The fifth day of Advent 2018
St. Teresa – patron saint of caregivers
For millennia now, faithful souls, however they are serving – whether as caregivers or in other forms of loving self-sacrifice – have found themselves at times in a protracted period of darkness in which God seems far away, hope is difficult to access never mind faith and depression rather than joy is more likely to attend their ways. Advent is a time in which we can consciously choose to deepen this experience of darkness through reflections on the sufferings experienced by other saints and mystics on their paths of transformation, as they yearn for the light to break in again, for love to dawn once more in their hearts. And in this reflection can come our own healing.
In the darkness that precedes the dawn, we may feel lost, overwhelmed or without hope and yet many who have gone before us talk about the experience of darkness giving birth to awakening to the light. All but a few of us have felt abandoned by God. All but a few of us have had doubts about God’s existence. It is not unlikely that many caregivers today, to some degree or another, feel emotionally abandoned and intellectually doubtful about God’s love and support in the midst of overwhelming situations.
Mother Teresa is one of the patron saints to those of us who have experienced the darkness of mind and emotion. Though she did not feel Christ’s love and presence for extended periods of time, she rose every morning at 4:30 saying “Your happiness is all I want.” She exemplified the trust that grounds us when our expectations of relief, connection, union or fulfillment are not met.
Several of Mother Teresa’s letters were published recently. They reveal that for nearly fifty years she felt almost no presence of God. Except for a brief five-week period of spiritual refreshment in 1959, she lived in an enduring state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In her book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” she cries out:
Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love – and now become as the most hated one… unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I can cling – no, no One. Alone… where is my Faith – even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness – My God – how painful is this unknown pain – I have no Faith – I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd my heart – and make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God – please forgive me – When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
But this is also the same woman who wrote:
I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world… Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier… Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing… Good works are links that form a chain of love… Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand… Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.
(citations and some commentary are from: http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/spiritual-life-studies/-dark-night-of-the-soul)
Mother Teresa, with such tender love, cared for each broken, deformed, dirty and sick person as if they were Jesus himself. The consciousness of all this suffering connected deeply with her own formative suffering, whatever that might have been, so that her early ecstatic love experiences with Jesus were washed away by an implacable, desolate darkness. Yet she spread love and light to everyone she touched. Whether we are caregivers or missionaries, in our exhaustion, in the overwhelming burden of our work, we are still children after God’s own heart. We are instruments of mercy and love in this darkening world to those children of His we are given. So, let us turn together in trust to the One who created us, sustains us and whose Love flows through us in all we say and do despite our human imperfections. The One will bring us through our darkness, will sustain us when we feel overwhelmed, and be there to catch us when we fall. I know this. I have experienced this, as has our patron saint Mother Teresa.
As Julie Jordan sang in Carousel: “Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you will never walk alone.”
December 6, 2018
Each person’s journey is unique, not all caregivers are overwhelmed, but all need support in their journey with their loved one. If you are a caregiver or know someone who is a caregiver, there are many resources available. For more information, please contact us directly at www.stonebridgehaven.ca/contact/.