Journals and Letters week 34: Loving the ‘Right Way’
More about Sister Basilide this week! The Community history book says that Mother Theodore wrote more letters to her than to anyone else. I read that Sister Basilide was endowed with great generosity and intelligence and with an excellent “French physical constitution,” but “prudence and wisdom were not her gifts.”
Basilide was both Mother’s thorn and her rose. What a lesson in love. She was frustrating, exasperating, disappointing at times, but Mother still loved her without reservation. And she told Sisters Basilide of her love — notwithstanding her admonishments — and told others as well. This is a model of parenthood, as I’m sure many of you know whether you are biological parents or not. You mentor, you teach, you cajole and praise, you reassure and correct. You do this for family, for students, for patients, for friends. And you love through it all. Our history book says that Mother “never showed more than in her treatment of Sister Basilide how adept she was in the difficult art of eliciting the best from everyone.”
Advice on love
All this leads to what I see as the real meat of this week’s reading. That is Mother Theodore’s letter to Madame Le Fer de la Motte. In speaking of her own love for Mme. Le Fer’s daughter, Sister St. Francis Xavier, she says, “To love in the right way is to accomplish the whole Law: it is to begin that happy life which will have its perfection only in heaven, where we shall live forever with holy and perfect love.”
“To love in the right way”! The “right way” she speaks of is not the “gluey heart” that she sometimes sees in Basilide — a perhaps dependent love that shows favoritism and sometimes sows discord among Basilide’s students and their parents. Nor is the “right way” to ignore the recoverable faults of those in her care. This is the example Mother Theodore sets: her affection is given and spoken freely and often to all in her care, yet she is forthright with her guidance when she sees the need and makes tough decisions about how and when to offer correction. Today we speak of “Right Relationship.” Isn’t this exactly what Mother Theodore models and teaches?
A bit of humor
I can’t end without pointing out yet another example of Mother’s delightful humor. In thanking Mme. Le Fer for the gift of shoes, she says, “They made me feel that I am very far from being dead.” Even in a letter that begins with sympathy on the loss of loved ones and continues with assurances of love, Mother slips in a comment or two that surely must lighten the heart and bring a smile to the recipient as well as all who read her words now!
Here “loving the right way” offers sympathy, speaks of affection and admiration for Mme’s daughter, and ends by offering both a smile (even a laugh) and assurance of prayers.
Join the coversation
What is your favorite piece of advice shared in Mother Theodore’s letters?
What advice might Mother Theodore give to you if she were writing you a letter today?