Journals and Letters week 35: Letter of instruction, letter of prayer
Our journey with Mother Theodore this week covers the period from July 4 through Sept. 8, 1851, as reflected in two Letters Circular and one letter to Bishop Bouvier. We are not short-changed, however, by the limited period of time and written material for our conversation and reflection this week. There is much to mine from our readings. Mother Theodore is open to sharing many aspects of her wisdom, love, care, concerns, spirituality and business acumen with the recipients of these 1851 writings, and, with us, the 2021 recipients.
Instruction to the sisters
In this week’s first Letter Circular (an open letter circulated to the entire Congregation), Mother Theodore speaks with maternal concern for her Daughters. She calls them home for a time of retreat, renewal and fellowship. She calls them home also for discernment in the election of an assistant and of a mistress of novices. And, like any good mother, she provides them practical spiritual and travel guidance: to (be) “models of prudence and modesty.” Her maternal love also reflects the reality of death and loss within the community. She reminds them of Sister Marie Joseph. This sister had come home to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods the previous year for the 1850 retreat and the company of her sisters. She is now home with her Provident God.
Mother Theodore’s letter to Bishop Bouvier struck me as a type of prayer. It included praise of Providence, thanksgiving for favors received, petitions of need and a prayer of lamentation. She acknowledged those whose spirituality and actions were Providence for the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods community: Bishops Bouvier, Bazin and De Saint Palais. For their pastoral concern, she offered heartfelt thanksgiving. Her prayers of petition included the need for more Sisters of Providence with a variety of gifts, talents and formation skills. She addressed the required funding needed for the construction of a Motherhouse. And, she addressed the oppressive summer heat. It was especially burdensome with the sisters’ overcrowded living accommodations, and the plague of destructive locusts … certainly, these qualify as lamentations!
Mother Theodore’s Letter Circular of Sept. 8, 1851, again offers us an expression of sorrow experienced by the community upon the death of Sister Angelina. As we read of this young sister’s call to religious life and her dying and death, Mother Theodore’s choice of words to inform and to comfort the sisters in the missions speaks to us of her own sense of loss and of her tender consolation of her Daughters.
For Your Reflection
Have you written or received a letter that touched you as being a prayer?
What brings you consolation in times of sorrow?