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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Featuring:
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Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
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Fr. Kolodiejchuk
Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you all for participating in today's discussion. I think it is wonderful that we have this opportunity to discuss the life of a person whom many of us knew when she was a "living saint." I would also like to thank Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk for being with us today.

Kevin Cushing
Modesto, CA USA
The K of C magazine article and another one I found in the Modesto Bee originally written in the New York Daily News both deal with the upcoming book on Mother Teresa. But the article from the N.Y. Daily News emphasizes more her sufferings, while the other one certainly mentions those but continues on in hope. Isn't that what the spiritual life is about- and what this world often doesn't understand- perseverance through suffering and death until that hope based on the Resurrection- the Paschal Mystery?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Certainly Mother Teresa underwent great suffering. But the key point is that she suffered out of love. She so wanted to be united to Jesus that she desired to share everything, even His greatest pain and desolation. Jesus granted her request. Mother Teresa did not feel the support of her faith and love, but she had them in abundance. Her example of fidelity, perseverance and hope gives us hope and the strength to accept and offer out of love our own crosses in the certainty of ultimate triumph through resurrection.

Thomas
Orlando, Florida
I know as Knights we have supported Mother and her sisters. What can a Knight learn from this book about what it means to be holy?
Carl A. Anderson:
Ultimately, our relationship with God is not based on emotion but on something much deeper. As she says on page 326 God is in love with us, and keeps giving himself to the world through you and through me. We remember that St. Paul says in Corinthians that love is patient, love bears all, love endures all, what we really mean by that is expressed in this book. Certainly the relationship we have with Christ is one that progresses through trials as well. It is not an easy process, but one that is well worth our perserverence.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
What do you think is Mother Teresa's greatest contribution to humanity? Is it her compassion? Is it her perseverance? Or is it something else?
Carl A. Anderson:
I don't think this is an either/or proposition. I think it is her compassion within the context of her hope and perserverence.

David Gilbert
Albany GA USA
I just finished reading the book and am wondering how it has impacted her sisters. It seems none of them were very aware of her struggles, and I wonder if this revelation has had any impact on the Missionaries of Charity.
Thanks.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
The sisters too have been surprised and even awed by the letters. They already had some idea of Mother Teresa's interior suffering but the book reveals it in all its pain and intensity. But since Mother Teresa's experience is an important way she lived out her vocation to be one with the poor so as to help them to salvation and sanctification, the sisters also understand more fully - and are likewise challenged to live better - their own vocation.

Jeremy J.
Atlanta
I'm really very interested in hearing how surprised you were when you first read these letetrs from Blessed Teresa? Some people are saying that all her saintliness was an act because she was really not close to God after all. How do I explain this to non-Catholics?
Carl A. Anderson:
If they are right, she certainly deserves an Academy Award. I think for the unbeliever it would be easier to believe in miracles than to believe that someone would spend a lifetime in the slums of Calcutta as an act. Going all the way back to Christ on the cross who asked why God had forsaken him, we have many examples of people who underwent suffering like Mother Teresa's including John of the Cross, Therese of Liseaux and Alphonsus Ligouri. If this is a great mystery, it is also a mystery why these great saints are united to him in this fashion.

Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
I was very surprised, like everyone else, Amazed, in fact. It’s not true to say she was not close to God. On contrary she was extremely close to God that He could share with her His deepest pain and suffering. But she didn’t perceive it herself, but that was the trial. Because she was so close, she even shared in his great trials of Calvary, where He felt abandoned by the Father. One way to approach non-Catholics is to say that Mother Teresa loved Jesus so much that she wanted to share with Him everything, including his suffering.

Louis C. de Figueiredo
São Paulo,SP,Brazil
Dear Father Kolodiejchuk - I appreciate the good work you are doing. I think Christians all over the world will have do some rethinking after the recent news report on Mother Teresa. Her reaction to suffering was natural. Is the mystical body confined to those who open their hearts to Christ?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Actually, I think Mother Teresa's reaction to her interior suffering, while showing real human maturity, was very much supernatural. Throughout her trial she showed a deep and constant faith and surrender to God. The loving acceptance in blind faith of what Jesus was doing in her soul enabled her to radiate a very authentic serenity and joy. She was united to Jesus and doing His will - this was the source of her smile and cheerfulness we all saw.

Eric W.
Charlotte, NC
You and others have made the point that "K of C" is understood by many as "Knights of Charity." What traits do you think the Knights share with the Missionaries of Charity, or what more could we learn from them?
Carl A. Anderson:
What we share most in common is Mother Teresa's insistance - that we share ourselves through works of charity with the poor. It's not enough to just share "some thing." The Missionaries of Charity have a commitment to a strong prayer life and to the Eucharist and that is certainly something we should all strive to have as well.

Levere C. Montgomery, Jr.
Covington, LA, USA
I cannot make the live discusssion. Will there be a transcript available online afterwards?
Carl A. Anderson:
For the benefit of those who could join us today, and those who are looking through the transcripts later . . . Transcripts are available immediately after our discussions conclude. You can also access any past discussion from the Book Club section of our web site. Past Transcripts

Dolly D
New Haven
it has been said,that mother theresa,,did not want her personal writings to be published,,is it not a grave,disrespect,to her, that this is happening...
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
No, as with other saints, from their perspective they didn’t want these things published because out of humility they thought they were not worthy. Just as with John Paul II’s writings, his secretary said he wanted them destroyed, but that he wouldn’t because they were of value to the Church. Her experience of darkness was part of her charism, it has value for her own congregation and for the Church.

Robert J. Fallon, PSD
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Perhaps, a retreat for knights, at the State or Council level, based in part on Mother Teresa's Retreat guidelines, might be considered for the future?
Carl A. Anderson:
Yes, this is a good idea. We will refer it to the Supreme Chaplain.

Bill Briere, P.S.D.
Laramie, Wyoming
Father, could you tell us a little about the biography of Mother Teresa that you are currently co-authoring with Sister Mary Ozana? Do you intend to publish it immediately upon completion of your working manuscript, or will you hold off until you can include a final chapter about her canonization?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
That was a mistake in Columbia magazine last year because what was actually referred to was this book, Come Be My Light.

anonymous
hartford, ct, usa
what is the status of the cause?
and
do you have any advice to the Knights and their families that can further the cause of Fr. McGivney?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
For M. Teresa we still need one miracle for canonization. We are waiting for that now. Nothing has been submitted. As for Fr. McGivney, if more people pray and ask for favors by his intercession, this will certainly work toward his beatification.

Maureen
Huntington, NY, USA
In the process of becoming a spiritual leader, Mother's knowledge of self was steadily taken away.This loss of self to become a leader seems to be an overarching theme. How do you think this speaks to our world leaders? Do they, too, have to lose themselves to God to become great "secular" leaders? How do people who do not know or believe in God achieve great leadership? Do they have to surrender or lose themselves to some greater ethical code that does not create any violence to others?
Carl A. Anderson:
The greatest leader in the Church has the title servant of the servants of God. Great leadership is really about service, service to others. At the end of the day, putting others first rather than yourself is the key to good leadership. Certainly for good leadership, a well formed and informed conscience is necessary.

Van VanBebber
Dallas, TX
With letters undated, did Mother's views rise and fall also in her last 10 years?

Most importantly, her letters reveal doubts of the existence of God, noting "no Faith" and that her true thoughts would be "blasphemy." Hitchens says this is realization that religion is a human fabrication, that she fell into denial or cognitive dissonance, denying her realization.

Did Mother's agony result from such alleged dissonance, struggling with any "substance" and "evidence" of things unseen?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
A crisis of faith is one thing, where you really doubt God's existence. A trial of faith is another thing, where you don't feel anything of your faith. The person wants to believe and does in fact believe, but does not have any feeling of this belief. This is the trial. So Hitchens completely misread the issue at hand.

anonymous
paterson, nj, usa
Did Mother Teresa do much to change the governmental structures in Calcutta to help the poor? Or for that matter, elsewhere in the world?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Directly, no. Because that was not her vocation, which was to give immediate and effective help to the poor in need at the moment. Others had their vocation in working to change the country.

Anthony
Salinas, California
Is the Missionaries of Charity religious order growing in the U.S. and Canada? How have the Sisters and your brother priests reacted to this book about Mother?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Well, in North America I'm not sure, since I do not have the statistics. In the last few years, the Sisters have opened a few houses in the US and one in Canada. Overall, the Sisters have grown by 1,000 members, going from 3,842 to 4,823. In houses from 594 when M. Teresa died to 757 now. They have expnaded from 120 to 134 countries. Ordained priests 10 years ago we had 13 and later this year 36 priests. We are in Tijuana, Mexico City and Guatemala, in the Americas. We have 8 houses all through the world. The reaction of the other Missionaries of Charity was surprise and awe. Mother's letters help us to understand even more how to live out our own vocations.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
Mother Teresa suffered a great deal in relation to her faith. Does this confirm for us that the essence of holy behaviour is a human rather than divine? In other words, do we use God for greatness or does God use us to bring greatness in the world.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Mother Teresa very often said that God uses nothingness to show His greatness. Mother Teresa was totally convinced that what she was doing was "God's work" and that she was just a pencil in His hands. What she wanted to do was all for "God's glory and the good of the people."

Thomas
Encino, CA
The book mentions and I have read elsewhere, that Mother Teresa had some sort of battle with the demonic at the end of her life. One report indicated she may have even undergone an exorcism. What does this say about her sanctity. How can a saint be tested like that? Were other saints affected like this?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
That's also a big misunderstanding. What happened was that the archbishop thought she may have been experiencing extrenal attacks from the devil, and therefore asked the priest present to pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. That was the extent of what was done. There was no exorcism as people think of that term.

molly
maryland
I was awed by the fact the Mother Teresa kept insisting that the work was God's work. SHe was so humble and took no credit herself. Do you think this was a consolation to her, to know of God's existence through the work with the poor?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
M. Teresa never stopped believing. In the very letter she writes 'I have no faith, no love,' she writes to Jesus that if you want me to go through this for all eternity I will. She knows that she had an unbroken union with Jesus. It is important for people to realize that her trials were on the level of feelings.

Jason
Jersey City
I really don't understand how Mother Teresa could do so much good work while working in this darkness. Do you think what has come out now will stop her becoming a saint?
Carl A. Anderson:
Not at all. While still Fr. Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in introduction to Christianity that doubt was inevitable for every believer and for every unbeliever: "Just as the believer is choked by the salt water of doubt constantly washed into his mouth by the ocean of uncertainty, so the nonbeliever is troubled by doubts about his unbelief, about the real totality of the world he has made up his mind to explain as a self-contained whole…In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief..." So many canonized saints - and Christ himself - have endured a similar experienced, that Ratzinger's point is all the more poignant. Take for example the case of St. Therese of Liseaux, of whom Ratzinger wrote: "This very saint, a person apparently cocooned in complete security, left behind her, from the last weeks of her passion, shattering admissions…She says, for example, 'I am assailed by the worst temptations of atheism'. Her mind is beset by every possible argument against the faith; the sense of believing seems to have vanished; she feels that she is now 'in sinner’s shoes...'"

Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
To the contrary, the letters show Mother Teresa to be among the Church's great saints and mystics. She had reached mystical union in 1946-47. She was so united to Jesus that He could share with her His most painful suffering and darkness experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross. As a young religious (following the example of St Therese) she had expressed the desire to love Jesus as He had never been loved before and then later vowed to never refuse Him anything. Jesus took her at her word. And indeed she did remain faithful to her vow and demonstrated an intense and utterly heroic faith and love even though she did not feel her faith and love. But they were there in abundance.

Robert J. Fallon, PSD
Brooklyn, New York, USA
A inspiring story of complete fidelity and a challenging test of faith for all. Many great saints and even Jesus, were tempted and taunted by Satan. Was there any eveidence of similar attempts by Satan to win MT's soul and destroy her faith during her "darkness" or was this God's special way of testing her heroic virtue and fidelity, through the weight of her personal and most intimate Cross.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
There were occasions in which Mother Teresa experienced something like attacks from the devil, whether in her work, or some sort of obstacle, she would see this as the devil’s work. But Mother Teresa experienced the darkness after her union on 1947. On one hand it was a trial, but more than just God’s test, I think it was Mother Teresa’s way of being united with Jesus, and united with the many people who felt being as she would say ‘unloved, unwanted, uncared for.’ With Jesus, she was carrying it for their sake too.

Van VanBebber
Dallas, TX
To follow up on your response, forgive me Father, but is a "crisis" versus a "trial" of faith a distinction without a meaningful difference, ie, splitting hairs with nice labels? I wonder if we're not glossing over too easily Mother's true depth of agony to examine that hers may have been both: a true question of what faith itself is, and what constitutes its "substance" and "evidence," per Hebrews 11. Thanks again!
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
I think there is a real difference. A crisis implies to me, at least, that there is a real doubt. And I don't think M. Teresa for one minute had a real doubt in her will, let's say, about God's existence. There was the pain of loss, because she had experienced that union earlier. But even more painful, she said, was the pain of longing. As I answered previously, she spoke of that unbroken union in her will, even though not in her emotions. Existentially, for the person experiencing this, there is a difference.

LuAnne
Toronto, ON
One of Mother's requests was that the Missionaries of Charity be allowed to work in China. Has that happened? With the Vatican's outreach to China recently, and vice versa, is it more likely to happen if it hasn't?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
The Sisters got into China through the back door, so to speak, by having a house in Hong Kong, but as far as being in China proper, they will probably have to wait until there are diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican.

Maureen
Huntington, NY USA
Mother Theresa spoke of her growing immersion into darkness...darkness being loss of communication with God. Interesting how her death was literally immersed in darkness (lights went out). She was able to be a light for others (a light to God) because she was left with nothing of herself...she could then have greater compassion for those who had nothing (material or spiritual). Is this the basic ideology behind vows of poverty...behind most religious orders?
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Ordinarily the vow of poverty refers to material poverty. But going deeper into the vow does imply emptying oneself for the sake of others. One of her letters, she writes "Jesus simply took everything." She had already a sense, in 1947, of this total gift of herself to God. The way she was united to God was in her identification with the poorest of the poor.

molly
maryland
Could you speak more about this being a trial of her feelings and how we can use this in our day to day lives.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
Part of it is a trial on the level of feelings. Also in the book there is a place where M. Teresa says 'Don't give into your feelings. God is permitting this.' (p. 337) We don't judge our faith or our love for God by our feelings. Even in marriage, you don't judge the way you love your spouse by the way you happen to be feeling this day or that day.

Grand Knight Robert Camilleri
Las Vegas, Nevada
What are the lessons that the life of Mother Theresa can teach the members of the Knights of Columbus and their families?
Carl A. Anderson:
Mother Teresa lived a life committed to charity, which is, of course, the first principle of the Knights of Columbus. She also lived a life of prayer, which is a key element for us as Knights. Each of us, and our families, can learn from the private and public commitment to God, exhibited by Mother Teresa, and each of us should be inspired by just how much God enabled this one person to do.

Tony
College Park, Md.
It seems that, despite her long period of darkness or dryness, Mother Teresa had unwavering confidence in God's presence, if not a real sense of union with him. Can you comment?
Carl A. Anderson:
Certainly this is the case. God tests those whom he loves, as Pope Benedict pointed out in his book "Jesus of Nazareth." “In order to mature, in order to make real progress on the path leading from a superficial piety into profound oneness with God’s will, man needs to be tried. Just as the juice of the grape has to ferment in order to become a fine wine, so too man needs purifications and transformations; they are dangerous for him, because they present an opportunity for him to fall, and yet they are indispensable as paths on which he comes to himself and to God. Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and painful transformations of ourselves—and that is how it is a journey to maturity.” Furthermore, in "Introduction to Christianity," he noted what it means to really have faith in the Christian sense of the word: "Christian belief…means opting for the view that what cannot be seen is more real than what can be seen. It is an avowal of the primacy of the invisible as the truly real, which upholds us and hence enables us to face the visible with calm composure."

Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
As I have said, she spoke of an 'unbroken union' with God, despite her feeling of darkness. She said, 'My mind and heart are habitually with God.' In another letter, she speaks of that unbroken union, 'for my mind is fixed on Him and in Him alone, in my will.'

Margaret Fitzgerald
New York, NY
Please forgive my comment, but I think Mother Teresa's writings should not have been made public.
She asked they be destroyed. Why is this not respected? Same with JP II. However, if you save it to postulate her cause, O.K., but not for public
misuse. Our inner life with Christ is most beautiful and private. Our public life to profess Christ yes, but it is HIS LIFE we profess, not ours. I'm 80 and shredding as much of my life as I can. Pray for me.
Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
I understand your sentiments. But like Sr. Nirmala explained, for Mother she would not have a state funeral, she would be horrified. But if there was an occasion to speak of God and think of God, she would agree that this should be done. Now in her perspective from heaven, I would think she has that perspective about the book. If it is helping to bring people to God and learn more about God, then it is doing the good that Mother would want.

Mary
Tucumcari, NM
Is this spiritual darkness that Mother Teresa experienced also a part of the way that God reveals himself to us? What is it's purpose?
Carl A. Anderson:
Excellent question. It is true that this darkness is a way that God reveals himself to us. For instance, Pope Benedict has this to say in "Introduction to Christianity:" "…The article about the Lord’s descent into hell reminds us that not only God’s speech but also his silence is part of the Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes to us; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended, and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity there is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech, too, which proceeds in silence."

Fr. Kolodiejchuk:
This kind of darkness is necessary for everyone who wants to reach union with Jesus, because we need to be purified. Mother had that darkness before she reached union in 1946-47. The darkness after that was in the order of a few other saints, in which the saint live that union through the experience of darkness, and they are able to endure that darkness because of the true love and faith. Examples would be Paul of the Cross and the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux. Through this darkness, it was Mother Teresa's way to identify not only with the materially poor, but also the spiritually poor. And through that darkness, she worked for their salvation and sanctity.

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