Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 51: Running toward Jesus

Journals and Letters week 51: Running toward Jesus

(Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 433 to page 439 starting with Monsignor Benoit. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week.)

In the final pages of the “Journals and Letters,” Mother Theodore continues to hold up Sister St. Francis Xavier as someone to emulate in the way she lived and the way she died. It is quite obvious in these last letters that Mother Theodore’s grief and mourning for the death of her dear friend fills her soul and thoughts.

Greatest love

I loved Mother Theodore’s description of Sister St. Francis Xavier as “not even once think[ing] that she had to be judged. She heard her Jesus … calling her by name, and she ran towards Him with the greatest love and without a particle of fear.” What a beautiful image to hang on to as we reflect about the circumstances of our own death or that of a loved one!

Cross overlooking the Sisters of Providence cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana

In her second letter to Sister Mary James a week later, Mother still offers many thoughts about Francis Xavier. However, as has been so evident in our reading, practical advice once again surfaces. “Positively, you must not make the whole fast on school days. But you can mortify yourself on a thousand occasions, which occur daily and even hourly.”

Grief and love

The long letter to Francis Xavier’s mother confirms what Mother Theodore herself says in the letter: ” … I have talked of naught else in this letter but of my dear Sister St. Francis. Ever since I lost her it seems impossible to treat of any other subject. I apply myself to business matters with the greatest repugnance and only because duty demands it.” Mother Theodore sets the example for all of us that life goes on even when death shatters our expectations and that grief is not something we “get over” but something we learn to live with.

As I read the editor’s description of Sister St. Francis’ sister Sister Mary Joseph and all her contributions to the community over 29 years, I was thinking of how proud the mother must have been of these two daughters. I also thought about all their traits of love and generosity and so many others. They must have learned them from her.

About the mission

And now we come to Mother Theodore’s last letter, actually a P.S., addressed to Sister Anastasie in Evansville, as were some 90 other letters not preserved. Mother speaks of her being “sick again,” yet she offers advice on how to handle a situation “with charity and firmness.” She speaks as well about the conditions to be followed in accepting four girls for the Academy. As we have seen so often in these letters and journals, she seems always to rise above her own concerns and illness to address the needs of others, or we might say, “to be about the mission.”

Last words

Two days after this last letter was penned, Mother Theodore’s diary entry on March 17 records her last written words: “I am obliged to remain in bed. What a beautiful week [Holy Week] to be upon the cross! O good cross, I will love thee with all my heart!” Whenever I read these words I squirm a bit; I am certainly not fond of crosses and try to avoid them whenever I can. How far I have to go in my spiritual journey to be able to pray these words as fervently as Mother Theodore must have prayed them.

Also, to me, these final recorded words of Mother Theodore echo her entire stance about life. I believe she expressed it earlier in her words, “Perfect abandonment of ourselves in all things for the future requires great courage, but we ought to aspire to it.” May it be so for all of us as this journey with Mother Theodore’s “Journals and Letters” winds down to its final week of reflection and sharing.

Your turn

How do you handle your own grief or that of others?

What are your thoughts about “crosses” and “abandonment”?


Next week: Epilogue, pages 440-443

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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4 Comments

  1. Connie SP on September 25, 2021 at 7:09 am

    Thanks Sister Ann for this wonderful reflection.
    Yes indeed we need to befriend our grief and our crosses too.

  2. Michelle Barrentine on September 25, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Perspective. When you lose someone very close, you look at grief differently.
    IF you carry your cross and journey through the death of your own spirit and experience the resurrection of that same spirit having dealt with the grief, you are prepared to help others along the way. You will not give platitudes to the newly grieving, rather you will give total love and understanding of the depth of the grief.
    It’s best not to ignore the grief but to feel it and know that you will get through it with the help of our living, loving God.

  3. Jeannie Smith on September 25, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Dear S. Ann – I squirm with you.

    I must say that this experience of slowly digesting and sharing our story has been a hugely wonderful gift. With all my heart I thank you and all who have contributed through the year.

  4. Sister Sue Paweski on September 30, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I resonate with the concept of not “getting over” a loss of a loved one. The entire experience of grief, remembrance, loss, and that sense of being “wobbly” at times with what to do next fold into my life; something like folding egg whites into a batter. They are all there but transformed into something new.

    Thank you, S Ann, for giving me the chance to remember.

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