RICHLAND -- If there were ever a time in history when the world needed a patron saint of atheists, it surely must be now.
And we may just have a candidate, one who is on her way to canonized sainthood: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Mother Teresa experienced years of darkness in her life of faith, as revealed in her letters published in the book Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. In one of those letters, she muses, "If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from heaven ... to light the light of those in darkness on Earth."
This holy woman had no consolation in prayer and no experience of the presence of God during the latter half of her long, faithful life. Yet she "walked by faith, not by sight," bearing much fruit for her hidden and beloved Lord.
Mother Teresa came to accept her suffering as a participation in the passion of Christ. In 1957, after 11 years of spiritual desolation, she wrote, "I have come to love the darkness -- for I believe now that it is a part a very, very small part, of Jesus' darkness and pain on earth."
This experience of "holy darkness" is considered by the saints to be a purification of the soul in preparation for the ultimate destiny of divine union with God. It takes enormous faith to persevere in prayer without the consolation that God often gives to his faithful ones.
Mother Teresa's acceptance of this trial and her willingness to offer it to win souls for Christ was her answer to a call she heard when, in 1946, Jesus seemed to speak from the cross to her heart, saying "I thirst."
This call marked the beginning of Mother's order, the Missionaries of Charity, whose goal was "to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the Cross for love and souls." She reached out to care for the Body of Christ in the poor and the dying -- and she sought out the lost souls in the darkness of unbelief, to let them know the depth of God's love for them.
Near the end of her life, Mother Teresa wrote these words, so sorely needed in our world today, when so many live in the darkness of unbelief: "Jesus wants me to tell you again ... how much is the love He has for each one of you -- beyond all that you can imagine ... not only He loves you, even more -- He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy"
May the prayers of Blessed Teresa, united with her divine Savior in eternity, continue to bring many souls to the source of living water, our Lord Jesus Christ, who promises, "whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
-- Nancy Murray is a graduate of St. Joseph's College in Maine and has Catechist certification from the Diocese of Yakima. She attends Christ the King parish in Richland.
* Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336, or firstname.lastname@example.org.