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Journals and Letters week 42: Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence

(Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 371 to page 380 mid-page. This is located in “Part VI: Later Letters (1846–1856)” starting with “To Mme. Choisnet [Le Fer de la Motte], St. Servan.” Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week.)

This week’s readings from Mother Theodore contain some of her most famous advice. The first letter we read is to the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier Le Fer. I was touched by Mother Theodore’s deep love and concern. We see that Cecile has become like Mother Theodore’s own little sister.

Taking time for others

I was struck with how Mother Theodore mentions “talking awhile with you.” In this time of cell phones and FaceTime, it is interesting to think of a time when the only way to “talk” with someone at a distance was through written form. It can be easy to forget what a luxury instant, two-way conversation is — even across the world.

Statue hand with words "Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence." - Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

I believe the context of the first letter is that Cecile is young and married and struggling with some issues in that marriage. Mother Theodore offers such lovely advice. “You ought not give way to uneasiness about the future. Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.” That last line’s comforting wisdom continues to offer support to many. It is inscribed above Mother Theodore’s final resting place in her shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A few things stood out for me in the later letters of today’s passage. One is the intimacy with which Mother Theodore writes to Sister Basilide, one of the original sisters who came with her from France. She expresses annoyance, concern, tenderness, comfort, affection. It reminds me of my relationship with my own sisters. I can feel that these women are family.


In the letter to the bishop, Mother Theodore shows that she is not a person who shies away from making hard decisions, even when it means denying the request of a dear friend. She knows that the young community is not ready to spread out as far as Louisiana as he requested. Mother Theodore is sad to have to turn down such a loyal friend and supporter, but she demonstrates in this her adept leadership ability to make hard decisions for the good of the community.

And finally, I have to chuckle (and cringe a bit) at Mother Theodore’s brutal honesty in her letter to her friend and novice director Sister St. Francis. “I never met any woman so completely useless,” she writes of a novice she is considering sending home. Mother Theodore goes on to say that the sister is aloof, stubborn and awful with children. She will not be trained as a teacher. Again, we see that Mother Theodore seems able to decide for the good of the whole, even when it means being so honest it might feel mean.

This week’s letters show the breadth of Mother Theodore as loving friend, sister and dedicated leader. She is a wonderful person for offering guidance, wisdom and truthfulness. Just the kind of person I appreciate having in my life, even if I am only able to “talk with her” via her letters and prayer.

How about you?

What characteristics of Mother Theodore do you most appreciate from this week’s readings?

Today’s letters demonstrate the importance of relationship in Mother Theodore’s life. How can Mother Theodore’s advice throughout “Journals and Letters” benefit you in your own relationships?

Next week > page 380 to page 388 top. This is located in “Part VI: Later Letters (1846–1856)” starting with “Letter Circular.”

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Advancement Services office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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  1. Avatar Ken Siarkiewicz on July 24, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you, Amy, for your comments. They pretty well echo my thoughts as I read the selection, especially the one about the “useless” individual. Wow! This yearlong exercise is a reason for reading the book again and coming away with a fresh look at Mother Theodore.

    The letters from these past two weeks led me to the conclusion that Mother Theodore would have been an excellent abbess. As a Benedictine Oblate I have read the Rule of Benedict daily for over twenty years. My mind jumped back to the Rule when I read Mother Theodore’s letters recently. She is honest and forthright and speaks what is on her mind, but does it with grace and when necessary. When she says “No” she gives the reason for the denial and provides an alternative. She treats her Sisters and physical resources with prudence and love.

    I had forgotten that she was a realistic business woman who could assess a situation and its consequences and then act with the firmness required.

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