As a deer pants for flowing streams,
So pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1, ESV)
Mother Teresa recorded her longing to feel the presence of the Lord everywhere, not just in the letters published in Come Be My Light, an excellent book edited by Father Kolodiejchuk. It is emblazoned on the wall next to the crucifix in every one of the Missionaries of Charity chapels all over the world - I thirst. Mother believed Jesus' was thirsty for souls; She was thirsty for him.
Much of Mother Teresa's writing reads like an instruction manual on right ways to suffer redemptively. With Paul, she could have said, "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things that I may share his sufferings, becoming like him in death" (Philippians 3: 8,10).
It appears that some saints go through excruciating purgation, a kind of suffering that increasingly separates them from the desires of the world and makes them more able to accomplish the purposes for which Christ has called them.
Teresa of Avila, author of the classic work on prayer The Interior Castle, went through 18 years of dryness, saying prayers of the church with her mouth but not her heart. Thomas Aquinas at the end of his life had a single encounter with God that made him say that all he had written was as straw compared to the reality of God. This so grieved him that he never wrote another word and died four months later.
John of the Cross wrote, "They harbor in the midst of the dryness and emptiness of their faculties, a habitual care and solitude for God accompanied by grief or fear about not serving him. It is a sacrifice pleasing to Godthat of a spirit in desperate solicitude for his love it begins to kindle in the spirit divine love."
True to John of the Cross's description of the periods of emptiness, Mother often feared she was not serving Jesus well. According to Thirsting for God, she once asked Pope John Paul II to pray that she not spoil the work. He replied, "And you, Mother, pray I may not spoil the Church."
Only God's divine love could sustain the work the Missionaries of Charity do in the conditions in which they live and work. All of us, who really experienced working with her and the Missionaries, even for short periods of time, know in our hearts we could not have maintained it.
In one of Mother's letters, she writes,
I do not know how much deeper will this trial gohow much pain and suffering it will bring to me. This does not worry me any more. I leave this to him as I leave everything else. I want to become a saint according to the heart of Jesusmeek and humble. That is all that really matters to me now.
Mother understood that all Christians are called to be holy and that the path on which God takes us differs greatly. She believed that the Missionaries of Charity were called to be poor in order to better work with the poor, but that God called others to "live in castles." That is why she could minister equally to the poorest of the poor and to Princess Diana.
Kolodiejchuk says, "Instead of stifling her missionary impulse, the darkness seemed to invigorate it." Yet the revelation of her dark nights strikes terror in the hearts of those who want to continue to press into God for the high calling.
One of the promises of God we are not so quick to celebrate is the promise of suffering. A quick glance at a concordance under the words suffer, suffering, suffered informs us that it is part of Christian life. Contemplate these words of Peter in the context of Mother's life: Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19).