Studies consistently show that friendship is good for our health. People who maintain a circle of close friends live longer.
But it’s more than that. Friendship also is good for us spiritually. It’s a gift from God. We are obliged to make friends and be a good friend.
God maintained intimate friendships with humans since the beginning of creation and specifically created woman so that man would not be alone (Genesis 2:18). God spoke face to face with Moses as a friend (Exodus 33:11), and God called Abraham a friend of God (James 2:23). Scripture says that we too are the Lord’s friend if we fear him (Psalm 25:14). And Jesus said that those who follow his instruction are his friend.
Friendship is a priceless treasure that is more valuable than money (Sirach 6:14-16). Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 15:12), which is an element in friendship. And the greatest sign of love is when one lays their life down for a friend (John 15:13).
God was Saint Theodora’s constant friend. “God alone,” “only God,” and “put all your trust in God,” she said. She counted the Virgin Mary and Saint Anne among her spiritual friends as well.
Saint Theodora referred to the sisters she traveled to America with as her companions. Considering she was their superior, she may not have thought of them as peers or friends. She may not have felt comfortable sharing her concerns with women she led.
However, there were several people she maintained communication with that she most likely did call friends. Several families befriended her upon her arrival to the United States including the Brassiers, who she met on the ship, the Cincinnati; the Parmentiers, a prominent East Coast family; and the Thralls, who opened their home to Saint Theodora and the sisters when they arrived at St-Mary-of-the-Woods. And Saint Theodora became acquainted with Amelia, Queen of the French, when she returned to France seeking financial assistance. Saint Theodora exchanged numerous letters with all of these people.
She had several friends among the clergy as well. The Right Reverend J.B. Bouvier was a mentor and friend who guided and comforted her. Although Saint Theodora may have felt there were some issues inappropriate to discuss with a male as well as one at his level of hierarchy. And Father Corbe, Ecclesiastical Superior to the congregation stood by her through some very difficult challenges.
But Sister St. Francis Xavier, (Irma le Fer de la Motte) was Saint Theodora’s closest friend. Sister St. Frances’s health prevented her from taking the initial journey with Saint Theodora in 1840. She arrived in the U.S. the following year. Their superior, Mother Mary Lecor said that Sister St. Frances would not offer Saint Theodora much assistance. “You will see, my Theodore that she is good for nothing but to love God,” said Mother Mary.
Mother Mary later regretted her words. Sister St. Frances taught Latin and drawing and trained the postulants and novices at the American congregation. She also became Saint Theodora’s confidant and inspired her spiritually. At the end of Sister St. Frances’ life, Saint Theodora said, “Her name alone suffices to bring to mind all that is sweetest, purest, and most attractive in virtue. She was for those who knew her the ideal of religious perfection” (Journals and Letters, 423).
Sister St. Frances’ death was such a great loss to Saint Theodora, it may have contributed to her own death. Saint Theodora passed away five months after her dear friend.
©Mary K. Doyle