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What have we to do in order to become saints?

Oct. 3, 2006:Tim Wilson and Tony Dubois, who constructed the casket for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, place it on a base for display.

Happy Feast! It’s good to be here with the usual suspects — SPs, Providence Associates, SP and PHC staff, colleagues and alumnae from SMWC, our close neighbors from the Village and West Terre Haute and Terre Haute. As always, we welcome all who have come to celebrate.

It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since the canonization of Mother Theodore. The feelings of shared joy and celebration evoked by the canonization remain as alive and fresh today as they did then.

Five years ago on this date, we transferred the remains of Mother Theodore into the beautiful coffin handcrafted by our carpenter, Tony Dubois and then carried the coffin here to church to create our temporary shrine. What a moving experience that was for all of us.

It was on that day of transferal of her remains that a tiny plaque was placed on the coffin. It remains there still — its message challenging us just as much today as it did five years ago.

The plaque displays this quotation from Mother Theodore: “What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary, nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for the love of God.”

“What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary, nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for the love of God.”

During the past five years, I’ve thought often about this idea of hers. And I know I’m not the only one.

Reading the words always begs the question for me — what do I do every day and how do I do all for the love of God?

I’ve got to admit, my daily round is very ordinary — eat, sleep, exercise, go to meetings, visit, plan, answer e-mail, live in a local community of six, cook, clean, pray, read. My “every day” always includes interactions with people — sisters, staff, business colleagues, visitors, associates — and on and on.

So how is this mish-mash I call my “every day” making me a saint, allowing me to become happily and fully the person, the woman, the Sister of Providence, the ministerial woman of the Church Providence intends for me to be?

Oh — I know Mother Theodore’s answer — do it all for the love of God. But, as always, I hear the nagging voice inside me, “What does ‘doing it for the love of God’ look like, act like, sound like in my “every day?” It’s a great idea — a holy idea, a spiritual directive from a holy woman — but how does in happen in me?

To find out, I made a list of my every day doings. Everything from doing laundry, to engaging in meetings, to eating lunch in the dining room, to walking from Corbe House to Owens in the mornings and afternoons, to making phone calls, to responding to emails, to visiting with sisters, writing thank you notes, preparing a meal — everything I could think of went on the list. In the midst of this list making exercise one of those troubling life events entered in — dealing with the death of a young person to cancer. So that got added to the list …

Then I wrote what doing each “for the love of God” could look like, sound like, feel like within me and to the other if another is involved. It was a very challenging exercise; and what I learned won’t be news to anyone.

It became abundantly clear to me — once again — that loving — loving God, neighbor and self — loving — the only activity God asks of us — makes heavy demands and yields untold blessings.

Today’s Scriptures make clear that we become friends of God and followers of Jesus to the degree we love. The reign God opens to us is now; so the only time we have to love is now; the only place we have to love is here; the only ones we have to love are right here with us, on the other end of an email or phone call as well as our global sisters and brothers instantly accessible via all electronic media.

As Mother Theodore knew so well, we love in the midst of our every day — it’s the only venue we’re given. To be the lovers we yearn to be we need to live the words of Sirach — “Set your heart right and be steadfast…cleave to God and do not depart. … Accept what is brought upon you and in changes that humble you be patient.”

When we do manage to do all or most or some for the love of God, it is only because our generous and prodigal God chooses the weak and even the foolish ones like ourselves to incarnate the amazing providence of God’s Self.

As we together move to the table of Eucharist, let us ask for the grace ‘to do what we do for the love of God.’ In this Eucharist let us promise we will help one another become saints.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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