Was Mother Teresa possessed by evil spirits in her last days?
Father Rosario Stroscio of Sicily performed an exorcism on the nun with her consent.
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In 1997, a frail and diminutive form lay on a hospital bed in Kolkata. Her skin was pale, almost translucent, and her arms and shoulders, as they appeared over the hospital coverlet, were gaunt. Nurses and doctors hovered anxiously at the bedside of their 87-year-old patient who was exciting such curiosity from the outside world and the press.
Mother Teresa had been brought in to the hospital a few days back. She had been suffering for some time now, with ailments of the heart and the trespasses of old age were showing on her body.
She had suffered two heart attacks in 1983 and 1989 and in 1996 she had suffered a left ventricular failure which left her in need of surgery. At one point, the ageing nun had wanted to retire and give over her work to another.
But over the decades of her work with her order, she had inspired such faith and belief, that even as Mother Teresa's body started to fail, her followers reaffirmed their faith in her and begged her to continue to lead them.
One can never tell when evil will sweep into even the most sacred of lives and when the mark of satan will try and mar the most holy.
Now, as the medical staff cared for the ailing nun, strange problems started to arise.As night fell, a strange restlessness would come over her.
During the day, she would be reportedly, relatively quiet. But as night fell, a strange restlessness would come over her. As the darkness deepened outside, the nun would reportedly thrash around, and even in her weakened state, display sudden strength and pull off hospital monitoring equipment which was attached to her body.
She would become agitated, and remain disturbed through the dark hours. Despite the best of care, sleep eluded her and nothing seemed to be able to calm Mother Teresa.
At that time, the archbishop of Calcutta, Henry D'Souza, was also hospitalised there and he and the nun shared the same doctor. When he came to know of her distress, he said, "When doctors said they could not find a medical reason for her sleeplessness, I thought she might be getting attacked by the devil... I wanted her to calm down and ask a priest, in the name of the church, to perform an exorcism prayer on her."
Thus with the consent of the nun, Father Rosario Stroscio of Sicily performed an exorcism on Mother Teresa.
The 79-year-old Father Stroscio, a Roman Catholic priest and exorcist, later himself said he spoke "the prayer of exorcism to drive out evil spirits..." He told the press that the Nobel-winning nun had been behaving a little oddly and was "acting strange" just before the special prayers began, but was calm and restful afterwards.
The archbishop kept silent about the exorcism at that time but broke his silence four years after the death of Mother Teresa. There was much controversy when the news first broke out in the press, but the archbishop said that it simply proved Mother Teresa's human side and was a mark of her closeness to god. Later, there were reports in which he tried to deny it, but old notes and the fact that Father Stroscio said that he spoke the prayer of exorcism, proved otherwise.
Was this a case of demonic possession? Many would see those of a sacred order as the dispellers of evil, but it has not always been so.
Old records, going back to the 14th century speak of a well-known Spanish born Franciscan nun, Sister Magdalena of the Cross, who was known for her great piety, her devotion and for the miracles she performed.
Even Emperor Charles V, the sovereign ruler of the Roman and Spanish empire asked for a piece of the habit of Magdalena of the Cross to wrap around the future prince, Philip II, at his birth, to give his son the blessing of "a living saint from birth, to envelop him in divine grace."
Over the years, word of her piety and her devotion spread. But then, she became gravely ill. Sacred symbols and holy water would throw her into convulsions and she would scream out strange words and blasphemies. An exorcism was carried out on her by a priest from Cordova who, the story says, cast out two demons from her. Thus cleansed, she was freed from a long pact with satan. She died in 1560 at the age of 74.
It is as recently as in 2005 that one finds reported accounts of a crucifixion of a young nun in Romania who was suspected of being possessed by the devil.
It was reported that Father Daniel Corogeanu, who carried out the exorcism, said that the nun had been "possessed by the devil" and was "beyond salvation" in life. Even as her coffin was lowered into the grave, claps of thunder were said to have resounded above, leading those present to say that god's will was done.
Does evil exist - and if so, can we ever really save ourselves from it? We look to sacred signs and the holy, seeking security. But are they themselves impervious to attack? I think not.
Was Mother Teresa a victim of something dark and demonic?
Did a battle rage within the ailing nun, a tussle between what was sacred and what was evil? Perhaps someone like her, so close to god, was able to realise it, even as she suffered, and perhaps that is why in her dark hours, she sought the relief of an exorcism.