The Catholic Nun Who Tweets A Daily Prayer To President Trump
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For some time now, many people have been talking about the ugly side of social media, and certainly some of that concern focuses on how President Trump uses it to attack and demean his critics. But others use the medium for a very different purpose - to uplift and encourage. We'd like to tell you about one such person today. She is a Catholic nun who tweets a daily prayer to President Trump - things like, dear POTUS, 662 days later, still praying you experience goodness and kindness and choose to do good and be kind in return. A kind or thoughtful word goes a long way, and a prudential choice of words is less likely to wound, spark conflict or cause markets to drop - praying #dailytweet
Now, we read about Sister Susan Francois in The New York Times, so we caught up with her in Seattle.
Sister, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
SUSAN FRANCOIS: Thank you very much.
MARTIN: Well, how did you get the idea to tweet a daily prayer to POTUS?
FRANCOIS: Well, it was very early in the term, right after the inauguration. I had been visiting my father for his birthday, which is always on the inauguration weekend, in Chicago. And all sorts of crazy stuff was just breaking on the news - arguments about how many people were at the inauguration, just some hints of what was to come with speaking of alternative facts and such. And most of my friends were in just a negative, tail-spinning space.
And so I felt like I needed a daily practice that would keep me grounded but also engaged because we really have to be engaged citizens and not just tune out. So I was in the Chicago airport waiting for my delayed flight, and it just came to me. He's on Twitter. I'm going to tweet him a prayer every day.
MARTIN: Had you been on Twitter before this?
FRANCOIS: I've been on Twitter for, I think, about 11 years, but not a super active user.
MARTIN: So how do you decide what you want to say to him every day?
FRANCOIS: So I have always prayed with the news. It's been a practice of mine for about 15 years. And so now, when I pray with my community in the morning, and then I pray the news, I think of him and try to get to some sort of engaged, non-violent response either to the latest news, whether it's tear-gassing of children, or otherwise just for him as a person. Because I think all people deserve to have someone hoping that they are good and kind.
MARTIN: I want to read one of your tweets from December 9. It says, quote, "Feeling hopeful. Many people have understood that my prayers for you-know-who are not so much about divine intervention but about human dignity, decency, common good and respect. God loves it all and all of us. We can be good and kind even as we speak truth to power," unquote. What inspired this particular day, if you can remember?
FRANCOIS: Well, when the New York Times article broke, I went a little bit viral. And so the number of people that were following me on Twitter more than doubled. And I made the mistake for a moment of looking at some of the comments on some of the social media sites that shared it, some of which were very horrible and negative and nasty, so I stopped.
But then I started getting some positive and grateful responses from people, and others were sharing things as well. And I think we just have to really be good people. It sounds really simple, but I think that's a key to us having a future.
MARTIN: What did you tweet today? Have you sent your tweet - your daily tweet yet?
FRANCOIS: I did. So today...
MARTIN: What was today's tweet?
FRANCOIS: Today in the church is - well, we call it Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoicing in Latin. Christmas is coming very soon, and it's all about joy. And so my prayer, I think, if I recall, was something to the effect of that I pray that he experiences joy in his life and chooses to live that way.
MARTIN: Do you think he - I was going to say - this is the $64,000 question, but actually, from having had this conversation with you, I'm thinking it really isn't. You're not just tweeting for him and to him but to all those who are in his orbit. You know what I mean? In a way, you're tweeting to everybody who reads his Twitter feed. But I still do want to ask if you think he reads your tweets.
FRANCOIS: No. I have no conception that he reads them. I'm not sending them to his personal account. I'm sending them to the POTUS account. And the reason for that is I in my theological studies studied the theology of resistance as an ethical response. And I know that the POTUS account is archived, theoretically. And so I really want that as a record of history. So I'm not sending it to aggravate him, to attend to him. I don't think people need to know that you're praying for them for them to feel it. It's more just to hold me accountable and to be public in that act of love.
MARTIN: Can I ask a tweet for us? Can we have one?
FRANCOIS: OK. So it'll be something to the effect of, dear @nprmichel, grateful for the conversations today and for your highlighting the ways that people can use social media for a positive effect. Thank you for all that you do - praying.
MARTIN: Oh, well, thank you.
FRANCOIS: You're welcome.
MARTIN: That is Sister Susan Francois. She's with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, and she tweets to @potus daily. She tweets him a prayer daily, and she was nice enough to tweet us one.
Sister, thank you so much for talking to us, and merry Christmas to you.
FRANCOIS: Thank you, you as well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.