Journals and Letters week 17: Mother Theodore’s own words
[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” Third Journal of Travel: page 146 to page 160 mid-page. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin‘s writings every week in the coming year.]
The sisters (almost) missed the boat (ship). Oftentimes during their perilous ocean crossing they probably wished they had.
Reading these pages from the Third Journal of Travel immersed me (not a good choice of word given the events described) in Mother Theodore’s consistent response to all perils. Prayer. Mother Theodore’s own words best convey these perils and her prayer response. No one else’s words would do justice to her description of the 129-day journey aboard the Nashville from Havre, France, to New Orleans, United States.
In Mother Theodore’s words:
“Scarcely were we on the main when the rolling of the ship increased and again we were paying our tribute to the ocean.
(After the captain’s fight with a drunken sailor) … the captain had fallen. He lay stretched out, motionless. … You cannot imagine how distressed I was. … We were beginning a long voyage at the worst season of the year, and he was the only one capable of managing our vessel.
The waves broke over our heads with a frightful roar. We thought each moment would be our last.
Those ocean heaps (waves) had something in them something so awful. …
One cannot conceive how frightful it is to see nothing between oneself and eternity but a few planks that have been nailed together. …
… we were covered in perspiration from the tossing of the ship, which trembled like a person in a nervous attack. …
For some minutes there was absolute silence, then suddenly it was broken by an extraordinary crash as if the vessel had been completely broken asunder. The ship had, in fact, been thrown upon the beam end and was completely under water. The keel was above the water and the tops of the sails below.”
Yet, no matter how frightening the weather or terrifying an incident, Mother Theodore could and did pray.
“I need not tell you we did not sleep (death seemed too near), we prayed. … We then began prayers in common, offering to God the sacrifice of our lives with all the earnestness in our power.
But ‘they who go down to the sea in ships, doing business in the great waters; these have seen the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep’ [Psalm 106: 23 – 24], and it is their duty to tell His wonderful works to the children of men.
I do not know how long the Way of the Cross lasted; but the storm raged terribly the whole time; nevertheless, when we followed Jesus to Calvary and thought upon His sorrows, our own became less. … What strength the soul draws from prayer.
I prayed Him to give me some token of hope. Opening a book of devotion, I lighted upon this passage from the 106th Psalm. ‘They cried to the Lord in their affliction and He brought them out of their distresses. He turned the storm into a breeze; and its waves were still.’
Happy are those who are able to pray!”
Prayer of Praise
When the Nashville reached the warmth and safety of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Mother Theodore once again turns to prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving.
“Every evening at the same hour when the weather was calm, I used to go the deck and praise God for all the wonders of His creation. I loved to consider the care of God’s Providence which extends even to the little fishes.”
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Next week > page 160 mid-page to page 168