Sunday, September 16, 2007

It Truly is a Holy Day

I woke up this morning, took the dogs out to vacate whatever it is they have to vacate, watched them terrorize a garden-killing rabbit for a few minutes, got them back in their crates, filled their bowls with food, put on a pot of coffee, powered up the computer, and quick-checked my fantasy football team before finally dialing up; hoping more than anyone has ever hoped before that she would not have written a Sunday column.

It worked!!! Since I was "praying" to my Casio keyboard (and since it came through in such a completely outstanding manner), I think I have found a new way to pass my time on Sundays.

However, in the spirit of truly filling Spotty's dog slippers, I feel compelled to dive head first into something written by Ms. Kersten. Off to her blog!!! Let's go with an oldie-but-goodie; today's episode: Mother Teresa's Dark Night of the Soul.

First, our Kersten proof:
1- Mother Teresa may be the most highly admired person of the 20th century.
2- Mother Teresa embodied the saintly virtues that people admire but find it hard to achieve.
3- Mother Teresa also was depressed; this depression caused her to doubt the existence of God.
4- Since doubt is the other side of faith, Mother Teresa had a profound faith because her doubt gave her faith meaning and value.
5- Mother Teresa's great faith may have been the result of her doubts.
A few important notes.

First, Kersten's post isn't the first to take the same title and approach and run with it.

Second, Mother Teresa didn't just have a bout of the doubts; she flat didn't believe.
In one letter to Father Michael van der Peet, a spiritual adviser and close confidant, Mother Teresa wrote: "Jesus has a very special love for you.

"But as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see - listen and do not hear - the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak.

"I want you to pray for me - that I let Him have a free hand."

Cheerful in public, despite the rigours of working among the poor and dying, she was in inner turmoil, saying her life was one of almost constant "torture" and "my smile is a mask - a cloak that covers everything".

"I spoke as if my heart was in love with God - tender, personal love," she wrote to another adviser, wondering if she was involved in "verbal deception" of the millions who followed her every act as proof of God's existence.
Other letters suggest that she didn't believe Christ was present in the Eucharist and that she didn't believe in heaven.

Finally, Mother Teresa's letters show a woman with clear emotional conflict and probable clinical depression. Ms. Kersten's reaction--that doubt is the result of the "dark" feelings, and that doubt itself is a sign of great spiritual importance--is the same reaction displayed by Mother Teresa's confessors. While Ms. Kersten didn't go to the exorcist extremes of the Archbishop of Calcutta (yes, you read that right; Mother Teresa had an exorcism), her take on the situation lies somewhere between general cruelty and sadism. Mother Teresa's pain and suffering do not exist for anyone else's benefit and/or spiritual entertainment. A doubting mind is not an abnormal condition or the result of disease. Mother Teresa did not die for someone else's sin of loving the darkness of an unprovable faith. The only original sin here is the one where people pretended that her inability to make the loose ends meet is proof that they really do. (And that you should recognize this inability as either pleasurable faith or crippling guilt when it is your turn at the crossroads.) This poor woman was used by the Roman Catholic church to win souls and put meat in the seats and she couldn't make it work; she couldn't make herself believe. Somehow, people like Ms. Kersten view this sad story as a magical virtue that confirms what lies at the heart of their faith: the doctrine of, in this case, the Catholic church. Maybe an eighth sacrament should be added: Disbelief as confirmation of belief.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I took away from reading this post, and from Googling several other similar posts, is the following quote from Dinesh D'Souza, author of the bat guano classic The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and It's Responsibility for 9/11. I have altered the quote a bit (a'la Mad Libs) to show you why I think it is so interesting (scroll over the blank spaces to see the original text):
The greatness of Mother Teresa is that even when she was deprived of the spiritual satisfactions of feeling God's presence in her life, she did not waver, she soldiered on. She was not deterred in her mission. And what she didn't have by way of feeling, she compensated for by way of will. In doing so, she teaches us all something about love: it is not merely a sentiment, to be set aside when feelings come and go, but rather a decision of the will. That she did what she did in exchange for the love of God is astounding enough. That she did it all even when this love was invisible to her—if this does not constitute saintliness, I don't know what does.
Here's how I read it:
The greatness of George Bush is that even when he was deprived of the evidence for going to war in Iraq, he did not waver, he soldiered on. He was not deterred in his mission. And what he didn't have by way of evidence, he compensated for by way of will. In doing so, he teaches us all something about leadership: it is not merely a sentiment, to be set aside when feelings come and go, but rather a decision of the will. That he did what he did in exchange for the scorn of those he leads is astounding enough. That he did it all even when this evidence was invisible to him—if this does not constitute presidential greatness, I don't know what does.
I think this pretty much sums up why any remaining Republican support of the man is creepy beyond all belief. It always has been. My next question would be to ask whether or not this type of support has anything to do with the type of religious faith of his supporters. Are certain people "programmed" in such a way to be more willing to accept this type of behavior in their leaders?

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