Also in today's NYT, (and reported in Time magazine as well this week) is a commentary about the new book of Mother Teresa's letters to confessors and confidants. It turns out she suffered from what spiritual authors term the "dark night of the soul" for decades. This has ignited some debate, apparently, about whether Teresa was really an atheist and simply could never bring herself to admit it. I have not read the book, just the excepts from the NYT and Time, but I have to agree with Fr. Martin that it doesn't seem to be a question of not believing in God, but that, as Fr. martin writes:
Even the most sophisticated believers sometimes believe that the saints enjoyed a stress-free spiritual life — suffering little personal doubt. For many saints this is accurate: St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century author of “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” said that he never went more than 15 minutes without being aware of God’s presence. Yet the opposite experience is so common it even has a name. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.
Perhaps the writings of Mother Teresa will be a 21st-century addition to the library of the other great Christian mystics, and all the more interesting because she was not a contemplative, but was active and deeply involved in the very poorest of the poor.