Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire:
The Encounter that Changed Her Life and How It Can Transform Your Own
By Rev. Joseph Langford, M.C.
Our Sunday Visitor, 2008
320 pages, $19.95
To order: osv.com
Father Joseph Langford, co-founder with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta of the priestly community of the Missionaries of Charity, offers an intimate perspective of the inspiration for Mother Teresa’s worldwide apostolate.
Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire unwraps the secret of her ability to bring Christ’s light to a darkened world.
More than a biography, this book is a step-by-step explanation, in simple terms, of her unique and deeply personal means of relating to Our Lord. If someday Blessed Teresa is declared a doctor of the church for her spirituality, Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire will have played an important role in unlocking the secrets of the radiant beauty of her soul.
The first of three sections in the book, “Fire in the Night,” describes how Mother Teresa’s path to spiritual transformation began with a profound experience of Christ at the age of 38. On Sept. 10, 1946, she received “a call within a call.” This is the catalyst to the radical change in Mother Teresa’s spirituality and lifestyle. She had always been reluctant to describe this in detail, yet with his encouragement, Father Langford has her reveal in her own words what happened in that encounter.
In the second section, “Illumination,” Father Langford relies on decades spent at Mother Teresa’s side to explain the transformation of Sister Teresa the schoolteacher into Mother Teresa the worldwide missionary. When she served the poor, she touched them with the irresistible love of Christ, drawing them to him. On the wall of every Missionaries of Charity chapel is a life-size crucifix with the words “I thirst.” Satisfying the thirst of Jesus for souls became her consolation — even when she no longer enjoyed an emotional intimacy with him in prayer. By the suffering she endured in her inner darkness, she was able to share the darkness of the souls who did not know the peace of Christ, and this impelled her to reach out with God’s love even more. People “could feel the presence of God in Mother Teresa; they intuited her holiness, and were drawn to it.”
Father Langford explains Mother Teresa’s interior darkness: “But what of reports that suggested that Mother Teresa had undergone a crisis of faith, or worse, that her smile and her devotion to God and neighbor were little more than hypocrisy? Emphatically, Mother Teresa’s dark night was not a ‘crisis of faith,’ nor did it represent a wavering. Her letters reveal instead her hard-fought victory of faith, the triumph of faith’s light that shines even in the darkness, for ‘the darkness has not overcome it.’”
In the “Transformation” section, Father Langford goes into detail, explaining the precise nature of Jesus’ thirst for souls and how to respond to him in deep, intimate prayer. The reader is offered a powerful means to enter into this relationship, which made Mother Teresa a saint.
Some readers may be disappointed by the absence of stunning coffee table book-type photographs. But the purpose of Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire is to go deeper than the photo opportunities into the very soul of the 20th century’s most popular saint. Father Langford teaches Mother Teresa’s spirituality with vividly drawn examples from Scripture and the lives of the saints.
This will engender spiritual children of Mother Teresa rather than distant admirers. By faithfully fulfilling his lifelong quest to codify Mother Teresa’s spirituality, Father Langford has done the Church a great favor, leading souls in the footsteps of the little saint of the slums.
Leticia Velasquez writes
from Canterbury, Connecticut.