Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dark Night of the Soul

First of all, apologies for the severe lack of updates within the last few weeks. August is proving to be a really tiring month. This will be a short post-- if you've been hanging around the Catholic blogosphere these past days, you'll no doubt have heard of the whole Mother Teresa brouhaha-- how she reportedly encountered severe temptations against the Faith, how at times she felt as if there were nothing out there worth believing. Already atheists are using this article from TIME to support a thoroughly humanistic agenda.

Personally, I believe that, if you really want to know which person is a saint, the first thing you have to consider is that a saint is never really happy on earth. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the greatest saints were often the most miserable-- for a saint is not so much a part of the ubermesnch, or a rupture in the natural world-- they are simple flesh and blood and spirit, like you and me. The Orthodox have a very evocative phrase to describe icons, and I believe this explanation also suffices for real saints: an icon reveals its subject to what it has always been. Thus, an icon of the Pantokrator is not merely the end product of theological rumination, but a confession of faith in a supreme, omnipotent God at its most primal.

I believe it was St. John Vianney who once wrote that a soul without temptations is to be avoided-- for temptations are the stuff of life, an integral part of it that we can never fully avoid. Temptations don't go away-- they merely change forms. There is a story about a desert father, St. Anthony the Great, if I'm not mistaken, who, when asked once by a certain fellow at which point earthly temptations ended, replied, 'only when you are buried six feet under the ground'. There is a very false, very un-Christian notion that saints are supposed to be impeccable men and women-- but as I've found, the greatest saints were also some of the greatest sinners. St. Paul murdered; St. Augustine was a hedonist; St. Christopher vowed to serve the devil; St. Sara the Black was one of the most accomplished prostitutes of her time.

I thank God that He has given us in His wisdom, a saint like Mother Teresa, whose life is perhaps one of the most profound in the last five hundred years. In her humanity, she was reached the most sublime heights of beatitude, and I truly believe she should be canonized soon. Hers is the kind of Faith severely lacking in these days, and the example of her life is even rarer.

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