MOTHER TERESA had visions in which she saw the Virgin Mary and talked to Jesus, newly-published letters have revealed. In her visions, Jesus called her "my little wife" and "my dear little woman" and told her to found a new order of nuns devoted to helping the poor in India.
The letters she wrote to two priests, who acted as her spiritual mentors, also reveal that Mother Teresa - who died in 1997 aged 87 - suffered episodes of depression throughout her life in which she underwent grave crises of faith.
The letters were obtained by biographer Saverio Gaeta, who has published them for the first time in a book entitled Il Segreto di Madre Teresa (Mother Teresa’s Secret).
According to Gaeta they came to light when they were handed in to the local church authorities by Jesuit priests in Calcutta at the start of deliberations on her case for sainthood. She is expected to be canonised in the spring of next year.
The nun, born in Macedonia of Albanian parents, described experiencing four mystical visions between September 1946 and October 1947 in letters she wrote to Jesuit priest Father Celeste Van Exem. In the visions, she held what she described a dialogue with Jesus in which she tried to resist his command to leave her first order, the Sisters of Loreto, to found the Sisters of Charity and work with the poor.
Mother Teresa, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, claimed to have told Jesus he was asking "too much". She continued: "I can hardly grasp even half of what it is that you want. Go, Jesus, and look for a soul that is worthier and more generous."
She wrote that the Jesus of her vision told her she had been chosen because she was not perfect. Mother Teresa said He wanted "Indian nuns, missionaries of charity" who could be the "fire of my love among the poorest of the poor, the sick, the dying, the children in the streets. I want you to bring the poor to me."
The nun wrote that she had been fearful of having to live among the poor, but that Christ reminded her that she had always said He could do with her as He pleased. "Now I want to act. Let me, my little wife, my dear little woman", Jesus said, according to Mother Teresa’s account.
In a second letter, the nun wrote of visions of a suffering crowd, which culminated in apparitions of Jesus being crucified, watched by the Virgin Mary.
Describing Jesus speaking to her from the Cross, she wrote: "Our Lord said: ‘I have asked you. They have asked you and she, my mother, has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me, to take care of them, to bring them to me?"
Mother Teresa established her famous Calcutta-based order in 1948 and began the work to which she would devote the next 49 years of her life.
Her letters suggest the 1947 vision was her last experience of ‘dialogue’ with Jesus. Later communications suggest profound religious doubt. In one letter, dated 1958, she wrote: "My smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains."
Because she kept a smile on her face, she wrote, people "think that my faith, my hope and my love are overflowing, and that my intimacy with God and union with His will fill my heart. If only they knew."
Mother Teresa was more explicit in another item of correspondence: "The damned of Hell suffer eternal punishment because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God, and that God does not exist."
According to Gaeta, a former journalist with the Vatican newspaper, L‘Osservatore Romano, Mother Teresa never discussed her visions publicly during her life for fear that the revelations would encourage a personality cult to develop around her.