Journals and Letters week 51: Running toward Jesus
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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
Download the complete reading schedule: