Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mother Theresa

Last night I followed our dogs into a moonlit backyard, feeling like Mother Theresa.

Not the mother saint. God no. Not that side of her.

I mean Mother Theresa, saint of doubt, who for fifty years stepped out under her own Calcutta moon, strained her old eyes to see God in its light, but found the light too thin. Found only rock. Craters.

"If there be God," she prayed in those times, "please forgive me."

This morning Ms. V, my thin, frail, elderly friend, and the closest person to Saint Mother Theresa I have ever known, lies unconscious in the city ICU. Yesterday, a mentally-ill homeless woman -- one of ten thousand she has helped in her life -- tried to kill her. Left her unconscious, shattered bones in her face, bleeding in her brain.

We're not sure why. We're not sure what will come of this.

"If there be God," Theresa prayed from her Dark Night, "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" (Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light, 2007).

I am no Mother Theresa -- not even in my doubt. God, seeing my weakness, spoon feeds me the smallest rare doses of Mystery.

Not so for Theresa. For fifty years she felt no divine presence in her life: not in her work; not at the Table. That's quite an exile for one of God's most faithful. Even wayward Israel was only in the desert for forty.

"How painful is this unknown pain," she continued, "I have no faith."

Yes you do, Mother. Otherwise, it wouldn't hurt.


Dave said...

Wow. Hope your friend recovers.

Priscilla Gilman said...

That's so painful. I never felt much attraction to Mother Teresa until news of her great doubt came out. I haven't read her journals, though. This is a beautiful piece, and I pray your friend heals. And I pray for the woman who her hurt her.

Nathan First said...

Thanks, both (and all) for the thoughts and prayers -- as you say, Priscilla, for BOTH women involved. Ms. V is still in the ICU at this point, but I will leave word here if things change.

Nathan First said...

Update: After several days in ICU, Ms. V is doing remarkably well. She's in a "regular" hospital bed now, and up to her old ways: kissing cheeks and, I hear, talking passers-by into eating her lunches. Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers.