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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.