Journals and Letters week 32: Death, taxes and inconsiderate ladies
I found it oddly comforting that in this week’s reading, Mother Theodore writes mostly about ordinary things you might find in any letter to a friend or loved one. In the very first letter, she complains about the high property taxes and gives updates on Sister Mary Therese’s deafness and the health of several other sisters. She later writes about planting trees and walks in the woods. Mother Theodore has had so many big struggles on her journey, it’s actually a relief for me that the issues she’s finally dealing with are more commonplace. It makes me happy that things seemed to have finally settled down a bit.
Just say no
When Mother Theodore adamantly insisted that Sister Basilide did not have permission to have “meetings of ladies of the world” at her house “not under any pretext whatsoever” I chuckled. I could almost hear the sarcasm when she points out that although these ladies have large and comfortable houses they want to “take our poor cottages the only day of the week that we are free and able to hold together our innocent recreations.”
I love that Mother Theodore shows her frustration and then insists that Sister Basilide put her needs above these ladies. She even told Sister Basilide she could place the blame on her if necessary. I find Mother Theodore’s behavior totally relatable. The way she looks after her sisters is inspiring. I love that she also recognizes the need to disconnect, recharge and enjoy life. What a good mother she was! Mother Theodore was advocating for self-care before it was even a thing!
And I don’t know if people rolled their eyes when they were annoyed back in the 1800’s, but Mother Theodore may have invented the eyeroll at this very moment when writing about these inconsiderate ladies. You can see it, can’t you?
‘Man proposes and God disposes’
Mother Theodore later writes to Sister Basilide that illness prevented her from traveling to Madison as she had planned. I forget that she often had to deal with a chronic stomach ailment for most of her life. In fact, it seems that Mother Theodore and many of the other sisters frequently had health concerns. The stress they all had been through, combined with the massive amount of work they were doing, surely played a factor in this.
I also found that although Mother Theodore was compassionate and tender-hearted, she also approached illness and death with practicality and acceptance. When she wrote that Sister Angelina “will probably not last much longer” it made me wonder if her directness was more about her faith in God or the time in which she lived. I suppose it was both. Plus, having lost her father and two brothers as a young girl, she was very familiar with death.
‘I love our woods …’
I particularly loved Mother Theodore’s instructions to Sister Basilide to have trees planted. She even went so far as to tell her to plant some faster-growing but common locusts between the slower-growing trees. I assume this was so they would be more aesthetically pleasing. She then said they could later be cut away when the trees got bigger.
Later on, she writes lovingly about Indiana. “In each excursion we discover something marvelous, beautiful, and useful in the magnificent forests of Indiana. At each step we can admire the grandeur, the power, the goodness of God. How bountifully He provides for all our wants — I would even say, for our pleasures!” When you visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods you can certainly see and understand why she felt this way. It is such a beautiful and peaceful place.
Have you ever had a friend or relative encourage you to say no when someone was trying to take advantage of you? How did that make you feel?
What would Mother Theodore say if she visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods today?