem gave way to PÉrier, who gave way in 1959 to the Rev. (later Cardinal) Lawrence Picachy, who was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Neuner in 1961. By the 1980s the chain included figures such as Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, N.C.

For these confessors, she developed a kind of shorthand of pain, referring almost casually to “my darkness” and to Jesus as “the Absent One.” There was one respite. In October 1958, Pope Pius XII died, and requiem Masses were celebrated around the Catholic world. Teresa prayed to the deceased Pope for a “proof that God is pleased with the Society.” And “then and there,” she rejoiced, “disappeared the long darkness … that strange suffering of 10 years.”

Unfortunately, five weeks later she reported being “in the tunnel” once more. And although, as we shall see, she found a way to accept the absence, it never lifted again. Five years after her Nobel, a Jesuit priest in the Calcutta province noted that “Mother came … to speak about the excruciating night in her soul. It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years.” A 1995 letter discussed her “spiritual dryness.” She died in 1997.

Explanations

Tell me, Father, why is there so much pain and darkness in my soul?
– to the Rev. Lawrence Picachy, August 1959

Why did Teresa’s communication with Jesus, so vivid and nourishing in the months before the founding of the Missionaries, evaporate so suddenly? Interestingly, secular and religious explanations travel for a while on parallel tracks. Both understand (although only one celebrates) that identification with Christ’s extended suffering on the Cross, undertaken to redeem humanity, is a key aspect of Catholic spirituality.

Teresa told her nuns that physical poverty ensured empathy in “giving themselves” to the suffering poor and established a stronger bond with Christ’s redemptive agony. She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus’ life that she was interested in sharing: “I want to … drink ONLY [her emphasis] from His chalice of pain.” And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected.

Kolodiejchuk finds divine purpose in the fact that Teresa’s spiritual spigot went dry just as she prevailed over her church’s perceived hesitations and saw a successful way to realize Jesus’ call for her. “She was a very strong personality,” he suggests. “And a strong personality needs stronger purification” as an antidote to pride. As proof that it worked, he cites her written comment after receiving an important prize in the Philippines in the 1960s: “This means nothing to me, because I don’t have Him.”

And yet “the question is, Who determined the abandonment she experienced?” says Dr. Richard Gottlieb, a teacher at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute who has written about the church and who was provided a copy of the book by TIME. “Could she have imposed it on herself?” Psychologists have long recognized that people of a certain personality type are conflicted about their high achievement and find ways to punish themselves.

Gottlieb notes that Teresa’s ambitions for her ministry were tremendous. Both he and Kolodiejchuk are fascinated by her statement, “I want to love Jesus as he has never been loved before.” Remarks the priest: “That’s a kind of daring thing to say.” Yet her letters are full of inner conflict about her accomplishments. Rather than simply giving all credit to God, Gottlieb observes, she agonizes incessantly that “any taking credit for her accomplishments – if only internally – is sinful” and hence, perhaps, requires a price to be paid.

A mild secular analog, he says, might be an executive who commits a horrific social gaffe at the instant of a crucial promotion. For Teresa, “an occasion for a modicum of joy initiated a significant quantity of misery,” and her subsequent successes led her to perpetuate it.

Gottlieb also suggests that starting her ministry “may have marked a turning point in her relationship with Jesus,” whose urgent claims she was finally in a position to fulfill. Being the active party, he speculates, might have scared her, and in the end, the only way to accomplish great things might have been in the permanent and less risky role of the spurned yet faithful lover.

The atheist position is simpler. In 1948, Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: “There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance,” he says. “They thought, ‘Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I’m not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.’ They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired.” That, he says, was Teresa.

Most religious readers will reject that explanation, along with any that makes her the author of her own misery – or even defines it as true misery. Martin, responding to the torch-song image of Teresa, counterproposes her as the heroically constant spouse. “Let’s say you’re married and you fall in love and you believe with all your heart that marriage is a sacrament.

And your wife, God forbid, gets a stroke and she’s comatose. And you will never experience her love again. It’s like loving and caring for a person for 50 years and once in a while you complain to your spiritual director, but you know on the deepest level that she loves you even though she’s silent and that what you’re doing makes sense. Mother Teresa knew that what she was doing made sense.”

Integration

I can’t express in words – the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me – for the first time in … years – I have come to love the darkness – for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a ‘spiritual side of your work’ as you wrote – Today really I felt a deep joy – that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony – but that He wants to go through it in me.
– to Neuner, Circa 1961

There are two responses to trauma: to hold onto it in all its vividness and remain its captive, or without necessarily “conquering” it, to gradually integrate it into the day-by-day. After more than a decade of open-wound agony, Teresa seems to have begun regaining her spiritual equilibrium with the help of a particularly perceptive adviser. The Rev. Joseph Neuner, whom she met in the late 1950s and confided in somewhat later, was already a well-known theologian, and when she turned to him with her “darkness,” he seems to have told her the three things she needed to hear: that there was no human remedy for it (that is, she should not feel responsible for affecting it); that feeling Jesus is not the only proof of his being there, and her very craving for God was a “sure sign” of his “hidden presence” in her life; and that the absence was in fact part of the “spiritual side” of her work for Jesus.

This counsel clearly granted Teresa a tremendous sense of release. For all that she had expected and even craved to share in Christ’s Passion, she had not anticipated that she might recapitulate the particular moment on the Cross when he asks, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The idea that rather than a nihilistic vacuum, his felt absence might be the ordeal she had prayed for, that her perseverance in its face might echo his faith unto death on the Cross, that it might indeed be a grace, enhancing the efficacy of her calling, made sense of her pain. Neuner would later write, “It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus’ passion.” And she thanked Neuner profusely: “I can’t express in words – the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me – for the first time in … years – I have come to love the darkness. ”

Not that it didn’t continue to torment her. Years later, describing the joy in Jesus experienced by some of her nuns, she observed dryly to Neuner, “I just have the joy of having nothing – not even the reality of the Presence of God [in the Eucharist].” She described her soul as like an “ice block.” Yet she recognized Neuner’s key distinction, writing, “I accept not in my feelings – but with my will, the Will of God – I accept His will.” Although she still occasionally worried that she might “turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness,” with the passage of years the absence morphed from a potential wrecking ball into a kind of ragged cornerstone. Says Gottlieb, the psychoanalyst:

“What is remarkable is that she integrated it in a way that enabled her to make it the organizing center of her personality, the beacon for her ongoing spiritual life.” Certainly, she understood it as essential enough to project it into her afterlife. “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,” she wrote in 1962.

Theologically, this is a bit odd since most orthodox Christianity defines heaven as God’s eternal presence and doesn’t really provide for regular no-shows at the heavenly feast. But it is, Kolodiejchuk suggests, her most moving statement, since the sacrifice involved is infinite. “When she wrote, ‘I am willing to suffer … for all eternity, if this [is] possible,'” he says, “I said, Wow.”

He contends that the letters reveal her as holier than anyone knew. However formidable her efforts on Christ’s behalf, it is even more astounding to realize that she achieved them when he was not available to her – a bit like a person who believes she can’t walk winning the Olympic 100 meters. Kolodiejchuk goes even further.

Catholic theologians recognize two types of “dark night”: the first is purgative, cleansing the contemplative for a “final union” with Christ; the second is “reparative,” and continues after such a union, so that he or she may participate in a state of purity even closer to that of Jesus and Mary, who suffered for human salvation despite being without sin. By the end, writes Kolodiejchuk, “by all indications this was the case with Mother Teresa.” That puts her in rarefied company.

A New Ministry

If this brings You glory – if souls are brought to you – with joy I accept all to the end of my life.
– to Jesus, undated

But for most people, Teresa’s ranking among Catholic saints may be less important than a more general implication of Come Be My Light: that if she could carry on for a half-century without God in her head or heart, then perhaps people not quite as saintly can cope with less extreme versions of the same problem. One powerful instance of this may have occurred very early on.

In 1968, British writer-turned-filmmaker Malcolm Muggeridge visited Teresa. Muggeridge had been an outspoken agnostic, but by the time he arrived with a film crew in Calcutta he was in full spiritual-search mode. Beyond impressing him with her work and her holiness, she wrote a letter to him in 1970 that addressed his doubts full-bore. “Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you,” she wrote. “He must be forcing Himself to do so – because he loves you so much – the personal love Christ has for you is infinite – The Small difficulty you have re His Church is finite – Overcome the finite with the infinite.” Muggeridge apparently did.

He became an outspoken Christian apologist and converted to Catholicism in 1982. His 1969 film, Something Beautiful for God, supported by a 1971 book of the same title, made Teresa an international sensation.

At the time, Muggeridge was something of a unique case. A child of privilege who became a minor celebrity, he was hardly Teresa’s target audience. Now, with the publication of Come Be My Light, we can all play Muggeridge. Kolodiejchuk thinks the book may act as an antidote to a cultural problem. ”

The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on,” he says. “And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t ‘feeling’ Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”

America’s Martin wants to talk precisely in religious terms. “Everything she’s experiencing,” he says, “is what average believers experience in their spiritual lives writ large. I have known scores of people who have felt abandoned by God and had doubts about God’s existence. And this book expresses that in such a stunning way but shows her full of complete trust at the same time.” He takes a breath.

“Who would have thought that the person who was considered the most faithful woman in the world struggled like that with her faith?” he asks. “And who would have thought that the one thought to be the most ardent of believers could be a saint to the skeptics?” Martin has long used Teresa as an example to parishioners of self-emptying love. Now, he says, he will use her extraordinary faith in the face of overwhelming silence to illustrate how doubt is a natural part of everyone’s life, be it an average believer’s or a world-famous saint’s.

Into the Light of Day

Please destroy any letters or anything I have written.
– to Picachy, April 1959

Consistent with her ongoing fight against pride, Teresa’s rationale for suppressing her personal correspondence was “I want the work to remain only His.” If the letters became public, she explained to Picachy, “people will think more of me – less of Jesus.”

The particularly holy are no less prone than the rest of us to misjudge the workings of history – or, if you will, of God’s providence. Teresa considered the perceived absence of God in her life as her most shameful secret but eventually learned that it could be seen as a gift abetting her calling. If her worries about publicizing it also turn out to be misplaced – if a book of hasty, troubled notes turns out to ease the spiritual road of thousands of fellow believers, there would be no shame in having been wrong – but happily, even wonderfully wrong – twice.


Monday August 20

I guess I am supposed to write something coherent after posting all those articles below. A Canadian MP and his partner were wed in the Maritimes (Yay, Eh!) Mexico is getting blown’ away at this hour and the Queen of Mean is dead “ding dong the witch is dead…’

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I’ve been engrossed by my most recent read “The Power and the Glory” Inside the Dark Heart of John Paul II’s Vatican. I have to say that if David Yallop has written one true word in his text, if all of what he writes is true, surely, to me, makes me question the life of John Paul II.

We have read through Liberation Theology, Solidarity, England and Ireland and Scotland  and even Medjugorje, in what is now Bosnia. When I was a young person, in my home parish, we were visited by the priests of the parish church where the young people were receiving messages and visions of the Blessed Mother. I even had a rosary that was said to have been touched by the Blessed Mother herself. Now a relic of that extreme to have been touched by the Blessed Mother, to me, carried sanctified power of the Blessed Mother and of God.

Last night I was lying in bed reading when I came across this paragraph:

“Karol Wojtyla’s lifelong Marian obsession may have clouded his judgment on the events of Medjugorje. Since 1981 the Vatican has defended its inaction over the alleged apparitions by saying that it awaits pronouncement from the local bishop. The opinion of Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar that the apparitions were ‘hysterical hallucinations’ was confirmed in 1982 when he established a diocesan commission to investigate further.”

I’ve never heard this debunking of a Marian Apparition. If one is to take at face value,  everything that David Yallop has written, as fact and certain truth, I must say that he shakes the base of a lot of my base faith beliefs. Much of the read through the latest 227 pages of the book, do not paint John Paul II in very good light. I just wonder how much of this writing is truth and fact and how much is speculation and inference?

This text is hock full of data with places, names and insinuations that John Paul I was murdered because of his move to clean up the ‘church’ and its cover up of the Vatican Bank Fiasco and the involvement of the Italian Mafia and the hierarchy of the church at its highest level.

This text is, so far in my opinion, an indictment of all things sacred and profane during the life of John Paul II. David has gone to great length to inform his readers just how many issues faced the late pontiff, how the world saw him, and what really happened behind the scenes of the “Rock Star Pope.” We know of the double speak, and the issues that John Paul II championed all over the world. David tells us in the text some very damning statistics of the Catholic Church.

“Father Andrew Greeley found in several polls, the following information:

  • In 2002 Zogby poll indicated that Father Greeley might soon need to add the United States to those who are ‘no longer Catholic’
  • 54% in favor of married priests
  • 53% thought there should be women priests
  • 61% approved of artificial birth control
  • 83% though it was morally wrong to discriminate against homosexuals and on abortion nearly a third disagreed that is was always morally wrong.

In contradiction to those figures, in the same poll no fewer than 90% thought the Pope was doing a good job worldwide in his leadership of the church.

In Australia – between 1971 and 2006, Catholic weddings in a church had declined by over 50%, from 9,784 to 4,075. In the United States the number of priests more than doubled to 58,000 between 1930 and 1965. Since then the number has fallen to 45,000 and continues to slip away. By 2020, on present trends, there will be less than 31,000 and more than half of those priests will be over seventy. In 1965, one percent of US parishes were without a priest. By 2002, 15% – 3,000 parishes – lacked a priest. In that same period seminarians declined by ninety percent.

The same grim picture repeated itself in the figures for Catholic nuns and members of religious orders. Almost half of the Catholic high schools have closed in the past forty years. Weekly attendance at mass hovers between 31 to 35%. Annulment figures have soared from 338 to 501,00. Wherever one looks the story is the same yet the US Catholic Church still proclaimed that within the same period, 1965 to 2002, the number of Catholics within the country had risen by 20 million.

The MYTH of a hugely increased membership is perpetuated not only within the USA but globally. The Church’s definition of a Roman Catholic – a baptized person – flies in the face of the fact that hundreds of millions of notional Catholics subsequently reject the Church’s teachings on a huge range of issues and by doing so, notwithstanding what is written on the baptismal certificates, cease to be Roman Catholics. A non-practising Roman Catholic is an ex-Roman Catholic, or in Vatican-speak a lapsed Roman Catholic.”  (Statistic, text pages 205-207, David Yallop).

I don’t disagree with much of David’s writing about the late Pontiff. I know of many of the historical stories that he more than plentifully enlightened. In my study of Papal History, and namely of the late Pontiff, John Paul II, I reserve my scholarly right to look at this text with as David Tracy writes, hermeneutic suspicion.

“All interpreters of religion, whether believers or nonbelievers, can employ something like the theologians sixth sense that to interpret religion at all demands being willing to put at risk one’s present self understanding in order to converse with the claim to attention of the religious classic.

Hermeneutically, I am clearly not bound to either accept or reject and religious claims prior to the conversation itself. But if I would understand that claim, I am bound to struggle critically with the fact that its claim to truth is part of its meaning. To understand the religious classic at all, I cannot ultimately avoid its provocations to my present notions of what constitutes truth.” (D. Tracy, Plurality and Ambiguity, pg. 98)

More to come …


Cruise Ships coming to Montreal: Fall Schedule 2007

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Cruise Ships coming to Montreal: Fall Schedule 2007

On October 8th I have been granted access on board the Fred Olsen Cruise Liner – Black Watch by GLP Worldwide Expeditions, who are representing Fred Olsen Cruise Lines in Canada. There are travel shows beginning in Vancouver and Victoria next week, and move Eastwards across Canada, calling in Alberta and as well Ontario.

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On September 22 – and 23 the Arctic Sunrise will be ported at the Old Port in Montreal with open ship tours on both days from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

The Fall Foliage Cruise ship calendar is getting busy I will be posting other dates here as I get them.

August 2007

22 – Spirit of Nantucket
25 – Maasdam
26-27 – Spirit of Nantucket

September 2007

6-7 – Spirit of Nantucket
8 – Maasdam
8-10 – Grande Caribe
9-10  – Alexander von Humbolt
14-16 – Grande Caribe
15 – Christopher Columbus
19 – Veendam
22 – Maasdam
27 – Saga Ruby

October 2007

1-3 – Grand Mariner
2 – Crystal Symphony
6-9 – Grande Caribe
8-9 – Black Watch


Quiet time …

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“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:5-7

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The Pontiff in Winter, John Paul II. And the candle lit tonight to bring my prayers to heaven above us. There is much to be grateful for and much to pray for this night. May the Lord hear us and grant us our petitions. We ask these and all things through Christ our Lord who gives all that is good.

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O God, my heart is the altar
and my love for you is the flame:
I’ll keep the fire burning for you, Lord,
And I will rejoice in your name

Hess – Our Daily Bread Sunday August 12th