When Mother Teresa's Secret Fire arrived at my house, I couldn't wait to dive in. Even the cover enticed me - The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own.
What encounter, I wondered? What have I missed? What did the author, Father Joseph Langford, know that I didn't?
Well I won't give that away, you'll have to read it for yourself. Father Langford met Mother Teresa first on the cover of a book. In 1972, her picture spoke to him and touched his heart. Years later Mother Teresa would ask him to be in charge of a new community-Missionaries of Charity Fathers. That is when Fr. Langford set out to learn all that he could about Mother's grace. He longed to find out about her "inspiration" and when he finally approached her with his question in 1984, Mother Teresa looked up and said, "Yes, it is true. And one day you must tell the others..." Wow, this along with the copies of the hand written notes were inspiring indeed.
The book touches on what I remember hearing from the media as Mother's "dark night". They claimed that she even questioned God from time to time. Father Langford knew her much better and writes about that darkness along with the light it continues to bring forth.
Emphatically, Mother Teresa's dark night was not a "crisis of faith," nor did it represent a wavering on her part. Far from being a loss of faith, her letters reveal instead her hard-fought victory of faith, the triumph of faith's light that shines even in the darkness, for "the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5).
Something else in this chapter stuck with me as well.
But even if none of the gloom gathering on our horizon comes to pass, we will still need grace and courage to face the fact that our present tenor of life cannot continue indefinitely. In years to come, we all will know unforeseen suffering; we all will taste deprivation, in health if not in finance. Whatever our present circumstances, a share of personal tragedy will one day touch us all. The normal course of life will bring, along with blessings, disease to our children, accidents to loved ones, responsibility for bed-ridden relatives or a cancer-ridden spouse, loss of employment or loss of relationship, sudden reversals of fortune, or the untimely death of those we cherish. We will all need to find other sources of happiness, purpose, and fulfillment, beyond possessions and ease and protecting the status quo. In the end, the very process of our aging will itself frame the geography of our personal Calcutta.It almost needs to be put on my bathroom mirror to serve as a daily dose of wisdom, don't you think?
I loved reading the personal examples of how Mother Teresa affected all kinds of people- from Christians to Muslims to atheists. The power of this woman never ceases to amaze me. From the Hindu and Muslim businessmen on the plane asking Mother Teresa to bless their children's photos to the Mafia drug dealer hearing Mother's voice on the radio and having a major conversion- there are many beautiful stories just like these in this book.
I cried when Mother Teresa died but I don't cry anymore. I'm not afraid of the empty shoes that were left because with this book I am reminded that she has touched so many people and her legacy of hope and charity continues. After reading this book I am again making my own life and it's surroundings a "Calcutta". I am revisiting what it means to contemplate on the thirst of Christ and what we care called to do. Good work Father Langford, your book is a light to us all.
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Mother Teresa's Secret Fire.