On Acedia and Mother Theresa
I’m reading Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison (a book that’s not at all shallow as the title might suggest) and there’s a chapter about a word that is not used much anymore: acedia.
Acedia means loss of interest in the spiritual life.
While doing research yesterday for a writing project for a client, I came across this article from 2007.
As you will recall, letters that Mother Theresa wrote to her friends, superiors and confessors were made public after her death.
As I read through this article I couldn’t help but notice the acedia that Mother Theresa describes in her letters:
Where is my faith?” she wrote. “Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness… If there be God — please forgive me.”
Eight years later, she was still looking to reclaim her lost faith.
“Such deep longing for God… Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal,” she said.
As her fame increased, her faith refused to return. Her smile, she said, was a mask.
“What do I labor for?” she asked in one letter. “If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”
I take some comfort in knowing that the greatest humanitarian of our time was able to accomplish much even while in the throes of acedia.
It’s also worth noting that she was able to be transparent about it to certain select people and, just as importantly, to herself.
Finally, I can’t help but wonder… would she have accomplished as much if she hadn’t struggled with acedia? If her letters had instead been filled with nothing but enthusiasm and descriptions of her accomplishments, would she still be a candidate for canonization?
Filed under: Books
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