I LOVED JESUS IN THE NIGHT: Teresa of Calcutta — A Secret Revealed
By Paul Murray
Paraclete Press, 2008
125 pages, $18.95
To order: paracletepress.com
The secular press has misrepresented the dryness of faith Blessed Teresa of Calcutta suffered as a lack of faith. Paul Murray, who knew Mother Teresa, was in a position to see the outer aspect of her spirituality, and therefore, could reflect on her aridity.
The “dark night of the soul” is a deep yet simple condition that very few people understand. Rather than discussing the challenging poetry of St. John of the Cross, Murray points to Mother Teresa as a perfect, even saintly, example of it.
Mother Teresa’s perseverance through this dryness shows her great faith and depth. Her radiant appearance was the true state of her soul, even if she did not feel radiant on the inside. During her darkest moments of despair, she often accused herself of lying to others about God and about hope and joy. Yet, this brutal honesty, her willingness to share it with her confessors, and her determination to keep loving Jesus, offer a great witness to true faith in Christ.
I Loved Jesus in the Night might come across as simple and unoriginal, even boring. It offers no new solutions, no new proclamation. Yet, it’s the kind of book that draws the reader again and again. Rather than the din of Pentecostal emotionalism, Christian rock ‘n’ roll, or social justice hysteria, it brings Catholics back to themselves and the truth that the Church has, hopefully, inculcated in them already.
The difference between a boring book on spirituality and a deep one isn’t always immediately clear. The dark night of the soul is an overly discussed, much-abused phrase that consequently has little meaning most of the time. Even the brief anecdotes about the author’s meetings with Mother Teresa are not interesting; they do not show Mother Teresa in an authoritative or star-like way. The author acknowledges this lack of star quality in a true understanding of dark night spirituality: “Her [Mother Teresa’s] words, I remember, were utterly simple. There was nothing original in what she said, nothing at all to astonish or impress.”
But Murray’s next sentence offers the core of Mother Teresa’s teaching — and of the Church’s witness: “But somehow between the words, or behind the words, I sensed an enormous depth — an ocean of awareness.”
The following is hardly a revolutionary statement for a book on Catholic spirituality: “What, finally, was revealed in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? What was the nature of the radiance which shone through her life and work? And I thought: Well, if there is one word which can answer this question, it is the word ‘love.’ But, then, there came to my mind at once another word, an unexpected word, the word ‘emptiness.’”
What is revolutionary about this book is that it draws deeply on the only true revolution humanity has ever had — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Brian Welter is based in
Burnaby, British Columbia.