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  • Sarah Raad

Everyday

“What have we to do in order to be saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for God’s love.” (Saint Theodore Guerin).

Statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin with children

I have been reflecting on the life story of the 19th century French-American Saint Theodore Guerin, who I had not heard of until the other day.


After caring for her mother and younger sisters following the murder of her father when she was only 15 years old, Saint Theodore later became a nun, joining the Sisters of Providence in France and taking the name Sister Saint Theodore. While she was still only a novice, she became ill and remained fragile and in weak health for the remainder of her earthly life.


Despite her ill-health, in 1840, Saint Theodore sailed with five other sisters to the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods parish in Indiana in the United States so that they could teach and care for the sick. After she arrived, she discovered that her superiors had decided that she would be the Reverend Mother of this new congregation of sisters in the United States and that she would not be returning to her home in France.


Saint Theodore’s life was very difficult and yet, her community continued despite many challenges. Such challenges were not insignificant and included fires, crop failure, separation from their original religious congregation, misunderstanding and prejudice against Catholics in general and particularly against religious women in the United States at that time.

Saint Theodore’s response in the face of great difficulties was to tell her sisters… “Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.” For Saint Theodore knew that “With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?”

I have been reflecting on this attitude of faith and this attitude of patience for some time now as I struggle so much to develop these traits in myself…


After all, it is one thing to reflect theoretically on the importance of the virtue of patience and practising an attitude of trust, and quite another thing to apply these attributes practically in our lives…


It would be easy for me to say – for example – if anything as terrible as a fire occurs, I shall be able to be like Saint Theodore and practice total trust in God’s providence and patiently await His Holy Will… It is quite easy to theorise – for example – if I am sick and dying then, then I shall be like Saint Theodore and be able to patiently offer up my suffering for God…


Everything is easy in theory…


Years ago, I attended the requiem Mass of the mother of one of my students – Anna Corey – who had died at a young age from cancer… During his homily, the beautiful priest who celebrated the Mass told a story of Anna choosing to deliberately delay her pain relief because she was offering her pain and suffering for the families of the nurses who cared for her.


Even though dear Anna died some years ago now, I have never forgotten this story of faith…


When I recounted the story to a dear friend, she replied – quite innocently – “Yes, but you know it’s easier to do that when you’re dying because you know that you’re soon going to be judged…”


At the time, I laughed a little at that comment and in our conversation we spoke of other things…


But now I am no longer laughing…


You see, now I see that we – all of us – are dying. From the moment of our conception, we are on a path to physical destruction from accident, disease, injury or age… Something as tiny as a microscopic virus is powerful enough to defeat our earthly life – it really does not have to take anything very big at all… A clot of blood the size of a five-cent coin in the heart or lungs or brain is enough to carry us off… Even being bitten by a big fish (which is all a shark really is) or a small reptile (which is a snake) or even a tiny little spider could be the end of us. And there are people with allergies who will die if they only touch or taste a bit of food – so food too can kill us (and not just through choking)…

And so – as I reflect on the life of Saint Theodore and on the example of such souls as Anna’s – it occurs to me that the Holy Spirit is calling for me to see my death – right here in the midst of my life…

And in seeing it there – just like that – I can have the courage to follow the advice of Saint Theodore Guerin who said… “What have we to do in order to be saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for God’s love.”


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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