Journals and Letters week 9: The Journey’s end
Who can attempt to write any commentary on Mother Theodore’s description of the sisters’ arrival – finally – at St. Mary’s? “I cannot tell you what passed within me during the next half hour. I do not know myself, but I was so deeply moved that I could not speak.”
These iconic words draw us into an experience of profound importance. They draw us into the very heart and mind and soul of Mother Theodore.
Act, observe, learn, adapt
Rereading these pages I’ve read a million times (well, maybe hundreds of times) four words came to me. Mother Theodore would ACT – OBSERVE – LEARN – ADAPT.
Mother Theodore entered a culture entirely unknown to her; so perhaps the mission succeeded and endures because of her willingness to act, observe, learn and adapt.
We have example after example of how Mother Theodore exhibited these skills. I will focus only on three.
Having finally arrived at her destination Mother Theodore got down from the stage coach (act); looked in shock at what she saw (observe); “prayed, wept, and thanked Almighty God for past favors and begged his assistance for the future” (learn); she and the other sisters “went to embrace the postulants who were awaiting us” ( adapt). What wonderful acts of love, mercy and justice resulted from that one small step down from a carriage!
The second incident shows how an “ordinary” task for Mother Theodore turned into a clash of cultures. An orphan girl had been hired to help the sisters do the laundry. When dinner time came, Mother Theodore asked the girl not to sit at the lunch table with the sisters. (act). “You should have seen the change in the countenances of the American postulants. (observe) “I had to compromise (learn) by telling the girl she might eat with the reader at second table.” (adapt)
The last example of Mother Theodore’s willingness to understand and do what needed to be done for the success of the mission is summed up in these familiar words: “It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially an academy. All appearances are against it. (observe) I have given my opinion frankly … to all who have any interest in the success of this work. (act) All have given reasons that are not entirely satisfactory; but I dare not disregard them. (listen) The spirit of this country is so different from ours that one ought to be acquainted with it before condemning those who know more about it than we do.” (observe, learn, adapt)
For me these words of Mother Theodore’s reflect her extraordinary willingness to ACT – OBSERVE – LEARN – ADAPT in whatever order she needs to, whenever she needs to, however she needs to. Always for the sake of the mission entrusted to her by Providence. Thank you, Mother Theodore. We are who we are because of the way you were and continue to be.
Act, observe, learn, adapt – skills you/we have? Want to have? Want to develop or improve? If yes, why? If no, why?
Share your thoughts on today’s passage.
Next week > page 71 Part II Early Letters to page 77
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