Letters, diaries recollect half century of nun's life

NEW DELHI, India -- Mother Teresa sometimes felt rejected by God, helpless and tempted to abandon her work caring for the poor and dying, according to her letters and diaries published by an Indian theological journal.

The documents -- describing a lifelong spiritual struggle that ranges from joy and yearning for God to doubts of his existence -- were collected by priests and nuns preparing a report for Pope John Paul II, who is considering her possible beatification.

Excerpts of writings from before she founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1946 to just before her death in 1997 appeared in the March 2001 issue of Vidyajyoti (Light of Knowledge), a journal published in New Delhi by the Jesuit order.

Describing tears of loneliness, and the pain of feeling abandoned, Mother Teresa never stopped writing of her longing for God and her desire to be used completely by him. She also never stopped working, expanding her order to more than 100 countries and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

"She confesses frequently that in her darkness she was unable to pray," yet she encouraged her nuns to pray through personal union with Jesus, said the Rev. Joseph Neuner, the senior theologian who wrote the article and was a friend of Mother Teresa.

"This cleaving to each other, Jesus and I, is prayer," Mother Teresa wrote in 1966. As she walked about the slums of Calcutta, she constantly told God how much she longed for him.

Experiencing darkness

"Experiences of darkness are found in many lives of mystics," Neuner commented.

"Some experience of darkness is part of every spiritual life," Neuner said. Even so, "it may be difficult to find a parallel to the lifelong night which enwrapped Teresa."

She was tempted to return to Europe, writing of "all the beautiful things and comforts, the people they mix with, in a word everything."

She resisted. "Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your holy will in my regard," she wrote in 1949.

Some of the most agonized writings come from 1959 and 1960, when the Rev. T. Picachy, future archbishop of Calcutta, was her spiritual confessor and had asked her to write out her thoughts.

"Jesus, please forgive the blasphemy -- I have been told to write everything --that darkness that surrounds me on all sides. I can't lift my soul to God: No light, no inspiration enters my soul," she wrote.