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Frustration and love: unpublished Mother Theodore

Editor’s note: When discussing this letter, it was suggested that we might want to leave this an unpublished letter of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin because of its violent language. I think it is worth sharing.

We as Providence people talk often about nonviolence in our language and actions. Yet if we look at the Psalms, we find a great deal of violent language. By praying for violence, the psalmist offers an honest glimpse into his humanity. At the same time the writer is letting go of his own opportunity inflict the violence. The writer is releasing all responsibility for punishment to God. So any act of retribution committed by the psalmist becomes a sin of lack of faith in God.

Mother Theodore certainly parses no words in her criticism of Sister Maria, but in true Mother Theodore form, she provides a means of correction and shows full confidence that Sister Maria will overcome her faults even to the point of perfection.

 

St. Mary’s, Feb. 18, 1853

I was not able to write you sooner because I was sick, as I still am. If you had asked with simplicity for the shoes you thought you needed you would have avoided the serious fault you have committed. I think if I were Sister B—– I should be ready to beat you to a mummy, you are so provoking. How can you expect to be loved if you act in this manner? They bear with you through charity. If you wish to be loved you must be amiable. Assuredly Sister B—- would love you, for it requires very little to gain her affection, she has such a good heart.

Simplicity – the word defines itself. To be simple is not to be double. You are double in thinking you need shoes, in wishing to have them and yet, not telling this to your Superior. You fail in this virtue every time you pretend what you do not think.

Continue to tell your confessor all that troubles you. It is not necessary to do more. You know that he has the power to absolve you of all your faults; this is all that is needed.

The eagerness that you feel in eating may be an effect of your health without being greediness. Take with simplicity what you need, without being uneasy.

Profit by the experience you have just had at your own expense and not speak to the children but with prudence and discretion. There is no way of repairing what you have done but by showing the pupils what you can do.

Do your utmost to be recollected at the time of prayer. There you will obtain all the graces you need, in order to overcome your passions and to acquire the virtues which should adorn your soul. You will also obtain humility to see your faults without being vexed and discouraged. With a little good will you will become perfect at last; so, be of good heart and pray for your poor Mother.

Sister St. Theodore

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Sister Emily TeKolste

Sister Emily TeKolste is in formation with the Sisters of Providence. She is a native of Indianapolis and has a degree in sociology from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Emily is passionate about justice with special interest in environmentalism and sustainability. You can follow her blog at solongstatusquoblog.wordpress.com. She currently ministers with the NETWORK lobby for Catholic social justice.

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4 Comments

  1. Donna Butler on December 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Thanks, Emily.
    For those of us WAY less perfect than Mother Theodore, it is consolation to know she had such feelings, could express them and still love S. Maria, want her to repair the harm done and move forward with her life.

    I’m grateful for those who have forgiven me in times I was not my best self and who still loved me and helped me become my better self.

  2. Marsha speth on December 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you for bringing this letter to light. I love her description of simplicity. If I were more simple, perhaps I could admit to the violence in my own heart and words sometimes. And then following her advice, pray for the grace to change, humbly without being discouraged. Her letter ends with such confidence!

  3. Carol Nolan Nolan, SP on December 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks, Emily! Maria must have been a real thorn in Mother Theodore’s side. I love the letter to her in the Journals and Letters where she tells Maria, who has been worried that she is losing her mind, “Believe me my dear Maria, we cannot lose what we never had.”
    There are so many things I have done in my life that I wish in vain I could delete! Now we have MT’s advice to Maria and to me and to all of us. XXX

  4. Bill Hughes on December 28, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for publishing this, Emily. There is nothing to regret in doing so. It shows us that MT had feelings that we all have from time to time. It allows me to realize that the feelings are not the problem—acting violently on them would be. MT helps me to see my faults “without being vexed or discouraged.” A constant inspiration.

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