...always fascinated me as a kid. I think it was because I read about some of the martyrs, some of whom died at very young ages, so I got the impression that saints didn't see old bones. This was added to by the fact that I had an Irish grandmother who used to say "The good die young" about six times a day after John F. Kennedy was shot. And then maybe twelve times a day after his brother Robert joined him.
So I probably mixed up the idea that the good die young with the one that, if you live beyond the age of 25 (back then anyone over 25 was old), you couldn't really be a saint.
Luckily I got over that, to some extent. I still find myself wondering how Mother Teresa lived so long more than about her spiritual crisis. I understand dark nights of the soul in a person of faith because here's the thing - if you don't take your faith journey seriously, you can't have a dark night of the soul. It's time consuming and a person just would rather go off and do something fun.
I read about so many saints who die young - the virgin saints, the martyr saints - teenagers and children who never see adulthood - and then we have those saints who grow peacefully old - we think. But maybe it's not so peaceful. Maybe, like Mother Teresa, what on earth we see as a gift of years feels to them like a separation from God. Perhaps, simply, they want to go be with God.
Did that add to her dark night of the soul? Living all those years of seeing the suffering, treating the wounded, hearing their cries for help - did that make her doubt and think that the earthly years bestowed upon her were something other than an illusory curtain separating her from God's loving presence? Is it possible that it's this simple: that the very work a saint may be called to do is so difficult that facing years of it is daunting? It seems that her "correspondence, which spans most of Mother Teresa's life, shows that she felt alone and in a state of spiritual pain from around 1949, roughly the time when she started taking care of the poor and dying in Calcutta"
I don't know. I'm no saint and can't think like one. But having had my dark night of the soul, where I stood in the ocean and shouted to the sky that I no longer believed in God after being immersed in a life where on a daily basis I encountered battered women, hungry children and countless homeless people, I wonder if Mother Teresa's earthly struggles are that surprising.
After all, she immersed herself in the sufferings of others. It wasn't a 9 to 5 gig. You can't stop being Mother Teresa at 5:15. It was 24/7 for years.
The saints who grow to be old. I think they deserve their own category.
[visual description: An elderly Mother Teresa is shown, smiling. She is wearing a blue and white habit.]