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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinOctober 5, 2007 Issue 

Doubt is part of our faith journey

Through her actions, Mother Teresa showed her deep faith and love

October 7, 2007 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How do you guard the rich deposit of faith?

2. What is the relationship between faith and charity?

3. How has God increased your faith over the years?

In the Sept. 10, 2007 issue of Newsweek magazine (pp. 40-42), there appeared an article written by Christopher Hitchens entitled "The Dogmatic Doubter." This brief, highly critical article on Mother Teresa of Calcutta was in response to letters written by Mother Teresa in regard to her struggles with faith. She experienced the dark night of the soul, an absence of God that caused her great pain. The atheist Christopher Hitchens ends his essay with a mean-spirited and erroneous comment: "I say it as calmly as I can - the Church should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe."

Part of our journey of faith is the experience of doubt. Indeed, in the Gospel today, the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith. Apparently, they were struggling as we all do, including Mother Teresa, with questions about God's providence and love. In response, Jesus uses the image of seed and declares that even a "small" faith is sufficient for God to achieve divine purposes.

Mother Teresa admits to her struggles to experience her belief in God. But all we have to do is turn to her life and witness her faith in action. The work that she did in helping the poorest of the poor should be sufficient for any reasonable person to come to the conclusion that Mother Teresa was a woman of deep faith and love. Despite the inner darkness and the lack of tangible assurance of God's abiding presence, she "did" her faith. Unfortunately, people like Christopher Hitchens lack the compassion to be able to appreciate the dedication and holiness of "this troubled and miserable lady."

St. Paul was a man of deep faith. No doubt, he had his doubts at times, that is, if he was truly human. Seldom do we find any doubts expressed in his pastoral letters. In fact, we find just the opposite. Today he tells us: "Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us." Faith is a rich deposit and must be nurtured by prayer, penance, pastoral work, and study. Mother Teresa did those spiritual activities, and the presence of her community throughout the world verifies that she did guard and nourish that rich deposit of faith.

The prophet Habakkuk cries out to the Lord for help. That cry might be interpreted, a la Christopher Hitchens, as a lack of faith when the prophet proclaims: "Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?" In response the Lord tells the prophet, as He told other prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah, to write down the vision, a vision of fulfillment in times to come.

Mother Teresa wrote down her vision not so much in words as in a life of discipleship. She followed Jesus all the way to and through the cross. She knew the night of Gethsemane and the anguish of crucifixion. She is probably smiling on poor "troubled and miserable" Christopher Hitchens who, in his dogmatic atheism, cannot stand to see the color of holiness shine through the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.)

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