So very human: Making an e-book of Mother Theodore’s words
I read a lot of books. I like them in all shapes and sizes, so the great Physical Book vs. E-book debate has never been a thing I care much about. I love holding an old book in my hands and feeling the weathered pages beneath my fingers, but I also love curling up in the dark with my phone, tapping the screen to go to the next page.
(Have you ever tried to read a “real” book in the dark in your bed? What a mess of book lights and awkward arm positions!)
So when I realized some years back that the Sisters of Providence have published some truly great books, I decided it was only right to figure out how to make e-books out of them. (I am nothing if not a sucker for ambitious, time-consuming ideas.)
The obvious first choice for this self-assigned project was “Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore Guerin.”
If you have not read this book, dear readers, let me tell you about it. It has it all. Adventure on the high seas! Perilous journeys into the frontier! Heroines, villains, the sacred and the mundane — a plot filled with ups and downs and all the in-betweens.
And then in her letters to friends and foes alike, Mother Theodore is a master at work. She writes tender, careful comfort to her sisters in need of it, and then she sends deliberate, sharp discomfort to shake them out of complacency when they need that too.
She focuses her language directly to her audience, pulling out all the best techniques to stand firm with those in power but never show disrespect. She works her magic to make various bishops think it was all their idea in the first place. She makes various benefactors feel so special that they’ll give her even more.
In all places her honesty is refreshing: there are no rose-colored glasses here. Mother Theodore is so very human in these pages. Sometimes she’s a bit prissy (lots of churches in the American frontier are “nothing remarkable” or “small and badly built,” for instance) and sometimes she gets annoyed with her co-workers (“I have never met any woman so completely useless”) and sometimes she is just tired, and says so.
I know Mother Theodore wasn’t writing to ME in her journals and letters, but it sort of feels like we’ve been pen pals the last few years. In the process of making this e-book off and on between other projects, I’ve spent so much time with her words that they feel like old friends. The two paperback copies I used in the process of this project (the 1978 printing and the 2005 printing) are tattered, bookmarked, and scribbled in.
For those of you who like books better with pictures in them: there are 23 pictures in this e-book! The sisters in Archives helped me find the best versions of these we have, to make them color when possible too.
The word “Providence” shows up in the book 138 times. “Love” is there 297 times. “Blessed,” 64. “Tree,” 67. “Tired,” 16.
There are footnotes galore. Sister Mary Theodosia Mug, who painstakingly edited this book and wrote all the commentary, was quite detail-oriented. You will learn things you never even wondered about.
There are 1,931 links in the index, dear readers, and I hand-coded each of them just for you.
I do hope you read this book, if you are so inclined. It’s such a nice little book.
You can find the e-book at Amazon’s Kindle store here (Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore Guerin) on the iBooks store, or in other online e-book retailers.