Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson

An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and An Authentic Life. Mary Johnson. Bond Street Books: Random House Publishing Group. September 2011.  544 pp. hb. ISBN #: 9780385666978.

Mary Johnson, the 17 year-old daughter of religious Catholic parents, begins her story by describing a turning point in her life when her parents were announcing what they were planning for their lives after school.  As much as those ideas of study, work, and marriage attracted her, she knew that she had a call from God to live her life in service to Him and only Him!  Soon after, she saw a picture of Mother Teresa on the cover of Time magazine and read the article about the Missionary of Charity nuns.  She decided the message in that article was a precise answer to her divine call!

The remainder of this memoir about Mary or Sister Donata's twenty years life as a Missionary of Charity is a mind-boggling read.  As Mary lives the course of her preparation for final vows, the reader is exposed to a painstaking battle of the soul interspersed with some moments of deep peace, understanding, and union with God.  What is most evident, however, is the harshness and downright meanness of those in authority who are supposed to be bringing these novices and so on closer to God and service.  In fact, this segment is torture to read at times, defying logic, compassion, and every other positive Christian virtue one can contemplate.  Later it turns out when Sister Donata actually reads the Constitution of the Order that Mother Teresa wanted more kindness toward the Sisters but felt powerless to change the abuse she knew was occurring.  

Years pass and Sister Donata is sent to many places in America, Italy, and Canada.  Temptations appear after some mental satisfaction in doing academic work and some work important as the assistant of Mother Teresa.  The temptation toward a fellow nun and a priest yields a world of conflict, guilt, and so on, followed by a scandal at one of the schools with ramifications going all the way to Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Pope of the Catholic Church.

Finally, Mary describes how she makes her decision to change her life's call and how she spends years resolving the residual effects of all those years.  This is a moving, comprehensive, scathingly honest memoir about the heights and depths, heaven and hell, of the spiritual life of a notable community of nuns modeled after the saint-like figure, Mother Teresa!  Read it, not to judge, but to know honesty and truth prevail, divine and otherwise!  Astonishing book!