An Abiding Anguish
Thank you for the insightful article describing Mother Teresa's crisis of faith [Sept. 3]. I appreciated the evocation of several tenets of Christianity as well as those of agnosticism and atheism. I believe Mother Teresa was as close to God as humanly possible, and I agree that a parallel exists between Christ's final moments on the Cross and Mother Teresa's final 50 years, during which she didn't feel the presence of God. Her life of faith, dedication and commitment despite incredible spiritual trials should inspire us all, regardless of our religious inclinations.
It has always appeared to me that deeply religious people use their faith to explain away the horrors of human experience. Believing that everything is part of God's master plan affords them the complacency of accepting the most terrible of tragedies. It is with the deepest respect that I read about the struggle of the real Mother Teresa, who, it now appears, had no such crutch. She soldiered on because she was a good and caring human helping her fellow man endure senseless suffering. If there is a God, Teresa is sitting at his side in heaven.
The "Dark Night of the Soul" experienced by Mother Teresa is well documented in Christianity. The more advanced the soul, the fewer the answers. This stands in contrast to the easy spiritual communion of a novice. It was Christ himself, God made man, who cried out on the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
Logan City, Queensland
As a pastor and servant of Jesus Christ, I had a strong response to the exposé. It is unbelievable that the Roman Catholic Church would not respect Teresa's wishes to keep her struggles confidential. In my 30 years of serving, I have had many similar crises of faith. They are a normal part of the ministry and reflect the human condition. Those of us who serve the Lord Jesus Christ are not superhuman but are ordinary people living ordinary lives serving an extraordinary Saviour.
Chaplain Vincent E. Joy
After reading your beautiful article, I was overcome with sadness. For one who was, in the eyes of the world, an epitome of faith, Mother Teresa struggled with the most profound feelings of doubt. It was almost as if God existed for others but not for her. She followed a creed whose efficacy was many times questioned by her inmost self. Maybe that is what this life is all about: to believe yet somehow not believe, to love wholeheartedly yet still hold back. Teresa gave the message but felt she did not receive it; she loved yet did not feel loved. She lived and died selflessly doing God's will. She is truly a symbol for all humanity.
I have a new respect for Mother Teresa because I now know she did not receive divine pixie dust scattered on her head and daily inspirations from God. The realization that she faced the same doubts that any person of reason faces makes her life that much more extraordinary. Not only is she one of our saints, but like her namesake, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she may also be one of our greatest saints ever.
Michael A.S. Guth,
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Admirers note Teresa's courage in persevering despite severe doubts. If she had been even more courageous, she would have admitted she was an atheist. Helping the poor without a belief in a heavenly reward is one of the greatest aspects of secular humanism.
Thank you for your story. much of it dealt with Mother Teresa's sense that she could not feel God's presence. Feelings are an enemy of faith. If you rely on feelings, you won't have faith and will not be able to do the things Teresa did. The Bible says "The just shall live by faith," not feelings. Jesus said he would never forsake those who are his. He did not say they would feel his presence. Feelings and emotions last only as long as everything else on this earth. God's word, faith, hope and love last forever.
As a non-catholic, I found that the article spiritually validated the notion that doubt is inherent in the human condition and serves as the fundamental catalyst that propels altruistic greatness. Mother Teresa's struggle with honest skepticism is a refreshing alternative to the hypocrisy that is so prevalent in organized religion today and has only increased my fondness and affection for her.
Gerd R. Naydock
When Mother Teresa began her missionary work, caste-driven India considered lepers, Untouchables and women to be less than human beings. Being a foreigner, living in poverty and belonging to a minority religious community in a mainly Hindu society, Mother Teresa suffered a great deal in her personal life as God prepared her to work among other suffering people. No wonder she felt spiritually obscure, lonely and abandoned by God. Yet in fact God supported her so much that a huge number of Indian Catholic girls soon followed in her footsteps, taking her mission to a wide section of humanity.
I can't believe Mother Teresa's letters were printed. Imagine having your prayers publicized for the world to judge whether you are worthy of Christ. The book of Teresa's letters may be considered an amazing look into her heart and mind, but I see it as nothing more than a travesty.
I volunteered with the missionaries of Charity for a month in the summer of 2001. Mother Teresa's letters reveal not a "darkness" but a vulnerability. I can only imagine the mental and spiritual fortitude that a lifelong commitment to oppressed people would demand. Each letter Teresa wrote was an attempt to sustain her spirit as she battled the effects of extreme poverty.
Great saints have great struggles: that is what makes them great. Mother Teresa and those like her do not run on adrenaline, they run on obedience to God. Our modern pagan society searches continually for personal meaning, which usually translates to emotional significance. The Way of the Cross is to renounce emotions for actions. We judge ourselves on our feelings. God judges us on our actions. The marvel is not that Teresa understood herself (whatever that may mean) but that she kept going when all the ordinary human blandishments and self-deceptions were removed.
Keeping Things in Perspective
Hurrah for those who recognize that there is an enormous difference between feeling sad and being depressed [Aug. 27]. After suffering with severe depression that forced me to be hospitalized and colored my world black for more years than I care to admit, I have had my depression under control for nearly two years. As I was on my way to a support group meeting last week, I realized I was feeling despondent about the way a friendship was ending. "Is my depression making a comeback?" I asked myself. No. I was simply grieving appropriately, and this too has already begun to pass.
A few weeks after my husband died last year, I gave in to the opinion that I should seek counseling. I sat in a psychiatrist's office crying while she tapped away on her laptop and asked such ridiculous questions as "Are you depressed?" and "Are you sad?" My responses were along the lines of "My husband just died. Aren't I supposed to feel this way?" She declared I was surprise! clinically depressed and shoved a few prescriptions at me. I took them for about two weeks until I realized I needed to feel the grief. I threw out the pills and dealt with my sadness without the numbing effects of medication.
Carol L. Belskie,
Prince Frederick, Maryland
I received a diagnosis of depression when I was 13. Without antidepressants, I would have taken my life long ago. Every person's sadness is different and each case needs to be dealt with individually. Just popping a pill will not cure depression. Only through proper therapy and appropriate medication can depression be managed.
Princess Diana's Legacy
Why do people still love Princess Diana [Sept. 3]? Because she was compassionate, warm and humane. Why are Prince Charles and Camilla unpopular? Because they seem unethical, cold and selfish. Diana left the world an infinitely rewarding message of generosity and kindness.
Kunitachi City, Japan
Alas, after the death of the princess of Wales, the people I knew were not "snuffling into their tissues." They were shrugging their shoulders over this dim, vastly undereducated clotheshorse, this media creation who had fallen harder for her own myth than even her besotted admirers. Ten years later, some people are still obsessed by the silly creature, largely, I suspect, because they're obsessed with princess fantasies. Let's hope that once this anniversary is past, they will get a grip, grow up and move on.
Leslie Brown Kessler,
Good, Clean Eating
Asking if there are real benefits to organic fruits and vegetables, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, "scientists have yet to document a definite, long-term negative effect of pesticides on our bodies" [Sept. 3]. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living things. It is because pesticides are harmful that there are limits on pesticide residues. These limits assume that everyone eats an average diet. If you eat more than the average amount of any one food, you exceed the safe limit.
Don Steinke, Vancouver,
Gupta argued that organic fruits and veggies may not be as beneficial as once thought because science hasn't proved long-term ill effects of pesticides on humans. On the other hand, organics may be very beneficial exactly for that reason: science hasn't proved the long-term effects of pesticide or chemical fertilizers on humans.
Bart Lund, glen ellen,