The Good News About Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith

Next week Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light will be published. The book consists primarily of Mother Teresa’s letters over a period of 66 years in which she frequently confesses doubts about her faith. Consider this passage in which she even questions the existence of God:

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 and hurt my very soul.—I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?

Many passages in the book are in sharp contrast to Mother Teresa’s public image. In this book, Mother Teresa described her ever-present smile as “a cloak that covers everything.”

No doubt that many will be shocked by the revelations in this new book. This is because there is a need many human beings have to see individuals who lead extraordinary lives as having special abilities or being especially blessed. The need to see them in this light arises because many individuals seek an excuse for not living up to their own potential.

From the viewpoint of the ego, it is only those “special” individuals who are responsible for living a life that has the highest reflection of who they are. It is only these “special” beings who are responsible for developing their unique gifts. Our ego counsels that we, lesser individuals, can settle for a life that is not lived according to our highest principles and values.

What Mother Teresa’s extraordinary life teaches is that any of us can choose to ignore the thoughts of the ego and see through the illusions that the ego provides. Although she was tortured by her doubts, she chose moment-by-moment to live her life according to her highest principles and values.

In doing so, she became an example for all of humanity. Thoughts of doubt may come and go, the ego’s false counsel might even linger, but there is a place inside each of us that can still choose inspired ideas.

When we read of Mother Teresa’s torment, no longer can we say that we will choose to live an inspired life when all the circumstances fall into place for us. Few are called to follow Mother Teresa’s path in form, but we are all chosen by Love that is not of our making, to follow her path in content.

In other words, wherever we find ourselves is our place to begin to choose inspired ideas. There is a story from the Hasidic Jewish religious tradition about Rabbi Zusya who said: “In the coming world, they will not ask me: `Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: `Why were you not Zusya?'”

Mother Teresa was not a great woman because she had special gifts. She was a great woman because she chose to moment-by-moment to honor her gifts in spite of her doubts.

The 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty

and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study

and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Mother Teresa may have woke up many mornings feeling “empty” but she “let the beauty we love be what we do” in an extraordinary way.



9 Responses to The Good News About Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith

  1. titus2woman says:

    I too am inspired by her humanity. It gives me great hope! For so long the ideal I saw her set seemed unattainable, and it was EXACTLY what I was striving for in my own way~that giving, giving, giving, having a hard time and still choosing to give, and then buckling under the weight and reaching down deep to give some more. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  2. Ariel says:

    Wonderful post, Barry. There seems to be but one directive issued by Love – to be who we are, who we really are underneath all the conditioning and fears and doubts. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Mother Teresa, in her true humanity, is a shining example of that. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. […] The Good News  About Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith, by Barry Brownstein on Giving Up ControlEight Principles of Fun, by Michael Bungay Stanier at Box of Crayons […]

  4. Sandi,

    Perhaps, when we give from the ocean of Love, we find our true Self and the strength we need.


    That “one directive” is one our ego does not want to hear because from the viewpoint of the ego it costs us everything.

    Not known, because not looked for
    But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
    Between two waves of the sea.
    Quick now, here, now, always—
    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)- T.S Eliot

  5. Bob Gast says:

    A nice post by Dr. Brownstein. It illustrates yet another interesting Generally Accepted Illusion. The illusion, simply stated is;

    People who do great things MUST be different from us. They MUST have some super human calling, vision or insight that is not avialble to the rest of us.

    This false belief gives most of us an easy excuse to continue to not pay attention to the inherent wisdom, vision and insights that is available to each.

    How interesting it is to learn that the Mother Theresa’s of the world experience the same fears, uncertainties and doubts as we all encounter! Sounds like we have one less excuse to not be like the great ones!!

    Bob G.

  6. Thanks Bob and very well put.

  7. Ariel says:

    Ah, yes, Eliot! And:

    “Where is the Life we have lost in living?
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

    It seems the only way back to the Source is by stripping down and tearing away all of the ego structures we have built up to keep out the light…

    There was a quote by Mother Teresa that hung on the refrigerator door in the religious order I was once a part of:

    “We must have a real living determination to reach holiness. ‘I will be a saint’ means I will despoil myself of all that is not God; I will strip my heart of all created things; I will live in poverty and detachment; I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies, and make myself a willing slave to the will of God.”
    Mother Teresa of Calcutta

    It seems she knew that process “costing everything” very, very well – far better than any of us might have imagined.

  8. Hello Barry,
    This is a wonderful post. Mother Teresa was you and me. She was not special and she was special, like you and me and everybody. I wrote the sutra: Freedom is not to be special anymore. What a relief. When you read what Ramesh Balsekar in his book: Confusion no more, writes about her (and some others; just as an example to explain his concepts), then you come to see that what flows through us all is the same. And the one “body” is supposed to do this; and the other is supposed to do that. No personal involvement. We are being breathed and we are being done. And I like that a lot :-). Blessings for you, Christine.

  9. Thank you Christine. “Freedom is not to be special anymore.” Indeed! But while it is a “relief” to our true Self, our ego wants no part of that good news 🙂

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