Journals and Letters week 48: Direct and loving advice from Mother Theodore
“You’re your own worst enemy.”
The expression came to mind several times as I read the letters to Sisters Mary James and Maria.
Certainly, over the years, I’ve come to name my “own worst enemy.” I’ve resolved millions of times to stop repeating the same old patterns of thought and behavior that prevent me from being the person I desire to be.
Name the enemy
That led me to reading the letters several times trying to name the “enemy” of Sister Mary James and of Sister Maria.
Maybe Sister Mary James’ worst enemy was scrupulosity. Because she desired perfection, she went to confession twice weekly. She worried she loved her Superior too much and judged too many distractions interfered with her prayer. Sister Mary James let her imagination run away with her.
Mother Theodore responded to her “dear, dear child” with affection, humor and common sense. “Let the evil one make all the noise he wishes around you. Do not mind him. … If you only laugh at what he says he will stay away from you for he is too proud.”
As for Sister Mary James’ active imagination, Mother Theodore recommends. “Do not let yourself be guided by your imagination, which is the la folle de la maison. (Translation: the wild woman of the house.)
More advice for Sister Maria
In her letter to Sister Maria, Mother Theodore’s tone seems direct, stern and loving. (How does Mother Theodore so consistently manage blending those seeming opposites?)
Maybe missing the obvious was Sister Maria’s enemy. In the brief letter, Mother Theodore lists these seemingly obvious points:
“It is not enough to acknowledge our faults; we must correct them.”
“You do well not to miss your Communion any more. When we are cold is not the time to keep away from the fire.”
“We are never hypocrites when we do not intend to be; hence you must not exaggerate anything. You are bad enough without making yourself worse than you are.” (I wonder if Mother Theodore smiled to herself when she wrote this. I hope so.)
I imagine Sisters Mary James and Maria sat up and took notice as they read Mother Theodore’s messages to them. As always, I certainly sat up and took notice of her words.
Is it your experience that “you’re your own worst enemy?” If so, is it possible to give a name to your enemy? What would you wish Mother Theodore to say to you about how to get along with that enemy?
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