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Journals and Letters week 37: Good for nothing but to love God

(Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” pages 331 to page 338 mid-page. This is located in “Part VI: Later Letters (1846–1856)” starting with “The death of M. le Fer.” Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.)

[Just a note: When I opened “Journals and Letters” the book opened to the page right after the dedication page. It took me down the rabbit hole of finding out about the Decree of Urban VIII and its relationship to the “Journals and Letters.” If interested, I leave it to your own rabbit hole experience.]

Sister St. Francis Xavier

Sister St. Francis Xavier Le Fer

Sister St. Francis Xavier Le Fer has long been of keen interest to me. Although she had volunteered immediately to go to Indiana, she was denied that opportunity more than once.

Mother Mary, then general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Ruille, believed her to be in such poor health that Sister St. Francis would never survive the ocean voyage and the overland travel to Indiana. Too, Mother Mary found this young sister devoid of any talents useful to the mission in Indiana.

Sister St. Francis Xavier may have been weak in body, but it seems she had a will of iron.

She convinced the Bishop of Le Mans to appeal to Mother Mary. The bishop recommended that Sister St. Francis Xavier be sent to Indiana. Mother Mary denied the request.

Mother Theodore wrote twice asking Mother Mary to send Sister St. Francis to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Mary said no both times.

So Mother Theodore wrote a third time. Mother Mary finally agreed. But in her return letter to Mother Theodore, she wrote, “You will see, my Theodore, she is good for nothing but to love God.”


We get only a few glimpses of Sister St. Francis Xavier in what we’ve read. But they hint at her character and her friendship with Mother Theodore.

When Sister St. Francis’ father dies, Mother Theodore worries what effects the news will have “on the frail, yet so precious health of our dear sister … We all knew beforehand that her virtue would sustain her.” It did sustain her. Her sorrow did not lessen her resolve to continue in her missionary work.

In a show of confidence, the other sisters elected her the Director of Novices and First Assistant to Mother Theodore. What important responsibilities in the fledgling community!

Sister St. Francis readied students for first reception of the Eucharist. Her teaching must have been extraordinary. Mother Theodore relates that the pupils’ eyes “sparkled this morning when they came and said to me, ‘Oh, Mother, tomorrow!’ They could say no more.” Any teacher longs for that kind of response from students!

Most precious to me are the moments of teasing and laughter shared between Mother Theodore and Sister St. Francis. Not much is made of these small moments, but they are clues to a deep friendship between the two women — women so different from each other. What a lesson for us, an encouragement for us. Differences don’t have to divide us; differences can be the source of deep and lasting relationships.

Mother Mary may have been right about Sister St. Francis Xavier. Perhaps she was “good for nothing but to love God.” Yet what a difference her love of God made to her sisters, students and neighbors in her time. What a blessing it can continue to be in our times.

Your turn 

Fill in the blank for yourself: She or he is good for nothing but to ___________. Why do you hope that word or words describe you?

Next week > page 338 to page 346 bottom

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Avatar Jeannie Smith on June 19, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks, Denise, for these beautiful thoughts and also the rabbit hole assignment. Your words seem to go perfectly with the reflection on Father’s Day I read this morning by Brad Crites. His wisdom shared was all about the value of presence. Just presence with the cherished ones, family, friends, those in need. Not advice, not clever conversation, not admonition or any sort of talk; just presence. So, my choice is “they are good for nothing except to be present.” Not easy as it sounds, but what a gift!

  2. Avatar Linda McMahon on June 20, 2021 at 5:12 pm

    I read your reflection, S. Denise, shortly after I virtually attended a gathering for scholarship recipients. They were older students who just completed associate degrees and were matriculating to 4-year programs. Each recipient had overcome unimaginable life challenges in her youth/young adulthood. Following this recent, moving experience, my personal response is: “I am good for nothing but to listen”. I hope that by listening, I would convey honoring each woman as I acknowledge the trust placed in me as the recipient of their stories that need to be known and reverenced.

    • Avatar Denise on June 21, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      The incredible gifts we receive when we listen, really listen. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your experience.

  3. Avatar S. Denise Wilkinson on June 21, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    A gift indeed, Jeannie. Your words caused me to remember all the persons in my life whose presence soothed, consoled, challenged and amused me – gifts each one.

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