I Saw Mother’s Joy Before Her Death
Father Benedict Groeschel shares his memories of Mother Teresa.
The excitement bordering on hoopla generated by the publication of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday, 2007) causes me to want to let people know that there was clearly another side.
I knew Mother Teresa for more than 30 years — half my life — and always found her to be a deeply prayerful, gentle and extremely compassionate person. She also had a wisdom that was not of this world, and it was obvious to me that she was inwardly directed in the work she did.
The darkness she experienced is part of the mystery of God’s dealing with human beings, but my opinion is that that darkness made her one of the strongest people I ever knew.
The general secretary of the United Nations referred to her as the most powerful woman in the world.
What makes a person powerful? The ability to struggle long and hard through difficulties.
There is another side. A few weeks before her death, Mother Teresa was in New York. The sisters very kindly invited me to offer Mass for her the day before she left for Calcutta. It was obvious that she was dying. She attended the Mass lying on a cot, unable to stand.
After Mass, I met a person I had never known.
She was bubbly, exuberant, joyous, and telling Father Andrew Apostoli and me of the wonderful growth of the Missionaries of Charity. She was not bragging, but triumphantly rejoicing in the Lord. It was most remarkable, and we talked to her for quite some time.
As we were leaving, I commented to Father Andrew that we would never see her again, that she was obviously beginning to go through the gates of eternity. This is not an unknown phenomenon in the lives of certain mystic saints. They begin to enter eternal life while they are still in this world.
I want many people to know of this triumphant exultation of Mother Teresa in the last days of her life. Why did God permit her to experience his absence while she was profoundly motivated by his presence? Why did he permit her to be in darkness while she gave so much light to others? These are questions that we should perhaps not ask.
How do we know how God deals with his most chosen souls?
But it is perfectly obvious to me that Mother Teresa was not only a saint but a prophetess. She was given to us like the prophetesses of the Old Testament to remind us of the absolute transcendence of God, whom we must follow obediently wherever He leads us.
Father Benedict J. Groeschel,
is a Franciscan Friar of Renewal.
- September 16-22, 2007