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Letter: Jan 18. 1856


If you live near or have been through the Terre Haute area lately, you might have noticed this artwork plastered on a billboard on US 41 S (3rd Street).

This quote was pulled from Mother Theodore’s Journals and Letters, where she wrote a letter to Sister Maria in Madison, Indiana on January 18, 1856. I am particularly fond of her letters to Sister Maria because it seems that she often felt the need to encourage and advise Sister Maria. She talked less about business and more about personal conduct while trying to encourage Sister Maria. But why?

If you were to sit down and thoroughly read Mother Theodore’s letters to Sister Maria, it would occur to you that Sister Maria seemed to be struggling with a strong case of self-consciousness. She was often concerned with what other sisters thought of her and was absorbed with being “humble”. She went out of her way to be so, by even doing things such as avoiding communion because she felt as if she wasn’t worthy of taking it. She also may have, at one point, thought that her prayers weren’t even good enough to be answered and was on the verge of giving up. This is why Mother Theodore’s letters to her are so packed with wisdom and all those thoughtful and metaphorical phrases.

So in this letter Mother Theodore addressed the fact that Sister Maria had missed communion in the past. She wrote, “You do well not to miss communion anymore. When we are cold is not the time to keep away from the fire.” In other words, don’t give up on prayer and devotion to God. Sometimes we feel like we are pleading and screaming for help and nothing happens, so it’s tempting to just give up. This is when we become cold.

Imagine your child, someone you have raised from the time he or she was born…feeding, nursing, teaching, and watching her grow. There is nothing like that kind of love, and yet one day at the store she wants a piece of candy and you tell her no. She throws a temper-tantrum and shouts, “I hate you!” and doesn’t speak to you for a full day. She is now cold and she is staying away from the warmth of her parent. During this “cold” time of tension, she’s so upset she won’t even talk to you about other things, such as the fact that she is cold, hungry, or that she needs a band-aid because she accidentally scuffed up her knee. You cannot help her because she will not open her door to let you do so. This is painful not only to you, but to her as well. It’s also human nature.

There is nothing too significantly different about this kind of scenario than that of some of us who don’t pray to God because we think we are not “holy enough” to be heard.  Or because we are disappointed with the outcome of a life situation. If we discontinue our prayers and shut our doors to God, we are narrowing the possibility of ever being helped or enlightened. If we open up and put our full trust in God, I think we will be able to see the world through a new lens. So, to Mother Theodore’s point … keep close to the fire! Indulge in the love that God has to offer and keep your doors open!


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Jena Thralls

Jena Thralls

Jena graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She worked for the Sisters of Providence as a Marketing Manager.

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  1. Avatar Sister Connie Kramer SP on December 1, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Wonderful reflection for the start of Advent!

  2. Avatar Narie on December 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I really love reading your reflections, Jena!

  3. Avatar Paula Modaff, S.P. on December 1, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    How appropriate for someone who bears the name of Thralls to read the heart of our St. Mother Theodore so well, Jena. Thank you.

  4. Avatar Nell Trainor on December 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    You did it again, Jena! Thanks for the simplicity and warmth-filled insights into ST. MTG.

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