By now, pretty much everybody knows that Mother Theresa struggled with her faith for much of her life. But it seems like we can’t really agree on just what it means that she struggled.
I can’t say that I’ve seen anybody explicitly and openly use her as a pawn in their arguments. But her struggles with faith are this subtext to lots of stuff that’s been left implied.
The interesting thing to me is that there are at least two sides, perhaps more, that seem to think her struggles with God indicate something. A snap shot of this dynamic is captured in the fact that she herself did not seem to want her struggles made public; on the other hand huge numbers of people of faith find comfort in her struggles.
Though I have mixed feelings about making something like this public against the deceased wishes, I am deeply moved. It took me a while to put my finger in why.
And then I got it, at quite an unexpected day and time.
I was reading to my daughter a passage about Beethoven. (I’m not as much a culture vulture as that makes it sound like. The selection was sent home by the school.) It focused on how he coped with his deafness and made music despite the fact that he couldn’t hear. My beautiful daughter found this fascinating. Though on some level I’d known Beethoven had continued to compose while deaf, through her fascination I rediscovered what an amazing thing this is.
It wasn’t the music itself that motivated him. He never heard the pieces he composed late in his life. (Atleast in this life he never heard it… I have this idea that he will get to hear it in the next life. What a cool thing.) It was his memory of the music, it was his faith in music itself that had to keep him going.
And that’s how Mother Theresa fits into all this. Jesus was such a powerful figure in her world that even while spiritually deaf, she continuted to submit and follow. Paradoxically, this witnesses to God’s truth and reality so much more powerfully than if she’d been assured, in every moment, of God’s reality and greatness.