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July 6, 2021 46 mins

PART EIGHT - "She used to tell us, ‘If ever I will be a saint, I will be the saint of darkness.’ ... And we didn't know what she meant."


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This series was inspired by Mary Johnson’s memoir, “An Unquenchable Thirst.” Find it HERE - https://amzn.to/3whsTeO


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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
One fall evening, Mary Johnson went to bed and the
dormitory of the MC convent in San Gregorio, Rome. Went
to bed close my eyes. Had this dream where I'm
seeing a potter at a wheel and she's just they're
humming as she's forming this clay. The wheel turns. I

(00:27):
noticed that she's forming these little figurines and they're various people.
And when she finishes them, then she breathes life into
them and they come alive and they look like people.
In the dream, the floor of the studio opens up.

(00:48):
Mary can see the world below. She lifts that little
figure up in her hands and places it wherever. She
breathes life into a figure green and sets it down
on a busy street in Hong Kong. She puts another
one in a gray office, one in a rainforest, one

(01:08):
in the kitchen of a small house. Then the potter
forms another figure. This one has dimples and the curly hair.
The potter pulls out tiny glasses from her overalls and
balances them on the figurine snows. She takes a deep
breath when she breathes life into this clay figure that

(01:29):
she's created. I recognize that that's me. What I'm really
waiting to see is where is she going to put me?
And so she's looking me over, turning me this way
and that, and then she speaks for the first time
in the dream, and she says, this one, this one
I like so much that I'm going to keep her

(01:53):
all for myself. And she puts me on this high
shelf in her studio, far away from everything and everyone.
And I'm so mad at her. I'm stomping my little
figurine feet and I'm shaking my fist at her, and
I'm shouting from my little shelf up there, let me down.

(02:17):
But the potter has already turned back to the wheel.
She ignores Mary. She starts to pedal, and she doesn't stop.
The wheel turns and turns and turns from a Coco

(02:38):
punch and I heart radio. This is the turning I'm
Erica ants Part eight, Saint of Darkness. At a certain point,
I was just really really exhausted physically, are intellectually finished,

(03:02):
And I went to my superior and I said, I
just need a break. I can't take this anymore. I'm
really kind of scared what's gonna happen to me. She
could see that she knew that, and she was a
very kind person, Sister Dominica, and she said, well, the
Superiors are having a retreat. Let me see if I
can get you permission to go on that retreat. She

(03:24):
did get permission. Mary would have some time off for
prayer and reflection. On the retreat, she met a priest.
He was just over forty years old. He had an
easy smile, and something about his talks at the retreat
caught Mary's attention. He spoke with so much compassion and
so much humanity, and so much insight into the Gospels.

(03:46):
We aren't using his real name. Mary calls him Father Tom.
Father Tom was a person that everybody kind of felt
at ease around. He had this easy going attitude. I
heard once heard another priest describe him as the only
priest that he knew who really had no ego. He

(04:09):
knew how to listen. Father Tom would be the one
to take Mary's general confession this year. That's her annual
review of faith and conscience. Before she knelt for her confession,
Mary thought back. It had been a turbulent year. She
had felt overwhelmed with her workload, and there had been
that incident with Niobe. The sister who said I love you,

(04:30):
who Mary loved back, but who would eventually pressure Mary
to get physical and at times when she specifically said no.
When Mary met Father Tom, her relationship with Naobe hadn't
turned sour yet. Mary asked Naobe to hold her and
they had embraced for the first time. Now, she had
this nagging feeling guilt. Before she started her confession, she

(04:54):
thought about all the ways she'd failed her vows. Then
she knelt and made the sign of the Cross. She
spoke through the screen, bless me, Father, for I have sinned. First,
she listed her usual confessions, putting her own needs above others,
failing to serve with a generous heart. But at the
end she added, I've bent the rules, especially by showing

(05:17):
affection in inappropriate ways. I hoped he wasn't going to
ask for details, but instead what he did is he said,
You've got to be careful to balance the love of
others with love of yourself. Didn't Jesus say love your
neighbor as yourself, So shouldn't you be loving yourself. It's

(05:38):
not one or the other. You have to do both.
And then he said the words that really through me.
He said, You're just as worthy of having your needs
met as anyone else is. And that just really kind
of violated the whole you know, missionary of charity life
is to serve others. It's forget yourself, and we're always

(06:02):
told that, and I'm not supposed to think about ourselves
even and I thought, wow, okay, so he went straight
by the inappropriate affection thing and went to that place
inside where I wasn't loving myself. Mary returned to the

(06:27):
convent and a year later she became Niobe's Churtian mistress,
preparing her for final vows. You remember what happened, Mary says.
She told Niobe the relationship needed to change. As her mistress,
it could no longer continue. But Naobe didn't stop. She
requested to have a bed by Mary's and then at
night she'd reach over, unbuttoned Mary's night dress and grows

(06:50):
her or one time after real class and I will
be tried to unlace her bodice to make her stop.
Mary says she kicked Naobeesians. At the same time, Mary
had other church and sisters to take care of. She
was in charge of rule class and the Churchians had
a lot of questions for her questions about experiences they'd
had at missions, were they worked with people of other religions,

(07:13):
or at orphanages with large groups of children, situations more
complicated than Mary felt she'd ever faced. She wasn't sure
how to navigate at all. But what really seemed to
help was Father Tom. Even though Father Tom was her
confessor and a priest, Mary felt a mutual respect. Of course,
the two of them had very different roles. Father Tom

(07:33):
had more freedom and more power. Women can't become priests
in the Catholic Church, and actually the Pope recently doubled
down on this rule and his new Cannon Law roll out.
In twenty twenty one, Pope Francis declared that any one
who attempts to ordain a woman will be automatically excommunicated
along with the woman. The very first time that I
went to confession to Tom as my regular confessor, he said,

(07:59):
I just want to know if women could be priests,
You're the one I would make my confession too. I
was like, okay, okay. So this acknowledgement from the beginning
that though there is this power dynamic there, we are
both equals in the sense of being spiritual seekers with

(08:20):
some sort of wisdom to share. Father Tom came to
the convent every week for the sisters confessions. As Churchian mistress,
Mary always went last. This meant she could stay as
long as she liked, and they talked. She liked talking
to him, she found solace in it. Father Tom was
educated and smart, and he knew the Gospels in this deep,

(08:41):
unusual way. He spoke of God is love. They discussed
religion and their spiritual journeys. When Mary struggled with the sisters,
he smuggled in a pop psychology book for her since
MC reading is so controlled, and she could talk to
him about Naobi. He knew everything although adults that were
going on inside, and I was very happy that I

(09:04):
didn't have to hide from him. I could show him
everything that I was going through and I didn't feel judged,
and he would give me good advice about how to
handle things. So I could tell Father Tom that, you know,
I know I'm not supposed to let anybody touch me,

(09:26):
but it just feels so good, and I don't know
it's it's the same kind of feeling I get when
I have a good feeling in prayer, when I feel
this sort of human closeness and this touch, and and
he wouldn't give a response that I might expect from
a priest. Yes, I know, you know, human touch can
be very healing. Of course, it feels like that. And

(09:48):
he would he would always return it. You know, more
than to the rules, You turn it to the gospel.
Jesus says, love as I have loved to Soon Thursday
confessions turned into post confession heart to hearts. Father Tom
would drink coffee and they talked. As weeks passed. She

(10:09):
stayed later and later, finally she could be with someone
who accepted her as she was. She says, I gave
her courage to go out and deal with the problems
she faced. There was one Thursday when I went to
confession and I was reaching my wits end, basically, and
and as I confessed, it's like I told Father Tom

(10:34):
all of the things I was doing wrong, all of
the ways I was failing. And he says to me,
but you're doing your best. You don't need to try
so hard. Concentrate on what's important. Let the rest of
it slide. And those words just the tears they fell
down my face. I just started crying and crying because

(10:56):
he was being so kind to me. And I wasn't
used to that. I wasn't kind to myself. Others weren't
kind to me. It was just like and here he
was just just so kind. And that day instead of
putting his hands just above my head when he gave
me absolution and a blessing, he put his hands on

(11:17):
my head and said that prayer. And when he did that,
I just I just felt like I was melting inside,
just this this sense of dislove flowing from his hands
through me. One day I went and I stood behind

(11:41):
his chair and I just put my hand on his
shoulder and tried to channel that love from my hand
through him the way he had done for me. M hm.
At one point, Father Tom said, I just feel it
really strange that you keep calling me father. Why didn't
you just call meet Tom? And I asked him to

(12:03):
call me Mary, not sister Donata. And we had been
talking to each other as Tom and Mary for a while.
Whenever we would have our weekly meetings after all the
other sisters had gone to confession, I would sometimes put
my hand on his shoulder or take his hand in

(12:24):
my hand, and he sometimes respond by putting his hand
on my knee or some similar sort of touch. But
he never started. He never initiated in those circumstances. It's
like sitting opposite him and I'm looking into his eyes,
and I know how we have both been trying so

(12:45):
hard to kind of keep our hands to ourselves. In fact,
I noticed that sometimes his hands would perspire with I
don't know, the effort to keep them to himself, and
he'll be like And so I just told him one day, said,
you know, if you ever want to take my hands first,

(13:09):
that's okay with me. And he told me, I've been
waiting for that, and I told him, I know you have.
And from that time on, I didn't always have to
take the first step. Cheerfulness and joy have to come

(13:36):
from within, don't they. I suppose that there is that
fake it to you, make it that if you pretend
to be happy, you will eventually be happy. I think
Mother Teresa was a past master that she always was smiling.
Collet Livermore, the sister from Australia, I had been struggling

(13:59):
with the tension between what her conscience was telling her
and what her superiors told her. She didn't like that
she had been directed not to follow her in her compass.
By her eight year in the m CS, Colett felt
dull and empty and emotionless, and to her, it didn't
feel like peaceful detachment. She says, it felt like the

(14:19):
apathy of depression. She decided to go home. It wasn't
the first time it had occurred to me, but yeah,
I was still mentally controlled by the Order and by
the all the religious stuff about God's will and hold up.

(14:39):
Colett knew she wanted to leave the Order and her vocation.
It was her last chance before a final profession her
lifelong vows. She was stationed in Calcutta at the time,
so she asked to meet Mother Teresa for her general permission.
That's a monthly ritual where sisters asked for permission to
use any belonging like toothbrushes, their prayer books because technically

(15:02):
they don't own anything themselves. They also speak their faults
and their assigned penances. So you go in the room,
you kneel down, you don't look in her eyes. You
had to kiss the floor. That I used to say,
you have to put your head down to the floor.
As Colette knelt in front of Mother Teresa, she spoke

(15:23):
her faults as usual, and then she stayed there. I
was still kneeling. I basically told mother that I couldn't
stand the way we treated each other. Why we traded
the poor, that why we were moved around. And she

(15:43):
told Mother Teresa she seen sisters hit the poor they
were serving out of anger. When she tried to help
people on the street. She was chastised. This life wasn't
for her. She was singularly unimpressed. Collette says Mother Teresa said,
look me in the eye. I tell you, sister, and
I would not tell you a lie. You have a

(16:04):
vocation to be a missionary of charity. Colletza's mother, Teresa
spoke with a stoutmatic certainty that she seemed to have
no empathy for her sister, who struggled to believe. She
told Collette she had no doubts. She said Collett's desire
to leave was the devil's temptation, the devil pretending as

(16:27):
an angel of light, and it was pride. I forbid
you to think like this. She told me to take
the discipline, take it harder than usual. You know, strange
habit of hitting yourself with a knotted rope. And she
told Collette not to judge the sisters who were angry
or violent. Those same sisters, she explained, might be feeling

(16:50):
just as much pain and guilt for what they've done.
Don't judge. You may be as displacing to God with
your judgmental at aitude as the angry sister is. Then
she told Collette, if you think like this, you must
go to confession and say I was disobedient and judgmental.

(17:12):
You must tell yourself. Mother has forbidden me to think this.
And then she told Collette a story, the story of
a mother who said that she'd rather her daughter come
out of the convent in a coffin than to leave,

(17:34):
than be unfaithful to her vows. I mean, how did
it feel to hear her say these things to you?
She's the saint, I'm the sinner. She must be right.
Uh yeah, I think I felt a bit despairing, like

(18:00):
I was trapped and I couldn't get out. But I
could have got out if I believed in myself more.
But that's the trouble. Somehow my inner self, my confidence,
my belief in myself, which and the truth of my

(18:23):
own thoughts, had been somehow undermined. I should have stood
up and said, look, mother, I've had enough. I'm not
going to hit myself. I'm not going to go to confession.
I'm going I'd like you to arrange for me to leave.
I need to leave, but somehow I couldn't seem to.

(18:48):
I just knelt there until she dismissed me, because that
had spent years learning to obey, and that's what she did.
Little did she know that the very woman who convinced
her to stay, who told her to whip herself harder,

(19:11):
who told her to stick to her vows, was going
through a hidden darkness of her own. When Mother Teresa died,

(19:35):
Father Brian Collodik knew what to do. He was ready
to start his research for her beautification and canonization process.
He would be her postulator for sthood. When we began
the cause, one of the first things we do is
collect the documents you've heard from Father Brian before. He's
a priest in the Missionaries of Charity. I'm serving now
as what we call Superior General. That means like the

(19:57):
CEO if you want, of the father this congregation. So
he started looking for anything he could find about Mother Teresa,
and that's when he discovered the letters. The letters were
in the archives of the Archbishop's house in Calcutta. They
were letters hidden from public view, and if Mother Teresa

(20:17):
had her way, they wouldn't exist well. The Teresa kept
insisting that they be destroyed, but they weren't destroyed. The
men she wrote to a handful of confessors saved the letters.
They felt they had to keep these texts as they
revealed the depth of her vocation. They had a sense
that these were very special, sacred even because they were

(20:38):
very personal, intimate things that we had no idea. Father
Brian knew how special these papers were, and I just
didn't want to read them just like that. So when
Father Brian got them, he took them to a chapel
and then he started to read through the papers. Mother
Teresa to Father Nooner undated Now Father, since forty nine

(21:03):
or fifty this terrible sense of loss, this untold darkness,
this loneliness, this continual longing for God which gives me
that pain deep down in my heart. The place of
God in my soul is blank. He does not want me,
He's not there. Sometimes I just hear my own heart
cry out my God, and nothing else comes. The torture

(21:28):
and pain. I can't explain. Mother Teresa's darkness seemed to
begin almost immediately after she founded the Missionaries of Charity.
As Father Brian kept reading, he watched years pass in
Mother Teresa's life. He read references to events he recognized,

(21:50):
but she always came back to the darkness. In one letter,
she described her smile as a cloak which covers a
multitude of pains, and another she says, I don't believe
I have a soul. There's nothing in me. Reading those

(22:11):
letters in the chapel, Father Brian was shocked. He had
no idea Mother Teresa had experienced decades of darkness and misery.
She wrote, so many unanswered questions live within me. I'm
afraid to uncover them because of the blasphemy. If there'd
be God, please forgive me. When I read these letters,

(22:34):
I felt such strong echoes of everything I've heard from
the former nuns i'd interviewed, like Mary and Collette. How
many felt told by despair and submission. How many felt
twisted and torn and alone. I get the sense that
a lot of them felt like impostors, like everyone else
was doing better than they did. But Mother Teresa felt

(22:54):
that too. I see my sister's day seemed to be
so close to Jesus and me. No, you might think
if you were a wife in some similar situation in
your husband, you're really passionately in loving and he's like,
he doesn't seem to care at all, it would be
extremely difficult. I think some people hearing this might say,

(23:17):
you know, this example of a husband ignoring you, that
doesn't sound like a healthy relationship. No, yes, it's very
sounds difficult. Yeah, But then the other dimension in this
is what we you know, we refer to us the
mystery of the Cross in our Christian understanding. As strange
as it might seem, the closer you get to Jesus,

(23:39):
the more you're going to suffer. That's the whole experience
of the saints. In a letter to Mother Teresa, whenever
confessors suggested another interpretation of the emptiness, she felt the
fact that she couldn't feel God anymore wasn't a sign
that God had left her. Instead, it was part of
a mystical process experienced by some saints, something called the

(23:59):
dark Night of the soul. It's part of a tradition
in Catholic spirituality, a process of purification that many saints
and mystics go through one that ultimately brings them closer
to God, but involves a lot of pain and suffering
along the way. They become a plaything in God's hand,
as Mother Teresa would say, quoting Saint Terrez, like a
little ball of no value, she wrote, that could be

(24:21):
thrown on the ground, kicked about, pierced, left in a corner,
or pressed to Jesus's heart just as it might please him.
Part of the dark Knight of the soul involves losing
pleasure in the senses, leading to a feeling of pain, dryness,
and emptiness. Another part of it involves feeling abandoned by God.
There's so much egoism in ourselves, you know, so much

(24:44):
of self is very painful to go through that purification.
Mother Teresa wrote, He has taken all, and I think
he has destroyed everything in me. The only thing that
keeps me on the surface is obedience. But the idea
that Mother Teresa's deep loneliness meant she was joining in
Christ's passion that brought her comfort. Feeling farther from God

(25:08):
and his love meant she was growing more intimate with
him after all. From the beginning she wrote, I want
to become a real slave of our lady, to drink
only from his childice of pain. Mother Teresa once said
there are two kinds of poverty, material poverty, or someone
is hungry for a loaf of bread, and then an

(25:28):
even greater poverty, spiritual poverty, to be unloved. Here she
is on RTE in Ireland, in and that terrible loneliness
and being unwanted, unloved, being abandoned by everybody. Even in
our own homes. We may have somebody who is handicapped

(25:49):
like that, and nobody takes any notice, nobody even recognizes
that there is this child, this, this man, this woman
who is hungry for love, hungry to be recognized and
to accept with respect and love. The person hearing her

(26:09):
say the greatest poverty is to feel unloved. She was
speaking from experience mm hmm exactly. She was sharing in
solidarity with the other interior poverty as well. She would say,
if ever I will be a saint, meaning be declared

(26:34):
a saint, she said, I will be the saint of darkness,
of those in darkness, And we didn't know what she meant.
This is sister Kathleen Hughes the consecrated virgin who is
a former missionary of charity, the poor, the rejected, those
who feel their life is worth nothing. You know, those

(26:57):
in darkness, people who are driven to to suicide or
drug addiction and have failed in some way, maybe with
their parents, are in life. And she said, I will be.
I will be like they're saint. In two thousand seven,

(27:25):
Father Brian published Mother Teresa's letters and a book he
called Come Be My Light. One thing that struck me
when I read it is that this sounds a lot
like depression. Her letters just seemed so sad and alone.
Father Brian says he looked into it. He thinks there's
a difference between a dark Knight of the soul and depression.
And actually a number of people have argued for differences

(27:46):
between the two. They say the symptoms aren't the same,
for example, that depression spans a lot of different domains
of life, while the dark Knight is spiritual focus on
a relationship with God. But I can't help but think
of out the fact that depression looks different for different people.
Whatever lens you want to look at it through, one
thing is clear. She suffered a lot. Mother Treesa got

(28:10):
one short respite in for months she felt that she
was pleasing Jesus again. But other than that one month,
Mother Teresa experienced the dark knight of the soul for
the rest of her life. Almost fifty years. When Mother
Trees's letters started being published, the story of her darkness
shocked the world, but of course the people impacted the

(28:32):
most were the sisters in Calcutta. When I was reading
some of these letters for the sisters, they were just like,
you know, a wide eyed and crying. I mean, it
was a shock. When Sister Kathleen heard the news, she
knew she'd need some serious time to process the letters.
As she read them, I decided I would take it

(28:55):
as a kind of a retreat, you know, like I
would spend these days in prayer. And I was reading
and I ended up on the floor sobbing, sobbing because
I kept seeing her face, that stretched, tired, exhausted face.

(29:17):
If you read about it in the papers, people were saying,
oh she was she was a fake. And all you know,
it was interpreted in all kinds of absurd ways that
the world has no concept. And Sister Nermala, who was
her successor, called me and she was telling me, sister Kathleen.

(29:39):
We we had no idea, nobody had any idea. Mother
never told us, and she suffered all of this, And
that also in itself is heroic. It is heroic that
she never she never spoke about it. You know, she
kept that secret because she might have scandalized some sisters

(30:01):
or or or weakened their faith. Well, how can she
tell us that that? It is also though God isn't there.
And it showed how great a person she was, How
great a follower of Christ, How great a woman you know,
a missionary? No wonder People were moved by her and

(30:24):
drawn to her, you know, because she was like Christ
on the cross, saying my God, My God, why have
you forsaken me for me? I only found that out
after I left the order. Every time she talked to us,
she never projected that. This is Sue Ebber. She and

(30:47):
her sister Joan both joined the MCS. Sue was a
superior at the San Francisco Aids Hospice in the nineties.
I always think back if there would have been an
openness of her saying it is hard, and you know
you do you struggle, and you who knows where where
people would be but when you come to find out
that that which you felt was being portrayed actually was

(31:09):
completely the opposite. I went through a period of time
of feeling very betrayed by her, and then I had
to process that all for myself. I was I was, yes,
I was quite elated. For some strange reason. This is

(31:30):
Collette Livermore. Again. She was a human being. She wasn't
this saint on a pedestal that she struggle through all this.
I just felt vindicated somehow, And I don't understand why,
how she could truthfully tell me she didn't have any doubts.

(31:50):
Collett's initial reaction didn't last, though, because of course it
didn't make her happy to hear about this kind of pain.
I remember she told us in a talk once that
she went under Pradesh in a huge flood and there
were bodies everywhere. I got a hint then that she

(32:12):
couldn't work it out. She said, God's obviously trying to
tell us something, but I don't know what he's saying.
And like she confronted suffering very regularly, I could feel
a struggle in the anguish. And she said her cheerfulness
was just a cloak for a very deep loneliness, and

(32:35):
I think the highest value in the world is love
and relationships, and she'd set up a system where you
couldn't get any joy from each other. I think that
made people psychologically unwell. And so when I knew she'd
been through all this, I couldn't understand why it didn't

(32:56):
change her her pattern, you know, the template that she
used to run the order. But she just thought blocked it,
like she told me to, you know, just suppressed anything
as a temptation. She obviously went through hell. I wish

(33:17):
I could have talked to her like a human being,
like a friend or a real person. So do I.
But as people so often point out, Mother Teresa was
of another time, with another sense of what was appropriate.
I was definitely not shocked, because I suspected for quite
a while that she had more interior suffering than she

(33:40):
led on. It also doesn't surprise Mary Johnson that Mother
Teresa kept her dark Knight of the Soul a secret.
She wasn't going to go around talking about her relationship
with Jesus. It would be like asking a woman to
explain what her most intimate experiences with her husband were like.
But she says she worries about the message. A secret

(34:01):
like this sends that when a sister is depressed or
suffering other Teresa's dark knight could be used as a
reason not to get help, a sign that she should
have to suffer. It might even be instructed from above.

(34:47):
Instead of feeling a dark knight of the soul, Mary
Johnson felt her soul coming alive. Even with her growing
closest with Father Tom, though there were still moments when
Mary felt hollow hollowness that made her think about leaving
the order, and that even led her to make an
escape plan, the one where she was away at the
hospital by the coast. She thought you could find street

(35:08):
clothes and slip away. And I was very tempted. But
then various things happened and I wasn't able to run away.
And when I came back and I told I told
Father Tom about that, I just looked in his eyes
and he's just saying, you can't just disappear. I mean,

(35:29):
tell me you wouldn't do that, Tell me you'd call.
I was like, he'd be concerned if I'd disappeared. Okay.
He told me that I should call him when I
was having a bad day. We could just talk and
of course how would I get to the telephone and
all the rest of it. But he told me I
hate to see you in so much pain, and then

(35:51):
he kissed the top of my head through my sorry.
That just I felt so good and so unexpected, and
it's a perfect Did you feel like you're falling for
him in some way at that point? I had felt

(36:13):
an attraction for him from the very beginning, from the
first time I saw him. I knew he was somebody extraordinary.
You know, I had been holding myself in check. I
didn't want to go further. I didn't want to do
with him the things I've done with sister and Iobe.
That just didn't make any sense to me. Um. But emotionally,

(36:33):
we are having this relationship that deepens and deepens, a
relationship of trust, a very deep companionship on the spiritual
journey that we were both on. And so naturally, when
you have a relationship where you feel completely at home
with someone, where you've always felt attracted towards this person,

(36:56):
naturally your body wants to go there. And one day
Mary couldn't help herself. Jesus wants me to have life,
fullness of life. Where do I feel the most full
of life, and I knew that that was in my
relationship with Tom. That was it was really kind of
like almost the only place I felt really fully alive.

(37:18):
So just before mass, Mary walked into the sacristy, a
small room near the chapel. Tom was there preparing for
the service, and I gave him this big kiss. It
felt just so right, it felt all tingly, the way
those things can do sometimes, and I walked out afterwards.
He says, you know, you're very good at that, And

(37:43):
he says, but please, you know, don't do that before
mass anymore. Like that, I couldn't think of anything else
all during Mass Mary started confessing to a different priest
after that. As time went on, Tom often incur ithed
Mary to call him on the phone so they could
just talk about their days, but Mary didn't have a

(38:05):
way to call him. Missionaries of charity did not make
phone calls without a very specific purpose and without permission,
and that purpose could never be just to talk to
somebody about your problems. Even if she tried to sneak
a call, there would always be a high risk that
someone walked in on her. But come winter, the superior
of the house moved out of Mother's room to a
warmer part of the convent. This meant Mary had access

(38:28):
to that room at night, and there was a telephone inside.
She started calling Tom while the sisters were on their
way to bed. She kept the calls short. You never
know who's listening at the door, You never know who
might open the door. But it was just wonderful to
hear his voice at the end of the day, to
ask him how his day went, to to hear him
say I love you before I hung up the phone,

(38:51):
to be able to say I love you back well.
Mother Teresa was experiencing her darkness, feeling ignored by her fause.
Mary was pursuing a forbidden love, a type of love
that she felt was expanding her life. She had said
I love you before, but this felt new. Something was
different from the manipulative I love you she'd heard so

(39:13):
often from Naobi. When Father Tom told me I love you,
it was in line with his actions. I knew that
that he meant it, and it reinforced to me the
way that that God loved me, that I was worthy
of that. Mary was about thirty six at this point.

(39:43):
She and Tom day dreamed about other versions of their
lives other places they could be What would it be
like if we could go out on the streets of
Rome walking hand in hand, go through the park like that,
you know, we got the trees on either side one
of these beautiful Roman parks. Just to be able to
walk hand in hand in public, wouldn't that be marvelous?

(40:05):
Or to go a little further, What would it be like,
you know too, to wake up together in the morning,
to make coffee for each other too, to sit together
and read at night? What would that be like? Wouldn't
it be so nice? There's kind of these imaginings of

(40:26):
things that were totally impossible, even though they were so ordinary.
It's kind of like me sitting here and imagining what
would it be like to have a house in Hawaii
and another one in France? And oh, you know, it's
totally out of the questions. It's never gonna happen, but
you can imagine. At one point, Mary got sick a

(40:51):
sinus infection, a bad one. She had to go to
the hospital for surgery during Holy Week, so she asked
Tom if he would come. I told him that I
thought we could have some time alone. So on Easter
Monday morning, I brushed my tea three times. I put
on the most revealing night dress that the sisters had

(41:15):
sent me, which means that it had short sleeves, and
it had a neckline where my collar bones showed a
little bit. And I waited and waited, and every time
I heard footsteps in the corridor, I thought maybe. But
then finally she opened the door and father Tom was there.
Mary had a roommate, so Tom suggested they go on

(41:35):
a walk, and I said, yes, let's go for a walk.
The hospital was quiet, most people had been dismissed because
of Holy Week. Many of the rooms were empty. They
walked into one of them, and we left the door
slightly ajar, but we positioned ourselves in the room in
a way that anyone opening the door wouldn't see us immediately.

(42:00):
And we sat down and we found a physical intimacy
together deeper than anything we'd managed to do back in
the convent. Our hands found each other in new sorts
of ways, and it was a very, very beautiful moment. Afterward,

(42:32):
they walked out of the room to the service elevator
at the back of the ward. When the doors of
the elevator closed behind them, they kissed again. We wrote
that elevator up and down and up and now, and
every now and then somebody would get on with a
laundry cart or something like that, and we kind of
behave ourselves for a little while, and then we'd get
in the elevator would go up and down again, and

(42:56):
and it's like we just didn't want to separate from
each other. Yeah, But then finally we did open the
door on the elevator and Tom left to go, and
I watched and watched and watched until I couldn't see
him anymore. The Turning is written by Allen lance Lesser

(44:24):
and Me. Our producers are Allen lance Lesser and Emily Foreman.
Our editor is Rob Rosenthal. Andrea Asuage is our digital producer.
Fact checking by Andrea Lopez Crusado. Special thanks to Amy Gains,
Sarah oh Lander, Maran Frishkoff, Bethan Macaluso, Travis Dunlap, and
consulting producer Mary Johnson. Her memoir and Unquenchable Thirst provided

(44:45):
inspiration for this series. Our executive producers are Jessica Albert
and John Parratti from A Coco Punch and Katrina Norville
from My Heart Radio. Our theme music is by Matt Reid.
For photos and more details on the series, follow us
on Instagram out at Rococo Punch. You can reach out
via email to the Turning at Rocca punch dot com.

(45:06):
I'm Erica Lands. Thanks for listening.
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