Mother Teresa's "Dark Nights" Can Teach Us a Lot, Says Preacher

Father Cantalamessa’s 2nd Advent Homily for Pope and Roman Curia

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 ( From the dark night of the mystics such as Mother Teresa, we can learn “how to behave in the time of dryness,” a preacher said at a mediation in the presence of the Pope.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal Household preacher, delivered that message Friday when he gave his second meditation for Advent 2003, on Christian holiness in the light of the experience of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

He delivered the homily in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, in the presence of John Paul II and officials of the Roman Curia.

After Mother Teresa said her “yes” to the divine inspiration, which called her to leave everything to serve the poorest of the poor, “an oppressive darkness came upon her,” Father Cantalamessa explained. She was entering the experience of the “dark night of the spirit,” he said.

In letters to her spiritual director, Mother Teresa explained the “profound contradiction” her soul was suffering, and the “feeling of not being loved by God,” something which accompanied her until her death in 1997.

“The most perfumed flower of Mother Teresa’s night is her silence about it,” the Papal Household preacher said. “Even the people who were closest to her did not suspect anything, until the end, of this interior torment.”

According to Father Cantalamessa, “This strange phenomenon of a night of the spirit that lasts practically the whole of life” has a point of novelty that goes beyond purification.

“It is the means of protection invented by God for today’s saints who live and work constantly under the spotlight of the media,” he said.

In fact, this suffering — “the silence of God” — impeded Mother Teresa from being affected by the fame she enjoyed among everyone, the Capuchin said.

“But there is an even more profound reason that explains why these nights are prolonged for a whole lifetime: the imitation of Christ, participation in the dark night of the spirit that Jesus had in Gethsemane and in which he died on Calvary,” Father Cantalamessa continued.

Yet, it “would be a serious error to think that the life of these persons was all gloom and suffering,” the Capuchin stressed. He quoted John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” in which is expressed the “paradoxical blending of bliss and pain” that these persons experience.

Through such an experience “the mystics have arrived within a step of the world of those who live ‘without God,'” to the extent that they become “the ideal evangelizers in the postmodern world, where one lives as if God did not exist.”

Moreover, we believers “learn from the dark night of the mystics and, in particular, of Mother Teresa: how to behave in the time of dryness, when prayer becomes a struggle,” Father Cantalamessa said. He pointed to the Gospel according to Luke, which tells how Jesus in his agony in the garden prayed fervently.

The Capuchin’s third and last meditation for this Advent will take place next Friday.

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