In 2007, the tenth anniversary year of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s death, it was revealed that she had endured what is called the “dark night of the soul.” Some people called her a fake and charged her with misleading people. Fr. Paul Murray’s little book I Loved Jesus in the Night shows how wrong those accusations are - that Mother Teresa endured what several other saints like St. John of the Cross and St. Therese underwent. She suffered this spiritual darkness for most of her life but kept her faith amidst this suffering. Murray discusses his several personal contacts with Mother Teresa and other aspects of the spirituality of the dark night of the soul.
Murray explores just what the “dark night of the soul” is and how it affects people in different ways. At times, Mother Teresa experienced periods of consolation during her long period of darkness. Her spiritual directors and confessors helped her to make sure she did not give into the temptation of doubt. This dark night was a major test of her faith after having enjoyed some personal time with God in the early days of her mission working with and for the poor in India. Quoting St. John of the Cross, Murray avers that this was a sign of God’s presence bestowed on special and holy people or saints. In the past, those who received this “gift” only had it for a short time, often because their earthly lives were short. In Mother Teresa’s case, it was for most of her life. Her faith must have been strong for her to have endured this.
Some compare the “dark night” to depression, but Murray clarifies their differences. Depressed people, however, could benefit from learning about the dark night and those who have lived it to encourage them in their own struggles. Mother Teresa always encouraged everyone to smile, even in the face of horrible situations like working with people living and dying in extreme poverty and illness.
How could one smile and be happy when spiritually one is enduring the dark night? Some accused Mother Teresa of being a fraud because she smiled and encouraged others to do the same and to be strong in their faith. She was strong in her faith even in the dark night; she had moments of doubt and wonder, but she did not give into them.
This small book should not be quickly read but instead pondered upon. I Loved Jesus in the Night is highly recommended to those interested in Mother Teresa and the dark night of the soul.
Fr. Paul Murray is a Dominican priest from Ireland who is a professor in Rome at the University of St. Thomas otherwise known as the Angelicum. He is the author of several books and gives retreats and lectures in Rome and elsewhere.