By Paul Murray, Paraclete Press, 125 pages, ISBN 978-1-55725-579-2.
While most books on Catholic spirituality can be passed over because they more or less say the same thing, every now and then a deceptively simple book like this one comes along. At first glance it too seems like the others on spirituality.
However, this book reads like a fine wine. Perhaps readers need to take it in slowly and simply, a few paragraphs at a time. Catholic spirituality is not based on quantity but depth. I Loved Jesus in the Night offers readers a lot of depth.
The author discusses the extremely difficult concept of St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul, and how Mother Teresa lived this. The Dark Night is a complicated spirituality that many people, even some Church leaders and teachers, understand badly.
Father Paul Murray reminds us that we are not to understand this concept intellectually. He discusses his times with Mother Teresa, who suffered from a deep spiritual dryness for decades. The secular media has interpreted this as due to faithlessness.
He shows how her determination to love Jesus and to accept his love, even when she didn't sense his love for long years, is in fact the very stuff of faith. Her faith was actually stronger than we originally thought, and even more so because of her nagging doubts about somehow misrepresenting her faith to people.
This humility was the foundation of her spirituality. One thing that strikes the author is how she almost constantly asked people to pray for her, as she felt she needed their spiritual support. She had been inspired by the humility and “nothingness” of St. Therese de Lisieux, who energized Christian spirituality by saying that instead of saints and the devout hungering after God's love, it is God who hungers for our love.
“This thought, this vision,” Murray writes, “is something that was for Mother Teresa almost an obsession. She believed, and with an intense and living faith, that it was not only in the broken Host we see before us on the altar, but also in the person whom we see to be afflicted or in great need that Jesus thirsts for our love, begs for our attention.”
Given the divine absence she felt in her spiritual life, this thinking shows the greatness of Mother Teresa's faith. Her faith led to love, but also emptiness, both of which Murray himself witnessed: “What I mean by 'emptiness' is that Mother Teresa was so free of the weight of self that, when you met her, you almost had the feeling that she was coming towards you – not because she was so full and you were so empty, but because, in that moment for her, you were the one person in the world she most wanted to meet.”
I Loved Jesus in the Night conveys very well the simplicity and love of Mother Teresa.