The revelation of Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith needs to be understood in light of her emphasis on the Passion in Roman Catholic spirituality.
She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus’ life that she was interested in sharing: “I want to … drink ONLY [her emphasis] from His chalice of pain.” And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected.
As everyone who saw The Passion of the Christ will know, the Passion is more heavily emphasised in Roman Catholic spirituality than elsewhere. That’s one reason why crucifixes appear in Catholic churches. Earlier this year I featured the end of Bossuet’s Meditations on the Gospel; the last paragraph is as follows:
After this prayer, let us go with Jesus Christ to the sacrifice, and let us advance with Him to the two mountains; that is, to the Mount of Olives, and to that of Calvary. Let us go, I say, to these two mountains, and let us pass from one to the other: from that of the Mount of Olives, which is the one of agony, to that of Calvary, which is that of death; from the Mount of Olives, which is that of combat, to that of Calvary, where, in dying, one triumphs with Jesus Christ; from the Mount of Olives, which is the mountain of resignation, to that of Calvary, which is the mountain of actual sacrifice; and, finally, from the one where we say: Not my will but Thine be done, to the one where we say: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke xxii. 42; xxiii. 46); that is, from the one where we prepare ourselves for all things, to the one where we die to everything with Jesus Christ, to Whom be rendered honor and glory, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is magnificent, and inspiring in the hands of an optimist like Bossuet. The Passion is very important for taking away our sins, but by itself it only ends in death. It is only validated by Jesus’ Resurrection, when he triumphs over death.
I think that Mother Teresa’s narrow focus on the Passion certainly steeled her for her work in Calcutta, but for her personally it was a disaster, and one that her Lord had already advanced beyond.
There are, of course, opposite tendencies. One is an equal neglect of the Passion and a boresightedness on the Resurrection, where Christian life is an endless victory here and hereafter. But we must remember the following:
It is true that we have our full share of the sufferings of the Christ, but through the Christ we have also our full share of consolation. If we meet with trouble, it is for the sake of your consolation and salvation; and, if we find consolation, it is for the sake of the consolation that you will experience when you are called to endure the very sufferings that we ourselves are enduring; And our hope for you remains unshaken. We know that, as you are sharing our sufferings, you will also share our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)
Then, of course, we have ninnies like Christopher Hitchens:
In 1948, Hitchens ventures, Teresa finally woke up, although she could not admit it. He likens her to die-hard Western communists late in the cold war: “There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance,” he says. “They thought, ‘Jesus, the Soviet Union is a failure, [but] I’m not supposed to think that. It means my life is meaningless.’ They carried on somehow, but the mainspring was gone. And I think once the mainspring is gone, it cannot be repaired.” That, he says, was Teresa.
Atheists like Hitchens are ill advised to disparage their scientific socialist predecessors. They, too, will end up in the same boat.