New Book Reveals Mother Teresa's Struggle with Faith

'She wasn't a plaster-of-Paris saint who never had a doubt about God,' says one commentator.

Mother Teresa's hidden faith struggle

, laid bare in a new book that shows she felt alone and separated from God, is forcing a re-examination of one of the world's best known religious figures.

The depth of her doubts could be viewed by nonbelievers and skeptics as more evidence of the emptiness of religious belief. But Roman Catholic scholars and supporters of the woman who toiled in Calcutta's slums and called herself "a pencil in God's hand" argue that her struggles make her more accessible and her work all the more remarkable.

"It shows that she wasn't a plaster-of-Paris saint who never had a doubt about God or the ultimate meaning of life," said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theology professor and author of "Lives of the Saints." "This can only enhance her reputation as a saintly person with people who aren't easily impressed with pious stories. Those who think otherwise have a lot of learning to do about the complexities of life and about the nature of faith."

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This revelation about Mother Teresa's dark years of the soul is not new. Her ordeal, laid out to a series of confessors and confidants, became public knowledge in 2003 during the investigation into her cause for sainthood, a process fast-tracked by Pope John Paul II.

But "Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the 'Saint of Calcutta,'" to be released Sept. 4 by Doubleday, collects her thoughts in one place for the first time, inviting a closer review of her life 10 years after her death.

The book was edited by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a priest who knew Mother Teresa for 20 years and is the postulator for her sainthood cause. It depicts Mother Teresa as a mystic who experienced visions of Jesus speaking to her early in her ministry, only to lose that connection and long for it like an unrequited love for most of her last four decades.

"I have no Faith - I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart - & make me suffer untold agony," she wrote in an undated letter.

In 1956, she wrote: "Such deep longing for God and ... repulsed empty no faith no love no zeal. ... Heaven means nothing pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything."

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Associated Press
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