Journals and Letters week 29: Letters to a beloved companion
Of Mother Theodore’s companions who came with her from France, my number one favorite is Sister Basilide. I will enjoy meeting her in heaven. (If all goes well for me on that score.)
Judging from her letters to Sister Basilide, Mother Theodore had a special love for “this good and dear” sister. That love demonstrated itself in Mother Theodore’s words of caution, gentle criticism and frank admonishments — always accompanied by words of affection and encouragement.
Basilide must have led with her heart more than her head — a blessing and a burden.
Missing Sister’s gifts
After Basilide left Saint Mary’s for Madison, Mother Theodore assured her how much the sisters and Father Corbe missed her. “Every day they bring up to me such things as this: … ‘if Sister Basilide were here this gate would be fixed, that door would not be falling to the ground.’” Mother Theodore follows with her own admission of Basilide’s talents: “I am obliged for the sake of truth to acknowledge they are right; otherwise I should be jealous, perhaps. … ” What a lovely expression of tenderness and appreciation from Mother Theodore; how affirming it must have been for Basilide. Who doesn’t want to be missed and appreciated — especially by one’s dear friend?
Admonishment and advice
On the other hand, Basilide’s heart sometimes got the best of her. When Mother Theodore became aware that Sister Basilide had caused harm in the school by showing favoritism to one pupil, she received this admonishment and advice from Mother Theodore: “ … your partiality for Miss Duplessis did so much harm to the school that there is difficulty in keeping the pupils. I do not know to what extent this accusation is true … but try to put an end to it. … Without believing you are as culpable as is supposed, I am a little afraid you are not entirely free from some blame. … Believe me, my dear Basilide, you have to distrust your own heart very much — you know that well.”
Perhaps Basilide found this portion of the letter harsh. Perhaps she felt misunderstood. Yet Mother Theodore quieted those feelings with her final words on the situation. She encourages this change in Basilide’s behavior by acknowledging how alike the two are: “ … give a little pleasure to your poor Mother Theodore who would like to see you perfect, but who is so very far from being perfect herself.” What an example of how authentic love and friendship can point to the other’s weakness and simultaneously own that same weakness in one’s self!
Being our best selves
I imagine Sister Basilide frustrated Mother Theodore in the same way a lively, outgoing, loving person can annoy and delight family and friends. I imagine that Mother Theodore’s love and honesty encouraged Basilide in her ongoing effort to be her best self. I imagine Basilide’s love and affection encouraged Mother Theodore to do the same.
Sister Basilide, let me learn from you as much as I delight in you. Help me keep growing in leading from my heart and head. Help me to accept wise counsel from whomever it comes; to change my behavior because of that counsel; and to live with the same optimistic and loving spirit that I sense in you. To borrow part of a prayer written by Saint Thomas More, let me add that I do so hope “we will merrily meet in heaven.”
Who is your Basilide? Who is your Mother Theodore?