Théodore Guérin

Catholic saint and nun from France

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin (Saint Theodora) (2 October 179815 May 1856), born Anne-Thérèse Guérin, was a Roman Catholic saint of French descent and the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

Mother Théodore Guérin


  • [The Community's] crosses and trials give me confidence. But I derive my hope above all, and most especially, from our utter incapacity, for it is always upon nothingness that God is pleased to rear His works. If at any day we accomplish some good here, the glory will certainly be His alone, since He has employed for this end instruments more capable of spoiling everything than of making it succeed.
    • Letter to the Very Reverend A. Martin, V.G., Logansport, 1841-10-19.
  • We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.
    • Letter to the Reverend J. Kundek, Jasper 1842-09-27.
  • You may have to wait longer than you would like, you may have to bear privations; but, bear and forebear. 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.
    • Letter to the Sisters at Jasper 1842-03-20.
  • I must close now, for I am obliged to go to Terre Haute, where I am called to court to explain my conduct and defend myself against accusations relative to counterfeit money that was said to have been received from me. One has to come to America to be treated thus! Sometimes I am so disheartened with this country that I feel as if I were carrying on my shoulders the weight of its highest mountains, and in my heart all the thorns of its wilderness. Pray for me occasionally that I may not lose courage; nay, more, that I may be brave enough to hold up others who falter sometimes.
    • Letter to the Very Reverend A. Martin, Vincennes, 1844-10-03.
  • Let us never forget that if we wish to die like the Saints we must live like them. Let us force ourselves to imitate their virtues, in particular humility and charity.
    • Letter to Sisters at Saint Mary's, 1848.
  • ...the Americans must have the Almighty dollar. Their cupidity renders them daring and indifferent to everything else. It is nothing to them to expose their lives and those of others in order to gain money. How materialistic these people are!
    • To the Right Reverend J. Bouvier, Bishop of Le Mans, Saint Mary's, 1849-07-08.
  • We have gone out several times this summer to gather simples and linden blossoms, etc. In each excursion we discover something marvelous, beautiful, and useful in the magnificent forests of Indiana. At each step we can admire the grandeur, the power, the goodness of God. How bountifully He provides for all our wants -- I would even say for our pleasures! I love our woods and solitude very much; …
    • To the Right Reverend J. Bouvier, Bishop of Le Mans, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, 1850-07-10.
  • ...they wish to make us pay taxes, which is contrary to the laws of the State. We refuse positively. It embarrasses them a little to have women resist them and speak to them about the law. Woman in this country is only yet one fourth of the family. I hope that, through the influence of religion and education, she will eventually become at least one half the "better half."
    • To Mother Mary, Superior General, Ruille-sur-Loir, 1852-02-18.
  • I have already exceeded the amount of work my head can bear.
    • Letter to Sister Basilide, Madison, 1855-02-17.

First Journal of Travel (1840)

Published in Mother Theodore Guerin: Journal and Letters, 1937.
  • Come, if we have to die, let us die, but say nothing! … so true it is that misfortune binds hearts together.
  • The true country of a Christian, but above all of a Religious, is Heaven, towards which we are tending; it is for God that we have made this sacrifice, and, I may add, He has already repaid us, for His protecting hand has assisted us in a visible manner, and we cannot but recognize the attentions of His Providence.
  • They [Sisters of Charity in Frederick] excel in music, which is an indispensable thing in this country, even for the poor. No piano, no pupils! Such is the spirit of this country -- Music and Steam!
  • Nothing troubled the charm and silence of this solitude. Making the most serious reflections on what we behold, and on our present position, I said to myself: Thus does life also pass away, now calm, now agitated, but at last the end is attained. Happy, ah, thrice happy they who can then look out to the never-ending future with calm and confidence, who can cast themselves on the bosom of God, the Center of our felicity.
  • When one has nothing more to lose, the heart is inaccessible to fear.
  • As to our garden and yard, we have all the woods. And the wilderness is our only cloister, for our house is like an oak tree planted therein.
  • It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially for an academy. All appearances are against it.

Second Journal of Travel (1844)

Published in Mother Theodore Guerin: Journal and Letters, 1937.
  • My heart full of gratitude, longed to go to the sanctuary of Mary Immaculate to thank her for having granted this day of consolation to us. Happy to be free, we went straightway to the church of Our Lady of Victory, to pour out our hearts in tears of joy in the presence of our heavenly Protector and Mother.

Third Journal of Travel (1844-1845)

Published in Mother Theodore Guerin: Journal and Letters, 1937.
  • A bell was rung. All the passengers came on deck. Never shall I forget the scene we then witnessed. It was ten o'clock in the morning. The sky was overspread with thick dark clouds. It looked like a vast temple at night, as the fitful, lurid sun cast a yellowish tinge resembling the pale light of the tapers near a catafalque. The foaming waves opened like immense tombs that seemed avid to swallow their first victim. When all was ready a porthole was opened, and a plank painted black, six feet long and three broad, was suspended over the deep. The body of a child, wrapped in a winding sheet, was placed upon it, with a large stone attached to the feet. For a minute or two the captain read -- I do not know what prayer. Profound silence reigned. The father scarcely shed a tear. The mother seemed quite unmoved. At a word spoken by the captain, the plank was raised in the air, and the next instant the light corpse glided into the waters. I made the Sign of the Cross over it, but alas, I do not know whether the child was even baptized. The passengers withdrew, apparently untouched by the scene, and some even smiled. How impiety deadens the heart!
  • Every evening at the same hour when the weather was calm, I used to go on deck and bless God for all the wonders of His creation. I loved to consider the care of God's Providence which extends even to the little fishes.
  • For true hearts there is no separating ocean; or, rather, God is their ocean, in Whom they meet and are united. They love, they lose themselves in Him.
  • The most painful sight I saw in New Orleans was the selling of slaves. Every day in the streets at appointed places, negroes and negresses in holiday attire are exposed for this shameful traffic, like the meanest animals at our fairs. This spectacle oppressed my heart. Lo! I said to myself, these Americans, so proud of their liberty, thus make game of the liberty of others. Poor negroes! I would have wished to buy them all that I might say to them, "Go! Bless Providence. You are free!"
  • The beauty of the forests of Indiana in the rich and lovely month of May surpasses all description. The rivers, swollen by the rains, flow through long lanes of verdure, caressing the islands they seem to carry with them in their course and which look like floating nosegays. The trees raise their straight trunks to the height of more than a hundred and twenty feet and are crowned with tops of admirable beauty. The magnolia, the dog-wood, the catalpa, covered with white flowers, the permed snow of the springtime, intermingle with the delicate green of the other trees.
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