Reminders of the beauty of God
I’ve heard Saint Mother Theodore Guerin referred to as the “green saint.” The excerpt below helped to bring Mother Theodore’s connection to nature to life for me.
The memory is from Mother Anastasie Brown (1826-1918). She began her life as a pioneer child in the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, vicinity. She studied at the Academy at Saint Mary -of-the-Woods starting in 1841, at its beginnings. She then entered the Sisters of Providence in 1844 and spent the first many years of her life as a sister under the leadership of Saint Mother Theodore. Having lived to a ripe old age, she had many requests to tell about the Sister of Providence foundress, as she does in the excerpt below.
“Our dear Mother shared our manual labor when she was able. At such times she always turned our thoughts to the spiritual benefit the work suggested. When gathering in the corn and shocking it, attention was called to the full sheaves, the perfection of the ears of corn, showing a loving Providence thus so bountifully providing for our needs; the full ears also, she said, denoted the perfection of our work when we utilized all the graces given us. The defective ears reminded us of our want of fidelity. In gathering the fruit, the lesson was continually turning the attention to the sweetness and perfection of [God] who gave it, and to the fruit of our labors and virtues. In clearing the ground of rubbish and stumps, salutary lessons came with that work, about removing obstacles, rooting out obnoxious things and clearing away our faults, thus preparing the soil of our hearts for the seeds of virtue we should plant there.”
“The beauties of nature were continual reminders to her of the beauty of God; it was a thought she loved to put frequently before our minds. The luxuriance of the foliage suggested the bounty and infinite power of the Creator; the beauty of winter in its snowy mantle, purity of soul and the splendor of that spotlessness. And all these things, she would exclaim, with the sweetest expression of loving admiration, were made for [our] use and benefit — were made for me; then, then ‘O mon Dieu, je vous aime de tout mon coeur,’ [translated, O my God, I love you with all my heart”] softly died away on her lips as she lapsed into silent communings with the God she so loved.”
What I love about this excerpt: I love how nature brought Saint Mother Theodore to God and how she brought other’s to God through nature. I love how it shows how she drew from nature spiritual sustenance. I think most anyone who has come here to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods can attest to that phenomenon Saint Mother Theodore experienced of finding God in nature in this place.
I am also amazed at how well the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods still live out the legacy and carry on the spirit of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin shown here. The most obvious way is through the sisters’ ministry at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, which connects people in our harried society back to nature, back to our most basic and our spiritual roots.
The spiritual connections Saint Mother Theodore found in working and walking these grounds also remind me of the contemplative connections still being made today by interns at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. You can read some contemporary connections made by interns Jackie Schwenk here, John Michael Elmore here, Laura Gallagher here and Bree Lloyd here.
What a wonderful legacy for all of us to be able to continue to walk the very ground Saint Mother Theodore walked and work the very fields that she herself worked!