CHARLES PEGUY called fathers of families, "these great
adventurers of the modern world."
How correct he was! What courage is needed to step out before life,
with a companion on one's arm, aspiring to have children and
hoping that Mother Earth will be able to support and nourish their
own little world!
Certainly the joy that attends the birth of a babe is sweet. Here is
how a father describes it:
When one sees a little one so weak yet so well formed one loves
the Creator still more and how much more one thanks Him for
giving us life! What a beautiful mystery maternity is! To see a
young mother feeding her babe suffices to incite one to adore God.
There is nothing more touching than to see this dear little treasure
resting in the arms of its mother. It was baptized on March 28.
What a majestic ceremony it was and how proud one feels to be
able to say his son is a Christian!
But what anguish is suffered if the children are sick; if the
mother's strength fails beneath her work. How anxious one grows
when the little ones cough and gasp for breath. And even if all
goes well as far as health is concerned, there is no end to buying
clothes, having shoes resoled, and providing food for the ever
When the children grow up, one must be concerned about their
education. One must start thinking about high school and college
for the boys and the girls. Which school is best? Which teachers
are best qualified? Will they take the same interest in our children
that we the parents do? Will they give them what they really need
to face life? . . .
Then come the sudden worries--auto accidents, accidents in
sports, war in which the worst bodily dangers threaten!
But worse still and more serious by far are the soul dangers--the
boy who keeps bad hours, who has an evil tongue and a shifty
glance, who evades questions and begins to lie.
Yes, indeed, what magnificent and courageous adventurers are
fathers of families!
A reporter recounted the enthusiastic acclaim the people of Paris
gave the intrepid sailor Alain Gerbault who had succeeded in
sailing around the world in a very frail skiff.
"For my part," said the reporter, "I gave to Alain Gerbault the
recognition that was his due."
But in the crowd that had gathered about the famous sailor, the
newspaper man found himself next to a family of rather humble
means to judge by their appearance, although they did not lack
dignity. There were five children with the father and mother, all
modestly and neatly dressed. The father was explaining to his
sons, "Oh, what an admirable type is this Gerbault! What a hero!"
"I shared that idea," commented the reporter, "but I thought that
father was also a hero to pilot a skiff loaded down with children on
the parisian ocean as he was doing . . . . I even wondered if it were
not more admirable than to guide a boat on the high sea with only
oneself to think of."
THE PSALM OF YOUNG MOTHERS
A YOUNG mother--very true to her role of mother and at the same
time very artistic--got the idea of comparing her role with that of
cloistered sisters. Between her washing, her cooking and the care
of her youngest, she managed to compose "The Psalm of Young
Mothers" which appeared in the 8 November issue of "Marriage
Chretien." It is full of love, full of spontaneity. Every young mother
will recognize herself in these passages we are quoting:
"O my God
Like our sisters in the cloister
We have left all for you;
We have not imprisoned the youth of our faces in a guimpe
and under a veil,
And though we have cut our hair, it is not in any spirit of
Deign nevertheless, O Lord, to cast a look of complaisance
On the humble little sacrifices
Which we offer You all day long,
Since the day our groaning flesh gave life to all these little
We are rearing for You.
Our liberty, O God, is in the hands of these little tyrants
who claim it every minute.
The house has become our cloister,
Our life has its unchanging Rule,
And each day its Office, always the same;
The Hours for dressing and for walks,
The Hours for feeding and for school,
We are bound by the thousand little demands of life.
Detached by necessity every moment from our own will,
We live in obedience.
Even our nights do not belong to us;
We too have our nocturnal Office,
When we must rise quickly for a sick child,
Or when between midnight and two o'clock,
When we are in the full sleep we need so badly
A little untimely chanter
Begins to sing his Matins.
We practically live retired from the world:
There is so much to be done in the house.
There is no possibility of going out anyway without a
faithful sitter for the little ones.
We measure out the time for visits parsimoniously.
We have no sisters to relieve us on another shift.
And when the calls for service reach high pitch for us
We have to sweep, to wash the dishes, scrape the carrots
for the stew, prepare a smooth puree for baby and keep
on going without stopping
From the children's room to the kitchen and to and fro.
We do big washings we rub and we rinse
Aprons and shirts, underclothes and socks
And all the baby's special things.
In this life of sacrifice, come to our help, O Jesus!
UP TO DATE
ONE of our modern novels gives us the following situation: Gina
Valette is a woman who is "up to date" in the unpleasant sense of
the term. Very rich and provided with a husband who thoroughly
spoils her, she has dogs, cats, a parrot, and a monkey, but no
children. Her brilliant existence palls on her. Among her friends
are mothers with children who courageously use their modest
resources to advantage and rear quite a family. Often when an
epidemic breaks out among the children of a family, a friend of
the family will take two or three of the others for the time.
To cure Gina of her depressed spirits, her friend Jamine persuades
her to take young Gilles Perdrinix whose five brothers and sisters
have the chickenpox. Gina is bewildered; she knows perfectly how
to care for a monkey but she finds herself embarrassed before this
little Perdrinix boy who judged her severely from the height of his
"How ignorant she is! How much is lacking in her training!" Little
Gilles sighed to think of it. "She knows how to smoke," he said to
himself sadly, "but she can't give me a lift to button my shirt." He
did not complain nor did he reproach her; but on seeing her so
clumsy, he thought she had much to learn to become a woman like
Happily there are other kinds.
A mother of a family and a brilliant author wrote in the preface of
a volume on "The Mother" which she was requested to write by the
editor of a series entitled "The Up to Date Woman," "How shall I
ever write this little book? There are no up-to-date mothers. There
are only Mammas."
And with charming dash coupled with irresistible conviction she
gave young wives this advice:
"Little Lady, you are embarking upon married life on the arm of a
husband who is all taken up with you, who probably wants nothing
more than to believe in you, to follow you and to approve of
everything that touches the essence of your being. Do not listen to
those frustrated women or those soured unmarried girls, or those
Jezebels who have nothing of the matron about them but their age
and have no real experience; do not let them draw you out of the
right way. Be convinced, that the joy which babies bring is
inexpressible and makes up for all the torment and fatigue of
bearing them. Be certain that the sight of that plump, smooth little
body; of those dimpled hands and feet, both like pink silk yet
provided with sharp nails; of that darling little mouth with its
toothless smile, so simple and so trustful that the bright look, so
marvelously pure, the soft cheeks, the silky hair, the utter quiet
abandonment of this little being who issued forth from us floods
our soul with an intense and intimate ecstasy such as I have never
If only the up-to-date woman would be a mother for the future.
After the dark hours of the war, new life must be born.
There will be lives only if there are mothers, mothers who respond
to their essential and divine vocation.
Even if there were not this motive of special need, eternal reasons
still have force--the law of fecundity and the law of chastity:
Although it is permissible for married persons to abstain from the
conjugal act or to perform it only when there is the least
possibility of conception provided their reasons are not selfish; if
they do perform the marital act they may do nothing to prevent
the generation of a life which is in the plan of God. That is clear.
Give me, O my God, the grace through respect for You and for Your
work, always to have a devotion to and a respect for life; grant that
I may never sully my own existence by any criminal attempt upon
new life. Grant me also the grace to be in Your Hands a not too
unworthy instrument of Your creative power. Let me be "up-to-
date" whenever it is a question of enrolling a new name in the Book
IN ORDER to fulfill his task conscientiously, a father needs
First among these qualities is an unfailing courage. In homes
where life is easy--and in what family today is life easy--he can
rest on the fortune amassed by his ancestors. But that melts so
soon. In homes where the family lives truly on the daily bread,
how much he must exert himself to earn that bread for the day.
There's more than one meal that has to be provided for a single
day. And the clothing? And the shoes? And the bills--from the
doctor, the pharmacist, the grocer? Days follow upon each other,
weeks overlap and months roll by; the home is augmented by one
more. How shall he cope with this world of his?
With courage, the father needs a quiet confidence in God. Surely, if
they understand their duty well, true fathers know how to space
births somewhat without failing in the least against the laws of
marriage; and this for some requires heroic courage. But even then
when one does not tempt Divine Providence but lives in a prudent
and continent moderation, it is still necessary in order to keep
above the surface of life to cast anchor in the deep and wait for
the desired help from God--imperturbably serene through it all.
And who will measure the untiring patience that he will need to
bear those almost necessary difficulties of character in a most
loving and attentive wife; to endure the crying and weeping of the
babies at night; to bear with the noisy games of the growing
children when he wants to work in quiet; to try to make the income
at least balance expenses; to build up a declining business; to find
new openings for his products; to develop a better and wider
clientele. Patience alone will see him through!
How he will need authority with the children to reinforce the
mother's control who, either because she is too busy or too easy
going, lets them take advantage of her now and then!
He will not have this authority without insight which will help him
distinguish the pre-dominant character traits of each child and
determine the best means to provide for the training of all so that
their virtues are developed and their faults are checked; to read
their souls, their inmost thoughts, the progress of their dreams for
the future . . .
All in all, what skill, what firmness, what adaptability, what
sanctity he will need! And here is just a poor father consecrated
such by circumstances and who, just a young fellow himself, has
never weighed his future responsibilities--or not very seriously
Oh, how deeply I feel, Holy Virgin Mary, that you must help me.
Our Lady of great courage, give me strength! Virgin most patient,
give me patience! Seat of Wisdom, give me insight into characters!
Mother and Queen of Jesus, give me a gentle, but firm authority!
Holy Mary, give me holiness more than all else! I have not attained
the degree God wants of me for my mission in life; I am well aware
of that. Draw me, O Immaculate Virgin, draw me to the heights;
you are so near to God; you dwell in the radiance of His light and
His omnipotence; lead me on, higher!
THE family, a workshop of life for earth, a workshop for eternity!
1. A Workshop of Life: What power to have control over the creation
of life! God, who could have created human beings all by Himself
wished to give His creatures the gift of a power which belonged
only to Him. Consequently, souls will not come into the light
unless parents consent to it. They will not create souls, to be sure,
but by generating bodies they furnish God the means of increasing
the number of souls.
Have I meditated often enough upon this magnificent power which
has been conferred on me? A power which I share equally with her
who is the companion of my existence? Have I meditated on the
glory of fatherhood? The glory of motherhood? Have I considered
what a grave sin it is to place the act which generates life and then
to prevent through perverted will the coming of life to a potential
human being? Or to snuff out the life which is developing in the
womb of the mother?
The author of the novel "Jeanne," though not a Christian, clearly
pleads the cause of Christian morals in the play he produced from
his novel. The following scene gives in brief the theme of the
MADELEINE--Jeanne is always present. . . Do you know the dream I
often have? I see a little hand which is trying to open a door. We
are very comfortable you and I and we both push against the door
with all our strength so that Jeanne cannot come in to take away a
little of our ease, our luxury, our warmth . . . Then the little hand
falls down and we begin to count gold pieces so as not to hear
anything . . . A little whimper. . .
ANDRE--That's a nightmare! ...
MADELEINE--For you yes. Remorse is a policeman. . .
ANDRE--Don't you love me anymore, Madeleine?
MADELEINE--Since we were accomplices. . .I loved you to folly, but
this love was snatched away with my child. When I came back from
that abortionist, you noticed no change in my attitude. But Andre it
was another woman you clasped in your arms . . . a sort of dead . . .
ANDRE--Then, always, forever, that will be between us?
MADELEINE--Not between us, with us!
Have I ever thought of the tragic intimate dramas that conjugal
cheating gives rise to in the lives of parents? Have I thought of the
harm done to society in times of peace? To the country I love,
weakening its defenses, threatening its safety in times of war? To
the Church who would have had some saints among those children
who were denied birth, in any case, some priests and religious . . .
Have I thought of all that?
2. A Workshop for Eternity: The family not only contributes an
increase to earthly existence but it also increases more divine life
on earth, and that in two ways--from the moment of its
establishment and later: The day the man and woman receive the
sacrament of Matrimony, they produce, if we may so dare to speak,
more divine life; each of the two become richer in the life of the
Trinity within themselves; the Eternal is intermingled to a greater
degree in the existence of both. Then come the children. Each will
possess within itself the germ of eternity, something of the life
which will never end. Death will come to end life here below, but
this life is destined to bloom again: "I believe in the resurrection of
the body and life everlasting" we recite in the Creed.
To be sure, the children have free will, they can fail to attain their
destiny. The devil and evil concupiscence must always be
conquered. But if their origin is Christian, if the parents have done
all they possibly could to do their duty and rear their offspring as
they ought, it would be failing in Hope to think of the family's
being eternally cut off from some of its members.
I shall pray fervently that we may all be reunited in heaven, that
we eternally sing the Sanctus as a chorus with not one of us
THE profession of fatherhood and motherhood has its
responsibilities even before the birth of the children. Someone has
said, "Every man is an heir; every man is an ancestor." Just as we
receive through our ancestral line many of our traits, so too we
found a line of descendants, and we transmit to those descendants
something of what we are ourselves.
If we were free to transmit only the good, how truly it would be
worth transmitting! But it does not work that way. It is impossible
to foresee what part of us will pass on to our successors. Whoever
performs the work of imparting life runs the risk of imparting to
the one born of him some of his worst with the best. Wherever
there is propagation by generation the mystery of heredity has its
place, a frightening place. It is not in vain that God gives this
warning in the twentieth Book of Exodus: "I am the Lord thy God,
mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Me; And
showing mercy unto thousands to them that love Me and keep my
Commandments." There is a similar idea expressed in the
prophecy of Ezechiel.
A certain father took part as a young man in a sinful escapade. He
corrupted his blood; a germ entered into him. Should he be
astonished then that at the moment in which he transmits life, that
very life will be contaminated? He took precautions; he was cured.
That is possible. It is not always certain. There are often
unpleasant surprises. Even when the malady does not recur in the
first generation, it is possible that it may reappear in the second or
third or even later.
It is the same in the case of lesser evils which nevertheless leave
their corrupting effects--habits of laziness, intemperance in the
use of liquor, a wasting of one's forces. It all tells.
The mother also formerly lived too fast. Her life was characterized
by an excessive effort to follow the capricious changes in styles,
too intense a participation in strenuous sports, an abuse of strong
liquors or over-indulgence in smoking, too much loss of sleep
because of empty and sophisticated night-life or hours of reading
thrillers or indiscriminate running to movies. Here she is now
leaning over her baby's cradle. The little thing is weak and puny
looking as if it were trouble just to breathe. The doctor is called.
There are certainly many reasons for sicknesses and weakness in
babies other than the imprudences of the mother and father. But is
it not true that in many cases if the doctor were sincere he would
have to say: "Madam, there are maladies here which wisdom could
prevent but which science cannot circumvent." To have healthy
and vigorous children, parents must deserve it.
But far be from us any unjust generalizations! It often happens
that in the most deserving families where parents have always
done their duty, God may send weak and sickly children either for
the sanctification of the parents or for reasons known to Himself
But it still remains true that in many a household an unbelievable
thoughtlessness serves as the prelude for so serious an act as the
procreative act. How many fathers and mothers ought to meditate
on the words spoken by Our Lord with a different implication to
the women of Jerusalem as He trudged along to Calvary, "Weep
over Yourselves and your children."
What a tragic mystery is human heredity! Physical impurities, and
in part, tendencies which foster moral weaknesses can be
transmitted to one's descendants. Some children will issue forth
victorious over terrible struggles only painfully because there is
weighing upon them the crushing weight of faults or frightful
frivolities to which others before them have consented!
IT IS worth considering more than once the responsibility that can
rest with the parents when some children do not achieve their full
possibility or even turn out badly.
Let us of course give due blame to the evil concupiscence which
can provoke a painful transformation in children even when the
parents have done everything possible.
It remains true just the same that in a good number of cases, the
father and the mother or one or the other must plead guilty.
A boy is sent to college. He gets along fine until the sophomore
year. From then on he bungles everything, abandons right
conduct, falls in with dangerous companions, carries on high to
such an extent that he has to be expelled. And when a professor
expresses astonishment, the dean will give this explanation: "It's
his background; unfavorable heredity; his brothers were just the
same. The mother is a saint, but the father is one of those
unfortunate individuals who is ruled by his senses; he has caused
much suffering to his wife. It is just the traces of the father
showing up in the children."
The explanation can be taken for what it is worth. The law of
heredity is not a mathematical law. There is no doubt, however,
that it is operative, more operative than one thinks.
When heredity is not to blame, it can often be a matter of bad
training. How good parents are, how very good, too good, too weak!
It is their own formation which is faulty; it should be done over.
A mother brought her young son to the doctor for an examination.
The doctor prescribed a remedy. "The medicine was not pleasant
to take but it was very potent," he said. Well and good; they had
the prescription filled.
Some time later they returned to the doctor.
--"Well, now, how's our patient?"
--"Not any better, doctor."
--"How's that? Didn't the medicine take effect?"
--"No, doctor, it was too hard to take; he wouldn't touch it!"
How much botch-work of that kind goes on! Parents satisfy the
child's every whim. They recoil before the first tears, before the
mere signs of an outburst, before less than that--a frown, a pout, or
a dejected look. They are lost!
Reversing the scriptural phrase, "Cain, where is thy brother Abel?"
an author speaking of social problems, which can well be
duplicated in the family and in education asked, "Abel, what have
you done with Cain?" In other words: "You good people, are you not
responsible through your faults or your incapacities that some
good individuals have become bad?"
I have charge of a soul; I may have a plural charge--several souls.
What has been my conduct until now? Do I not have to reproach
myself with many faults or at least many weaknesses? And I am
surprised at the results obtained! Are they not the logical outcome
of my bungling?
Let me examine myself; consider the whole problem seriously; if it
is necessary, let me reform.
The Family Spirit
BEFORE the war, family spirit was on the decline and on the verge
of being lost. There were exterior and interior reasons.
Exterior reasons: Means of travel had become easier and
encouraged people to go out as much as possible. At times, the
whole household would take the train or auto for an excursion but
more often than not one or other member of the family would go
off for himself with the car.
Young girls began to leave home more than formerly for purposes
of study, Red Cross causes, Social Service training or simply to
take a position. Many who had no such need at all left home for no
other reason than not to have to remain at home. Anything rather
than stay home!
Various activities and organizations were always sufficient excuse
or pretext for absence. Household activities held no appeal for
these young women and often repelled them. The remembrance of
confidences from their mother in some of their intimate sessions
frightened some of them.
The world with its perpetual and superficial and useless activity
drew many young men and even more young women into its crazy
dance and encouraged the desertion of the home.
Interior Reasons: Some homes make no attempt to be attractive;
life in them seems too austere to the children; the mother is too
busy, the father is always grouchy, upset by the least noise, easily
irritated and perhaps, even without knowing it, frigid and abrupt
in his manner of speaking . . . Sometimes there is an unfortunate
lack of harmony between the parents. The atmosphere is always
charged with a threatening storm. There is no relaxing, no peace,
no trust . . . Each one wants his liberty, to go his own way. The
children caught between two fires do not know to which saint they
should dedicate themselves. Therefore they too go away, or if they
can't they close up within themselves . . . Each one in the house
stands on his dignity.
It is quite true that children have become more difficult to train.
They always have been difficult but they are more of a problem
today than in the past. A tendency developed to give them greater
leeway which created a greater distance than was wise between
fathers and sons and especially between mothers and daughters; it
was an imaginary difficulty rather than a real one in many cases
but only too frequently it gave rise to a cruel estrangement.
No one can prevent the difference of twenty years more or less
between father and son or mother and daughter; that it should be a
difference is to be expected; but that it should be a barrier, no!
And while there are parents who cannot remember that they were
once twenty years old, most of them can.
"I dream of a daughter who will be like me but also very different,"
wrote a mother; "because I should not like to produce only a
duplicate but neither should I like to be only a rough draft of a
more perfect pattern."
Then she continues to explain that her daughter will be able to
come to her in all confidence to tell her about her first infatuation;
she will understand her and will even tell her how she herself at
about the age of eighteen fell madly in love with a violinist of
exceptional talent and that her own mother so completely entered
into sympathy with her that she helped her daughter compose the
burning letter of admiration in which her newly-born ardor was
poured out . . . Together mother and daughter waited for the
fervent response . . . which had never come!
Poor children, who feel that their parents do not understand them!
But if they do understand! It is their duty not to approve of
everything, but they understand! Then they are ready to help, not
always by writing a love-letter, but to encourage, to warn, to
support the children in their undertakings, to sustain their
enthusiasm, to lead them to their goal.
"THE WHOLE SEA"
PEOPLE sometimes say: "What is the use of trying to rear children
as good Christians; they will be lost sight of once they enter upon
life in the midst of the great masses. Will any one so much as
notice their presence? Will they be able to leave their mark? Will
they not run the risk of being crushed by the amorphous mass and
quickly covered over by some all-embracing platitudes'" Or again,
"What is the use of trying to establish a home that is a Christian
community, a veritable monastery of Christian virtues--and by that
we don't mean an atmosphere like a morgue but an exemplary
group governed by Christian devotion and love--when all about us
there are only mediocre families? They are not bad but worldly,
with no depth to their Christianity. We would be drowned by all the
Pascal gave the answer to these questions when he said, "The
whole sea rises for one stone that is thrown into it." Though it
appear but an insignificant pebble in value, it at least assures
one's contribution to a common work. Has it not always been the
minority groups who transformed the world?
You say, "What is the use of troubling ourselves and working to
form Christians and real men when all about us the mass of
humanity is becoming more and more dechristianized and less
virile? Lacordaire suggests an answer similar to Pascal's, "Simple
drops of water that we are, we wonder what need the ocean has of
us; the ocean could tell us that it is made up of nothing else but
little drops of water."
That is true of individuals; it is true of families.
If we could do nothing to effect numbers we can at least effect
quality--the policy of the leaven. What matters the thickness and
weight of the dough, if the leaven which works in it possesses
Let us throw dynamic Christian personalities into society; where
can they be better prepared than in Christian families and
institutions? We ought to, that's sure. In the midst of indifferent
families, let us settle some distinctly Christian families who do not
compromise when duty is involved, who radiate joy, manifest the
beauty of virtuous living and bear witness to Christ by apostolic
zeal. And then count on God to assure the result.
The result is certain. We must have faith in Him and believe in the
power of radiating centers.
"Unless there are in our cities and towns, homes where Christian
life flourishes, every hope for Christian civilization is doomed,"
wrote a university man of note shortly before the war.
To Christianize a town, a village, a neighborhood, in short any
milieu involves more than multiplying activities which do not even
get into the blood-stream of real living; it means an invention of
new ways of life, as for example group formation of families who
give a public example of Christian virtues by living in loving and
fraternal communities, breaking with the forms of mediocre living
and substituting for it in their relations with others a true form of
friendship rooted in the Gospel spirit.
What was true before the war is even truer now. There is still a
desperate need for a renovation of the Christian world, and of the
whole world for that matter; this renovation will be achieved only
through Christian families, by thorough-going Christians within
these solid Christian homes, and fervent community groups of
SOMEONE has suggested the following "slogans" for Happy Home
1. Always appear before your family in a good humor. Nothing is
so depressing for the rest of the family as a father or mother out of
sorts. See that the family never has to suffer because of your
attack of nerves or your irritability.
2. Never weary in cheering your family with your smile: It is not
enough to avoid depressing the family; that is purely negative.
You must brighten them up, let their spirits expand. Be especially
vigilant when the little ones are around. You must give them the
alms of a smile, hard though it be at times. What a pity when
children have to say, "I don't like it at our house."
3. Tell what you may tell openly: If something must not be told,
then don't tell it. If you may share it then do so. We ought to let
others profit by our experience, above all, the family.
4. Amiably show the greatest interest in the least things: The
problems of family life are generally not affairs of state. However,
everything that concerns the persons we love most in the world
should be worthy of interest: the baby's first tooth, the honor
ribbon won at school, the entrance of one of the little ones into the
Holy Childhood Association.
5. Banish exaggerated asceticism from your life heroically: If your
home is Christian and each member of the family is learning to
carry his cross, then it is essential to avoid making others suffer
by a too ostentatious or inopportune austerity. Besides there is
abundant opportunity for self-renunciation in devoting oneself to
procuring joy for others. Marie Antoinette de Geuser used to
sacrifice her great longing for recollection and her taste for a
simple life by accompanying her brothers to evening affairs for
which she wore dresses that she said "made her look vain."
6. Be very attentive to treat all alike. Nothing is so disrupting to
home life as the evidence of favoritism for one or the other child.
The same measure for all!
7. Never think of yourself but always of them in a joyous spirit:
Henry the Fourth used to crawl around on all fours, with his
children on his back, to enliven the family get-together. Louis
Racine, the son of the famous Racine, relates of his father, "My
father was never so happy as when he was free to leave the royal
court and spend a few days with us. Even in the presence of
strangers, he dared to be a father; he belonged to all our games. I
remember our procession in the garden in which my sisters were
the clergy, I was the pastor and the author of "Athalie" came along
carrying the cross, singing with us."
8. Never begin an argument, always speak prudently. Discussion
should not be banned unless it develops into bickering or
argument. A free habit of exchanging ideas on a broadening
subject cannot but be profitable; the children should even be
encouraged and led into it to develop in them a wise and
discriminating mind and a habit of suspended judgment. Unsavory
and disturbing subjects as well as those beyond their depth ought
naturally be avoided.
9. Act patiently always, answering graciously always: That it takes
the "patience of an angel" to rule vigilantly over the little world of
the family is beyond question. I must apply myself to it affably.
10. By good-will you will gain hearts and souls without exception:
Love much--that is the key to it all.
These slogans for a Happy Home Life are not marvels of prose but
they do express a precious rule of wise family discipline.
THE FAMILY TABLE
MEALTIME should serve not only to nourish the body but also to
comfort the soul.
Someone wittily said: "Repast, repose." Whoever it was made a
While the children are still little the mother and father will
probably breakfast alone. When they are older, if the father cannot
be present because of his work, the mother at least should be
present to set the example for table etiquette, to make sure that
the children eat enough, properly, without greediness, and without
rejecting what is not to their liking. This is the hour for the
household to shake off sleepiness which still stupefies them, and
to season the atmosphere with joy and genial good spirit.
At the main meals all except the babies will be present. The
parents should exercise the greatest care not to come to table
laden with their worries, a prey to the preoccupations of their
duties or their professional activities. The only possible exception
to this rule would probably be during a time of family
bereavement or exceptional sorrow. But even then a just mean
should be observed so that the young ones need not be unduly
depressed. They ought to keep all their verve and to a certain
point, their power of fancy.
Except when it is essential that the whole family share the
concerns of all in common, the father and mother should not come
to table looking downhearted and pass the mealtime discussing
their hard lot in life. Children are quick to sense the worry of their
parents, they feel that things are not going well, if there is tension
or estrangement, if evil has hit the home. When they perceive
things of this sort, their little hearts contract and a certain unease
And why make someone who is not equal to it bear the burden and
heat of the day?
After the first few moments in which the father and mother
exchange a few words about decisions they must make concerning
affairs which need not be kept from the children, they ought to
direct the conversation here and there to the younger and the
older; let them tell how they spent the morning or afternoon; show
an interest in the efforts of all, in the work they did, the virtues
they practised or the disappointments they met. Even if the father
and mother have heavy cares, they should force themselves to
escape from them long enough to be attentive listeners to the
thousand details that all wish to recount. Each one must know that
he can speak freely, provided that it is always politely, discreetly
and charitably. Should there be some little chatterboxes, they must
be taught to moderate their intemperance which would prevent
others from having their say. If one of the children seems to be in
bad humor, he should be stimulated by a little kindly teasing, a
kind word or an opportune question.
When the children pull out all the stops, call for pianissimo; when
they observe too long a pause speed up the tempo. Should one or
the other strike a false note get him back in the key again.
The parents should not be satisfied with listening to the little
stories of their children. They too should contribute to the
broadening of their knowledge by giving them worthwhile
information, relating an amusing or instructive story or starting a
discussion on an interesting subject.
Rene Bazin, the novelist, speaks of those families in the North of
France who still keep to the custom of beginning the meal with a
short reading from the life of some saint or famous hero. Wasn't it
Father Lourdel who entered the White Fathers after hearing the
story of the African martyrs? All that relaxes, elevates, and lends
variety. It might even be a reading from the letter of a relative or a
selection from a newspaper. The main idea should be to entertain
and as far as possible expand hearts.
A CHRISTIAN SETTING
ONE of the most touching descriptions is found in the account by
Louis Veuillot of his visit to the home of one of his old friends
whom he had not seen since the day of his marriage fifteen years
The visitor was admitted by the old servant who did not recognize
him; he had to give his name. "Come," she said, "The Master is
upstairs with Madam in their own room."
They went up. It was still the blue room whose picturesque
decoration his old friend had admired so much in days past.
He recognized his friend despite the work of the years upon his
features; his eyes were still keen, but it was evident that he had
been weeping. The wife he remembered only vaguely.
"In my memory she was the fairy of youth dressed in flowing
robes, crowned with flowers, with a smile on her lips, approaching
reality over the green roads of Spring. A smile that nothing chased
away, a mind that had never known fear, ears which had heard
nothing but gentle words, hands which carried only wreaths of
flowers, she personified the morning, the gloom, the promise of
life. So she appeared to me on her Wedding Day--a Christian
woman yet a child, a harmony of beauty, faith, love, candor. She
was earnest because she believed; happy because she loved;
radiant because she was pure.
"Now after fifteen years she is a wife who has aged from the cares
of her home; she is a daughter in mourning for her mother, a
mother in mourning for her children.
"On her pallid face the torrent of her tears have furrowed more
deeply the traces of the years; in her heart, submission to the
Cross; she stifles the sob of Rachel. I remembered that we used to
call her Stella Matutina, Morning star; now, I thought, we would
have to call her Mater dolorosa, Mother of sorrows."
Then his eyes glanced at the walls of the room. They were not
adorned as before. Formerly, there had been no crucifix. Now there
was one. It occupied the place once held by a picture of Diana, the
Goddess of the Chase. A little distance away, there was a picture of
Mary at the Foot of the Cross. "We put it there to replace some
poetic pictures at the time our first child died," the husband
He continued, "This design above the dressing table where we used
to have the painting of "The Great Festival of Watteau" is a copy of
my father's tombstone in the village cemetery. It is over in that
direction that I began to build and the cypress trees around the
house are the first trees I planted. Here at the side is the picture of
my wife's mother; she died in this room which we alone can use
from now on. These other pictures are what remains to us now of
all the dear souls who reared us, worked and suffered for us and
provided so tenderly for our happiness. And here is a picture of
our dear little Therese, our little saint, the second child God took
from us. She left us last year when she was only six years old. She
cried out before she died, 'God, God, where is God? I want to go to
God!' She took with her the last happy days of her mother."
All that does not depress souls. Earth after all is not heaven. It is
only the vestibule. That in itself is beautiful. And, as the author
explains at the end of his description, "separations only increase
our confidence, love and peace."
CHRISTIANITY demands detachment. Of all, interior detachment--
to use things as if we did not use them. Of some, complete exterior
detachment--the vow of poverty for religious which differs in
degree of severity according to the Rules of the Order entered,
from the actual and rigid deprivation of the disciples of Saint
Francis of Assisi to the simple dependence relative to the
possession of things or administration of money required in
Congregations which are less austere.
But what should be the degree of effective poverty required or at
least desired in people of the world?
We hear people speak of the "duty of improvidence" or the "virtue
of insecurity." What are we to think of these expressions and the
ideal they express?
It is certain that love of gain is dangerous and that privation when
accepted in the right spirit detaches.
It is equally certain that normal gain, that is to say not beyond
bounds and obtained through honest means, is legitimate.
Furthermore, economy, when it is not grounded in avarice or
inordinate attachment to money but in the virtue of prudence, is
not to be condemned.
With the good sense for which he is famous, Saint Francis de Sales
says very aptly in Part One, Chapter Three of his "Introduction to a
Devout Life": "If husbands would not desire to amass any more
than Capuchin monks, would not their piety be ridiculous, ill-
regulated, and unbearable?"
Pope Pius XI, as well as Leo XIII, far from condemning economy
expressed the wish that all should be in a position to benefit from
it. Here is what is expressly stated in the Encyclical,
"Quadragesimo Anno," a replica one ought say of the famous
Encyclical on "The Condition of the Working Classes" written forty
"It is necessary to do everything possible that the share of wealth
which accumulates (in certain hands) may be reduced to a more
equitable measure and that a sufficient abundance of it is divided
among the workers . . . so that they may increase through economy
a patrimony capable of permitting them to meet the burdens of
There are in these lines a condemnation of excess and the
justification of the practice of economy.
Excess constitutes the hoarding of wealth, the accumulation of
reserves for one's own personal use and with no thought at all for
the common good--"to put in reserve and accumulate for one or
several persons, under the form of gold, moneys, bank notes or
even certain company titles, an excessive power of purchase
instead of spreading it for the common good of the whole of
humanity," is the way Pius XI expresses it.
The practice of economy is clearly indicated: "Under the direction
of the Eternal Law and the universal government of Divine
Providence, notes Leo XIII, man is his law and his providence." We
must not ask God to reward our folly, our folly of spending wildly,
putting nothing aside with the presumptuous assurance oneself,
"God will help me if I fall into want."
There must be no passivity in our abandonment. We have to
cooperate with God. Do one's best and then count on Providence
should be our motto.
Far from us be any such thing as pagan foresight which makes us
practically ignore the role of Divine Providence and count only on
the money we have piled up; which makes us lose sight of the real
purpose behind the practice of economy which is decidedly not to
guarantee protection from want to a few but to help along toward
the well being of all. Must we remind ourselves that
superabundant capital may not be spent according to the whims of
the owner. The surplus wealth which people possess, as our Lord
has clearly pointed out, must be considered as a "trust-fund to be
administered for the good of others, a stewardship, a guardianship
which is to be exercised for the good of the community and in the
interests of the community."
THE PROVIDENTIAL ROLE OF INSECURITY
GOD is not the enemy of security. He wants man to earn the daily
bread for his old age by his labor. He wants society to guard
against depressions and to guarantee to all a life protected by law.
He requires certain privileged individuals to come to the aid of
their brothers in need, especially, as it frequently happens, when
society is powerless to help.
Does that imply then that God cannot permit insecurity for
someone's good? Certainly not.
It is so easy to abuse security:
--Perhaps through selfishness by skimping one's life, refusing the
entrance of love into one's life or setting up barriers to the
possible gift of children from Divine Providence.
--Perhaps by purely pagan prudence, the attitude of the wicked
rich in the Gospel, I will pull down my barns, and build larger
--Perhaps by pride. What is Divine Providence anyway? I have
money and the means of making it bring in more. God doesn't
In addition to its already precious role of crushing false hopes of
security conceived by pagan-mindedness, insecurity has power
proper to itself.
It forces us to think of God. Here I am, I have done all that I could,
worked my best, saved without being niggardly but with legitimate
prudence and now I am struck by a catastrophe--the death of the
head of the family, or an untimely accident, war . . . I have nothing
left, or if it is not so bad as that, Trial has at least made deep
inroads on the possessions I had.
What should I do? Get discouraged? Never!
I will call up all my energy; try to salvage from the present
situation whatever can help my best efforts and count on Divine
Providence without in the least neglecting foresight. God helps
those who help themselves.
I must believe that Our Lord surrounds those who find themselves
in need through no fault of their own with a special predilection.
"Do not forget," wrote a navy lieutenant to his wife at the outbreak
of the war of 1914, "that uncertainty permits us to count more on
God . . . riches hide some of God's delicate attentions from us . . .
We have the best of the game with God."
What a beautiful expression of faith! Since human aid can so easily
fail, God owes it to Himself to come to the aid of those who put
their trust in Him. "We have the best of the game with God!"
Consequently, abandonment to God is in keeping with wise
A person does his best to avoid falling into a state of need. If God
requires that all or much of his efforts come to naught, he ought
not despair; let him submit valiantly to the yoke again; if he has a
lively faith, he will thank God for having permitted "the caresses
of poverty." The individual of himself could never have achieved
the actual poverty of religious life; he can now at least accept the
privations permitted by Providence and strive to live more literally
the Gospel precept: "Make for yourself purses that do not grow old,
a treasure unfailing in heaven, where neither thief draws near nor
moth destroys." Luke XII, 33.
THE SNUFF BOX
FATHER VAUGHAN, known from the poorest to the most
distinguished sections of London, as a famous preacher, the
brother of several prelates one of whom was the Cardinal
Archbishop of Westminster, learned much from his father who was
a colonel in the British Army.
One day, at table, the little fellow took a very greedy portion of
jam. His father reproved him for it and clinched his correction
with the comment, "Whoever wants to become a man--a gentleman-
-knows how to conquer himself."
The child was hurt and becoming somewhat impudent retorted,
"Oh, after all, Papa, you have your snuff box!"
Colonel Vaughan immediately put his hand into his pocket, drew
out the snuff box and before the whole group threw it into the fire.
The history of the Vaughan family provides many such incidents
which make profitable reading.
That's what we call fair play. If one wants to get another to do
something, he must first of all do it himself. There should be
justice. Not that children have a right to judge their parents, but
parents should be careful not to give their children occasion to
judge them badly.
We are sometimes amazed when young people who were very
pious at one time and who have received a Christian education
from start to finish, later on abandon the practice of their Faith.
We must go back to the source. The mother was a practicing
Catholic, the father suited himself about attendance at Mass; he
had very quickly given up family prayer. The children rarely saw
him perform an act of worship. No other explanation is needed to
The same holds true for the spirit of sacrifice, for prayer, and for
Here is a child at table who has a mania for crumbling his bread
into little pieces or to scatter crumbs all about his plate. The
mother corrects him, for it.--"Oh but Papa does it too!"
So it goes with everything. People say they are terrible children.
Why of course, all children are terrible. They record with unerring
fidelity the examples they witness. And since examples strike
incomparably harder than words, parents preach in vain, if they
themselves do not practice; instead of forming, they deform. who
knows whether the little irregularities of today will not culminate
in the regrettable crimes of tomorrow.
Great consideration should be given to the fact that "the child is
father to the man." Parents are therefore bound to watch
themselves, their habits, their behavior, their speech.
Parents will be so free at table; they criticize the Pope, the bishops,
the pastor, such and such persons among their relatives and
acquaintances; their judgments are only too frequently severe or
at least imprudent. Need they be astonished if later their children
"who come from such Christian families," are free in passing
criticisms about their highest superiors and other persons most
deserving of respect. Whose fault is it?
"But they're so little; they don't understand what we're talking
about!" How do you know? Although they do not understand
everything or at least not right away, some impression will stay
with them, and the habit of judging indiscriminately will be well
planted to sprout later. What great damage is done! What out-and-
I will pay great attention to my children. They can be my best
educators. I should give them the least possible occasion to teach
me a lesson.
THERE can be such separation of soul between parents that they
finally live their own lives; they no longer live together as husband
and wife; they are father and mother, but not exactly husband and
wife--a situation unmeasurably sad.
Sadder still is the home in which the father and mother still
maintain husband and wife relations but do not understand each
other at all; they are perpetually arguing or sulking or exchanging
sharp words; they no longer love each other and consequently find
that their life together offers nothing but constant occasions to
make each other suffer.
If these unfortunate individuals have children, especially younger
children, have they never wondered what possible questions might
be tormenting their little heads; what bewildered anguish strangles
their little souls which vainly seek to bestow their frail yet ardent
love somewhere in this remote region made bleak and barren by
How can they decide whose part to take? They can't. "Whom do you
prefer, your mamma or your papa?" someone asked a little boy. He
hesitated a moment, then said, "I prefer them both." And even if
the child's heart leans more toward the one than the other, how
could it decide who is more in the right or more in the wrong?
Those wretched parents who are so out of harmony with each other
ought to meditate often on the touching prayer of the little child
who got the idea of walking his estranged parents down to the
beach one fine evening; as he walked along the way with his father
and mother on either side of him, silent and glum, mulling over
their own sad thoughts, he said softly--but still loud enough for his
parents to hear--this little prayer of his own making:
"O my dear little God. I feel so bad because Papa is angry at
Mamma! Oh, if You knew how bad I feel! Please make it so he won't
be angry anymore, so I won't be afraid anymore and so these
terrible things, which you know about, may go far away from me
because I am just a little child. Make it that I can love Papa and
Mamma again with all my heart, my whole heart all full, because
You see, my little God when somebody is angry I feel too bad and I
am too afraid and, then, You know I am just a little child! Amen."
The Church is opposed to divorce, because it is an attack on the
reality of love--and it is just that, for what is a love that is not
indissoluble or the intimacies of marriage if they can be enjoyed
with someone else during the lifetime of one's husband or wife;
because divorce is the ruination of the family as Paul Bourget has
the Jesuit Father Evrard explain in his novel "A Divorce": A boat
happened to be at a port where one of the passengers wished to go
ashore; there was an epidemic on board ship; no one was allowed
to leave the boat. The particular individual was inconvenienced by
it but the good of the society overruled. So too, it is much better
that the home be saddened than that the family be sacrificed. The
Church is also opposed to divorce because it brings nothing but
unhappiness to the child.
The same is true when the divorce is not a formal breaking up of
the family; it is enough for the parents to be at odds, to cause the
child to suffer, and generally, quite intensely.
Charity to their children obliges the parents to try everything to
reestablish their union which is jeopardized.
God bless the homes in which the arms of little children guard
forever the close union between the father and the mother.
THE WOMANLY IDEAL
PERHAPS no one has more beautifully extolled the womanly ideal
than Charles Peguy.
What he admired first and foremost in woman was her special
faculty for putting soul into the daily humdrum of the eternal
repetitions of everyday life in the home. He has Our Lord say:
My love goes out to you, O most precious one
To you, most submissive at the feet of destiny,
Most subject to the masters of the feast,
Most eager and most solicitous.
I love you so much, O most earnest one,
You who are most responsive to claims of work
Most unknown and most glorious
Most attentive to the care of the fold.
The smallest action, the most ordinary, the most routine, though
submerged in the greatest monotony of recurring days and
engulfed by the unfolding centuries, can be of immense value if
performed with a great love:
....You spend yourself utterly, O only needy one,
In washing dishes and keeping house
O Woman, you who set in order both labors and days.
But then, woman, is not only a worker, a housekeeper, she is a
mother, a mother who is solicitous for her little ones, a mother who
never tires of contemplating the infinite hidden away behind a
curved forehead or stubborn eyes. Man does not sense it. He is not
sufficiently delicate or spiritual for that. Woman alone has a
glance sufficiently keen and supernatural to discover not only the
corporal needs of a fragile and tiny body but also the deep and
innocent soul washed by the waters of baptism and rich with
countless graces which must be put to good use in the future.
Nothing is so beautiful as a child falling asleep while saying
his prayers, says God (according to Peguy)
I tell you nothing in the world is so beautiful . . .
Yes, I tell you, I don't know anything so beautiful in all the world
As a little child falling asleep saying his prayers
Under the wings of its Guardian Angel
A little child, who laughs at the angels while beginning to fall
And who gets his prayers all mixed up because he no longer
has his mind on them
Who mixes up the words of the Our Father with the words of
the Hail Mary
While a veil is already falling upon his eyelids
The veil of night upon his sight and upon his voice.
Truly, it is woman's honor and her duty, as a consequence of her
vocation, to be very near to souls and to the supernatural world.
Then too woman is more loving than man. She has a sense of pity
and compassion. She always has something in common with the
sympathetic traits manifested by Joan of Arc even as a little girl.
One day she saw two little starving and sad-hearted children
walking along a roadway. "It grieved me so much, I gave them all
my bread, my noon-day lunch and my four o'clock snack. Their joy
hurt me: I thought of all the other starving people who had nothing
to eat, so many starving people, countless hungry people. I felt
that I was going to break out weeping. I gave them my bread. A
beautiful gesture! But they will be hungry again tonight; they will
be hungry again tomorrow . . . There, they have gone into the
future, into distress, into the anxiety for the future . . . O, my God,
who will give them their daily bread?"
Joan's great compassion for souls tore even more at her heart than
her anguish over the physical hunger of bodies. "If only we could
see the beginning of Your reign established, o my Lord!" she
Honor to Woman for the greatness of her heart!
HER HUSBAND'S HELPER
PASTEUR'S wife was a precious aid to the renowned scientist who
was her husband.
The help she gave him was not always scientific, intellectual,
technical. In the organization of most homes, wives will not have
to give their husbands only that type of help. Moral support is
It was a little home in which unity and understanding flourished
but where money was scarce. The husband needed an auto for his
work; he had an old jalopy and it had taken him three long months
to pay for it. One day shortly after his last payment, the rear axle
broke while he was turning a corner. The poor fellow returned
home utterly discouraged. His wife who was courageous,
confident, and who was furthermore expecting a baby, said not a
word of reproach or discouragement. On the contrary she tried to
"Look, we are happy; God loves us. We ought to pay Him a little
ransom for all the joys He has given us. Come, let us pray and not
lose hope. He can't abandon us." Their hearts raised together to
God, they found themselves more closely united than ever in their
human love. Together they had drawn from the same Spring of
Hope, the same Font of Goodness. They were united in perfect
It is clear that a wife ought to expect to find in her husband a
strong man, someone who does not go to pieces at the first set-
back; who knows how to struggle with the tempests and bring their
bark safely into port. She certainly does not expect him to exhibit
his virility by vain attitudes or a show-off's behavior; she does not
expect him to swagger or substitute boasting or protestations for
ability to act, for solidity of character, and for real bravery. She
naturally much prefers one who is truly a master, a master in his
profession or in his work whatever it is, a master in the conduct of
the home, able to make decisions and to assume responsibility.
She wants no irresolute or timid chap who takes two steps back for
every step forward or whose will is changeable, capricious, petty;
nor does she want a man who gets submerged by details and
forgets the whole, but a man endowed with an eye for detail
coupled with a power for organization. She does not want a man
whom prejudices blind and who is not sure of himself; no, she
wants a man who can be resolute without being tyrannical,
determined without being narrow and stubborn when a need arises
for changing one's tactics--a man of peace, of thought, and of
What a list of virtues! Can they ever be found in one single soul?
Let us suppose a man has the whole array of these virtues or even
the principal ones among them, will he not even then need moral
support at some time or other?
There are moments of discouragement, dark hours either because
events bring sorrow and anguish or because nature grows weak or
health fails or vigor of character temporarily subsides.
How helpful it is in these situations which are not at all impossible
to be able to find reinforcement in the companion of his life! They
started out as two but life together has made them one; each of
them must support the other in view of their common work.
To each the task is a true principle but when danger threatens, it is
not too much to have to face the same threat together....
What security for the wife to know that she can find in her
husband the help she dreamed of! For the husband when he can be
certain of being understood by his wife in periods of material or
spiritual difficulty and not only understood but supported,
cheered, and comforted!
Thank You, O my God, for giving me in my life-companion the
intelligent, disinterested, attentive aide You knew I would need,
You said, "It is not good for man to be alone." You gave me another
self. Help me to find in this other half of me, my other self, the
strength to be strong.
A SISTER missionary describes the following family episode which
took place in Congo:
Strong stalwart Bateke who had recently married came looking for
me one morning with a very dejected appearance, or perhaps,
disgusted would be more correct.
"Well now, my friend, what's the matter? Aren't things going well?
Is your wife sick?"
"Oh no, Sister, she's not sick" (this in a very dry tone)
"What's the matter then?"
"Ah, that one" (meaning his wife). She doesn't have any sense.
"Nothing to eat! She's always outdoors talking. Nothing is good in
the hut. She needs . . ."
"Well bring her here," I interrupted to show myself willing to help.
"I will scold her and remind her of her duties."
"Oh no, that's not enough!"
"What then," I asked slightly worried.
"That one, (still referring to his wife) ought to come here for at
least a month to get a head on her shoulders!"
"All right! Bring her."
The next day my Bateke came back pulling "that one," who looked
very sheepish, after him.
"How is it my daughter," I asked her reproachfully, "that you don't
understand your new duties better? If you do not know how to
keep house or prepare a meal for your husband, it would be better
to come back with us for several days, maybe a month. Do you
"Oh yes," she sighed.
"That is fine," beamed the happy husband.
Obediently the young wife began her new apprenticeship to learn
how to prepare good cassava and fish with oil dressing, the staple
food of her lord and master.
Bateke came to see his recluse before the month was up.
"You can take your wife back now," I offered, "she will be wise and
capable from now on."
"No, No," protested the obstinate husband. "She must stay the
And at the end of thirty days the couple was reunited. The last
news of them was good. My Bateke is satisfied. "That one has sense
What is possible in Congo is scarcely possible among us. A
husband cannot send his wife back to school for a course in Home
Economics or back home to her mother to be instructed in her
duties . . . As a consequence his home is run helter skelter fashion.
Nothing is ready on time, the food is spoiled, the clothing is not
properly cared for, the bills are not paid, the accounts are not kept
straight, the children are not dressed on time--there is general
hubbub. How can there be peace in such a home where a woman
has no sense?
Sometimes it is the man of the house who lacks sense. He
manifests no business ability at all; wastes time and money; has
no feeling for organization or sense of value; invests foolishly on
the word of others and is an easy mark for wily and scheming
confidence men. He is hesitant; can never make up his mind or if
he does make a decision, he corrects it the next moment; begins
everything but finishes nothing; undertakes a profession in which
he expects to move mountains and work marvels only to abandon
it several months later through lassitude or because he ambitions
a career more to his liking and more lucrative.
This changing humor makes him choose one school after another
for his children; none of them are ever exactly what he wants.
Naturally the children suffer from it, they can't profit by their
classes, lose out on grades, and are in danger of becoming
For a man above all the qualities of the heart can never replace
solidity of the mind. He has to have a head on his shoulders, quick
discernment, accurate knowledge, the power to decide, if not
promptly in delicate matters at least always firmly, the ability to
revise his decision when advisable and when the evidence
demands it, because obstinacy has no value and reveals even more
than indecision that a person lacks sense; but he must also have
the power to hold his own against wind and tide, even when the
odds seem against him, provided of course, that what he looks
upon as opposition is not some difficult obligation of the moment
he should be meeting rather than fighting.
WOMEN AND EDUCATION
A WOMAN educator of note in her book "L'Education selon l'Esprit,"
expresses an opinion that deserves full acceptance: "What is best
for a young woman is not to be entirely absorbed in material works
and the care of children but to keep a little freedom of time and of
mind to continue her intellectual development. The gift she makes
of herself to her own will be only the more precious; the services
she will render them will be of a superior quality. She herself will
be ennobled by these disinterested pleasures, defended against
the temptations that are born of fatigue, boredom, and a barren
There are unfortunately some young women for whom this advice
would be most difficult if not impossible to follow; they are
obliged to work in the time they have free from family duties to
provide for the necessities of life. But there are those who have
leisure. That they ought to profit by it to cultivate their minds is
The principal reason is the one already mentioned--to be able to
give something of the intellectual riches they have acquired to
their children later. One needs to know so many things to
enlighten their young minds, to open up their little souls just at
the threshold of life; their questions should be answered by
something better than an irritable "Stop bothering me!"
Another advantage of growing in culture is that it helps one
struggle against a sense of futility. Not that the thousand
occupations demanded in a home are futile. But there are, over and
above the essential things, a thousand little nothings with which
one can fritter her time. That is the immense domain of the futile
in which women flit about untiringly as a bird hops from bar to bar
in its cage, a pretty bird of paradise.
But there is something worse than to be busy with little nothings
and that is to do nothing. There is just a void, an exaggerated
place left open for day dreaming--and the normal consequence--an
open door for temptation.
"Because what's to be done in a home unless one dreams?"
If one does not apply the mind to serious and uplifting reflections,
the devil will be right on hand to turn it to fantastic hopes: one
relives stories read, reviews step by step girlish infatuations,
ruminates over the imaginary or real deficiencies in her husband .
. . Temptations are not far away!
Even if conscience preserves such a one from sin, she is always in
danger of trouble, extreme sensitiveness and boredom from the
drudgery of daily tasks.
Good reading which elevates the soul and stimulates thinking,
which supplements religious knowledge, puts one in contact with
great souls, will inspire to virtue and produce wonderful effects in
At the present time when the apostolate must deal with so many
problems, is it asking too much of the one who expects to do good
to be highly competent? The religious renaissance must begin with
the educated groups. Ideas will always rule the world.
What poverty it is for women, so devoted as they are to the
apostolate, to lack ideas; to live only by routine! They have
forgotten but one thing--to light their lamps!
ABBE PERREYVE wrote to a young man of twenty who had told him
of his hopes to marry:
"Ah, my friend, next to the happiness of serving God in
consecrated virginity, what is more beautiful than to link one's life
with that of a cherished woman; to share one's whole soul, that is
all his sorrows; to begin with her that brief pilgrimage on which
there are so many joys and tears that there is scarcely time to do a
little good? What is more worthy of an immortal soul than to give
his love in youth to the soul he must love always and before God
to purify the ardor of his desires by submitting them to the duties
of fidelity and of paternity?
"Do not laugh at love as those foolish souls do who are incapable
of it. There is no nobler word among men. Love is not the pleasure,
not the selfishness of enjoyment; it is not the delusion of a brutal
passion. The one who loves gives himself more than anything else.
The highest degree of love is sacrifice. That is why he only knows
how to love who immolates his rest, his joys, his fortune even life
itself for the being he ought to love on earth and in heaven."
Wherever marriage is seriously and correctly regarded the word
sacrifice is part of its vocabulary. There is no doubt about it,
marriage brings with it the sweetest of human joys that can be
tasted on this earth; but it also involves self-abnegations that are
The Countess of Adhemar wrote to Abbe Fremont:
"Man and woman are united, not as they often believe with the best
faith in the world, to give each other happiness, but, in reality, to
seek it of each other. As their individual concepts of happiness
may differ, there ensues for both of them a painful awakening.
That excellent bulletin the "Association du Mariage" Chretien
carried a fine article by an author who identified himself with the
initials C.B. The ideas expressed in it have much to contribute
"Love is not a bargain, it is not even an exchange; it is a sacrifice
which should always be mutual. Each giving up and sacrificing the
best of himself so that the best of the other's self may live and
"Clearly the great test is endurance. Oh, if only the honeymoon
could last forever. But that cannot be. They must pass from blind
love to clear-sighted love; time requires this transformation but
"the line" is not easy to cross--it is not easy to go from the torrid to
the temperate zone. They must protect themselves against being
deluded about this.
"'Two young people go up to the altar for the beautiful nuptial
ceremony,' writes Father Lacordaire, 'They bring with them all the
joy and all the sincerity of their youth; they swear eternal love for
"'But soon their joy diminishes, fidelity stumbles, the eternity of
their pledges is broken to bits.
"'What happened? Nothing. Hour followed hour; they are what they
were except for one hour more. But one hour is much.'"
The author adds it is true "outside of God."
In order to triumph over time, over its duration, over monotony,
over the friction resulting from character differences which
become more evident with time, a supernatural spirit is absolutely
necessary; it alone is able to call forth sacrifice, persevering
sacrifice inspired by love.
To a brother of his who was very impatient, Saint Francis de Sales
could not refrain from saying one day, "There is one woman in the
world who must be very happy."
"Who," asked his brother.
"The woman you might have married had you married."
Madam Acarie, a mother of six children was left a widow in 1613.
She later entered Carmel taking the name Marie of the Incarnation.
Her husband had been an unpleasant character and helped not a
little to enrich her with the virtues that led to her beatification.
Once in a rare spell of good humor he admitted, "They say she will
be a saint some day; I shall have helped her become one; they will
speak of me at her canonization."
Guy de Rabutin-Chantal, the father-in-law of Saint Jane Frances de
Chantal, who took the saint to his home after her husband's death
was extremely hard to live with.
"He belonged to those well meaning and difficult old men who
work efficaciously to make saints out of their women when they
have in them the stuff from which saints are made," commented
one of his biographers.
After the death of a celebrated philosopher, his wife obtained an
audience with the king of Sweden. The latter inquired with kindly
interest about the habits of the deceased. The wife, in a sudden
outburst, exclaimed, "Your Majesty, he was unbearable!" A certain
historian recording her remark added, "If all biographers were as
sincere as that lady, they would be able to engrave her judgment
on her pedestal of all the monuments raised to heroes."
Without accepting that opinion about heroes as our own--and
admitting possibly that we are more willing to forgive them their
foibles than others--is not the severe judgment on husbands a
revelation of not too good an opinion?
And we could extend the litany. Chaliapine relates that a Russian
general of his acquaintance used to give way to terrible fits of
temper at home. The life of the general's wife was a veritable hell.
Happily one day she discovered a clever strategy. At the moment
her husband's fury started to let loose, she dashed to piano and
struck up the national anthem. Must we believe the marvelous
results obtained? The general stood at attention; his anger cooled
Every woman can't have a general for a husband nor one so
susceptible to harmony either. We know that music refines
manners. How marvelous it can be on that point. But the best
music for the wife in cases of this kind will be the music of
Saint Monica's husband used to drink heavily and when he came
home with insults on his lips or speaking unbecoming or
unintelligible words the poor wife had to practice a patience that
we can readily imagine. She answered nothing and waited until the
storm passed to remind him gently and lovingly of the law of God.
She won almost unhoped-for results, which testified to her
sanctity: she obtained the complete cure of her husband who
became a temperate and controlled man.
Is there anything obnoxious in me which brings sufferings into my
home? I will correct it as soon as possible.
YESTERDAY the men were on trial. The chapter on the ladies will
be no less edifying.
"What you need," said a man to one of his bachelor friends who
was disturbed by a vague nervous disorder, "what you need is a
wife to share your troubles."
"But I don't have any troubles."
"That is all right. You will have them after you marry."
Such a story is not very expressive of esteem for marriage. Woman
certainly has the power to console, but also the power to cause
The husband scolds, the wife gets angry. Does that make things
any better? The husband, once the outburst is over forgets about
it; not so the wife. She holds in reserve, unless she is very good,
amazing desires for revenge. Moreover, she is argumentative.
"Look darling, look at the pretty bird that's with those two crows."
"Yes, I see, but there aren't just two crows, there are three."
"No, darling, look, there are only two."
"But I tell you there are three. It's always like that. I never have the
right to be in the right."
And soon the tears drop from her lashes.
Some women will pout rather than argue.
After a dispute which was of no great moment, a certain wife,
pricked in her vanity, risked this imprudent threat. "If you don't
yield to me, I won't talk to you for fifteen days." The husband paid
no attention and thought that after a short while life would settle
down to normal again. But it didn't. Silence. Silence. She would not
deign to answer his questions even those asked with the most
The husband, beside himself, came to a decision. He began to
empty out all the cabinets and table drawers, take the pictures off
the walls and was about to attack the drapes with a pair of
"What are you doing there?"
"I am looking for your tongue."
Bursts of laughter restored peace. The pity is that the bursts of
laughter had not occurred fifteen days earlier.
Tenacity has great worth. A woman probably has too much of it.
She may expect to let it compensate for a certain strength she
lacks. She realizes she is wrong because she is intelligent. She
does not think she ought to yield because a miserable vanity gets
in between her conscience and her decision.
It still remains that it is the woman in spite of her limitations and
weaknesses who most often creates the happiness of the home and
the man who spoils it. The moralist was not wrong who said,
"With all their faults, their perfidy, their subterfuge, their envy and
their lies, with their strong perfumes, their paint and their powder,
their imperfections and their wretchedness, poor women are so
much more courageous, more generous, more patient, more
virtuous, more faithful than we men!"
Let each of the married partners judge himself or herself by his or
her own conscience, and mindful of the happiness of the other,
correct as soon as possible what might trouble the harmony of the
THE COUNSELS OF MADAME ELIZABETH
THE sister of Louis XVI, Madame Elizabeth who was a woman of
fine psychological acumen and deep nobility of character gave to
one of her ladies in waiting who had recently married this practical
"Above all seek to please your husband . . . he has good qualities
but he can also have some that are not so pleasing. Make it a rule
for yourself never to concentrate on these and above all never
permit yourself to talk of them; you owe it to him as you owe it to
yourself. Try to look at his heart; if you truly possess it, you will
always be happy. Make his house agreeable for him; let him always
find in it a woman eager to please him, busy with her duties, with
her children, and you will in this way win his confidence; when
you once have that, you will be able to do, with the mind heaven
has given you and a bit of cleverness, anything you wish."
The outcome is interesting. Everyone knows it: "Man reigns but
"I will do it if God wills it," said the husband of a rather dictatorial
"Now you are talking nonsense," said his friend, "why you haven't
even asked your wife's permission."
Woman instinctively, and above all when she loves, loves to be
docile. Nothing costs her too much and at times she goes to the
point of sacrifices extremely taxing for herself if her heart is
captive. But at the same time she loves to dominate.
The heroine of a comedy revealed, with exaggeration of course, a
trait that is often found in woman. The said heroine had not yet
married but she already was engaged in making her fiancee dance
to her thirty-six wills and to goad him on with a thousand pin
pricks: "I prick him, I make him go, I already treat him as my
Even when they are not so naughty, women by using to advantage
their weakness and their charm usually succeed in making their
husbands pretty much as they want them.
In his genially caustic style Emile Faguet used to say, "Women are
divided into three classes: those who are inclined to obey
sometimes, those who never obey, those who always command."
Let women never use their power for the egotistic satisfaction of
their self-love. Let them rather have in view only God's glory and,
especially in the spiritual government of their home, let them
know how to make God's glory understood as it ought to be. They
should be able to gain a hearing in the most vital matters when
duty is at stake or when the worship due to God is involved; in
other matters let them be ready to yield. They will purchase by
their perpetual abnegation in these lesser things the right to be
listened to in more important matters and their husbands will
realize that when they do resist their wishes it is not because of
vanity but because of virtue.
WOMAN, THE STRENGTH OF MAN
IS IT not often true in a home that "the strength of the man is many
times in the woman."
Man, who in principle at least and often in fact possesses physical
resistance and moral energy, is sometimes singularly deficient; he
hides under the appearance of strength an intimate need to lean
on someone, to be led, encouraged, assisted.
Is it not also true that one great source of happiness in marriage is
the reciprocal help the two give each other, the husband to his
wife, the wife to her husband?
Joseph Proudhon from whom we would not expect such correct
ideas, has given us some beautiful pages on the help that woman
is called to give to her husband. He took for his theme the Bible
text: "And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let
us make him a help like unto himself."
"Woman is a helper for man because by showing him the ideality
of his being she becomes for him a principle of admiration, a gift
of strength, of prudence, of justice, of courage, of patience, of
holiness, of hope, of consolation without which he would be
incapable of bearing up under the burden of life, of preserving his
dignity, of fulfilling his destiny of bearing with himself.
"Woman is man's helper first of all in work by her attentions, her
sweet company, her vigilant charity. It is she who wipes his
forehead that is moist with perspiration, who rests his tired head
upon her knees, who cools the fever of his blood and pours balm
into his wounds. She is his sister of charity. Ah! let her only look at
him, let her season the bread she brings him with her tenderness:
he will be strong as two, he will work like four.
"She is his helper in the things of the mind by her reserve, her
simplicity, her prudence, by the vivacity and the charm of her
"She is his helper in justice, she is the angel of patience, of
resignation, of tolerance, the guardian of his faith, the mirror of
his conscience, the source of his devotedness.
"Man can brook no criticism, no censure from man; even
friendship is powerless to conquer his obstinacy. Still less will he
suffer harm or insult. Woman alone knows how to make him come
back and prepares him for repentance and for pardon.
"Against love and its entanglements, woman, marvelous being that
she is, is for man the only remedy.
"Under whatever aspect he regards her, she is the fortress of his
conscience, the splendor of his soul, the principle of his
happiness, the star of his life, the flower of his being."
What praise for woman! What responsibility for her to be in her
home, the fortress of conscience, almost a living translation of
Let her strive to deserve this role by the solidity of her principles,
the energy of her convictions, the convincing strength of her calm
IS GENIUS CELIBATE?
CERTAIN authors have denied that woman is a help for man at
least intellectually and often also morally. They claim that
feminine contact and the demands of the home weaken the strong;
the words of the physiologist Garnier, "genius is celibate" have
been capitalized on by some.
One of the great advocates of this thesis is Tolstoi who did not
hesitate fourteen months after his marriage to have one of the
characters in his book "War and Peace" say:
"Never marry, never, my friend. That is my advice. Do not marry,
at least not before you can say to yourself that you have
accomplished the whole of your destiny before discovering woman
such as she is. Otherwise you will be cruelly disillusioned. Marry
when you are no longer anything but an old man, good for nothing;
otherwise all there is of good and noble in you will perish; all will
be spent in little things. Yes, if in the future you expect anything
of yourself, you will feel that all is finished for you, except the
parlor where you will be on the same footing as a court valet or a
fool . . . My wife is an admirable woman. She is one of those rare
women with whom one can be tranquil about his honor, but, my
God, what would I not give not to be married . . . You are the first
person, the only person to whom I say that, because I love you."
Tolstoi himself left his home to escape from this sad sensation of
a missed life.
The part that is true about all this is that for certain individuals
and in certain careers the choice of a companion for life is of
Ozanam, who was a professor at the Sorbonne, wondered if he
would ever find the woman of his dream; not only someone who
would love him, but someone who would understand him; be
willing to see him buried in books and apparently neglect her to
keep company with ideas; someone who in the intimate converse
of conjugal life would not be silent, unintelligent, or unreceptive
but capable of taking an interest in her husband's studies and
even help him in his work.
Jean du Plessis de Grenedan, a marine officer, used to wonder if he
would ever find the woman he hoped for; a woman who would
accept the career of her husband and not melt into tears at every
leave-taking as if her husband heartlessly went away to make her
suffer; who would not, except for serious reasons unbiased by
whim, require him to give up going to sea and accept a land
commission; someone who would not be depressed during his long
Because of a too selfish idea of home-life, some women do weaken
their husbands, hamper their vocation, their profession or their
apostolate. They have that type of jealousy which considers all
that is not given to them as stolen from them. They are satisfied
only if they can keep the chosen one of their heart always with
them and have him constantly at their feet.
A wife should stimulate and encourage but never paralyze.
THE POWER OF A SMILE
THERE is in Rome not far from the basilica of Saint Agnes, which
was built over the spot at which she was martyred, another church-
-Our Lady of Peace. It is more or less a custom for newlyweds to
attend Mass here the day following their marriage; it is as if they
realized that Mary's help is none too much to help them preserve
peace in their homes.
Nothing so helps to preserve the mutual attraction husband and
wife have for each other as cheerfulness, the habit of taking
everything in good part, of keeping one's balance in the midst of
disturbing circumstances, of bearing personal anxieties without
letting them become noticeable, so as not to sadden the other.
Nothing so quickly kills this attraction as nagging over little
things, pettiness in any form, referring to the blunders of the
other, magnifying some omissions, manifesting suspicion. The
ideal of cheerfulness is to display as spontaneously as possible,
without the least trace of effort an amiable gaiety ever ready to
Wrangling, ill-humor or simply sulkiness are the great enemies of
homes. Particularly when these things have their source in the wife
is there grave danger; for husbands may be tempted to seek
outside the home and out of the path of duty the ray of sunshine
they cannot find at home.
Little heed should be paid to imprudent comments on the part of
neighbors and acquaintances, supposedly so well-meaning, who
think they are rendering a service by revealing, confidentially of
course, the goings-on of this one and that one. Little heed should
be given to insinuations that are made sometimes without any
foundation; they have a peculiar power to throw a gloom over the
soul if they get a hearing. Peace is lost to the soul; someone's
perfidy or inopportune truthfulness killed it.
No matter what happens keep your power to smile.
A certain wife was on the verge of despair; bits of gossip she
picked up here and there and other evidence which she thought
she discovered revealed to her that her husband was in love with
another woman. This woman had been flitting about the
unfortunate man; at first he pretended not to notice it; one day out
of a sense of duty he actually put her in her place. But then, little
by little, her persistence won out and he yielded ground. He was
not far from actual betrayal of his home.
His wife, not knowing what to do, went to her confessor. The priest
first put her through an examination of conscience: "Have you
always in your home life manifested patience, no matter what
happened; a joy that uplifts, a reserve which attracts, a calmness
which inspires confidence?"
She had to confess that she had failed many times against these
virtues. Instead of showing herself more attractive, she had
allowed her wounded self-love--which could easily be understood--
get the upper hand; she did not hide her suspicious attitude and
began to give way to little expressions of spitefulness. Such
unwise tactics, instead of retaining her husband's loyalty, helped
to strengthen the attraction of her rival.
"Act differently," the confessor advised her. "Learn to smile!"
A short while after, the husband in a moment of confidence
confessed the risk he had run and revealed that the smile of his
wife and her confident joyous spirit had saved him from the abyss.
"I did not have the right to destroy such happiness, to annihilate a
hope that was so evident."
Wives would do well to follow this very judicious advice: "Love
your husbands as if you were sure of their hearts and act as if you
still had to win them."
A DEVASTATING DISPOSITION
EVEN when a person has great desires for good he can fall far short
of the program for holiness he dreamed of following; he lets
himself slip into faults of speech or unpleasant attitudes--yes,
unfortunately he may fall more seriously or come perilously near
betraying his strongest obligations.
If then he finds himself constantly confronted with harshness,
reproaches, a set face, he may perhaps drift farther away from his
duty instead of being sorry for his negligences and failings.
He has a much better chance of getting back to the right path if he
is met not with irritability and sharpness but with a receptive
gentleness that announces and promises pardon without having to
express it, yet is withal earnest and firm.
Does God deal otherwise with us? He tried throughout the Old
Testament to adopt a severe manner and to brandish a threat, a
plague or some other menace each time the Chosen People went
astray. He realized that this was not the best way to lead His poor
elect people back to repentance. He changed His formula, and
modified His way with them.
Rather than hurl thunderbolts at them He offered His Heart:
"Behold this Heart that has so loved men!" What cruelty not to give
any other return than ingratitude, contempt.
It is striking in the Gospel that Our Lord is not so much concerned
about demanding our fidelity as He is about revealing His own. He
does not say, "Here is how much you must love Me and the way
you should love Me." No, but "Greater love than this no man hath."
"To such an extent has Christ loved the world," marveled Saint
Paul--to such an extent! Do you understand?
Christ reiterated His love and gave new proofs of His love much
more than He expressed reproach.
There are few souls who can imitate this Christ-like magnanimity
when they suspect or discover that someone has failed them. Yet
we must all strive for it and aim at attaining the perfection of
Christianity, the complete Gospel ideal.
Isabelle d'Este was forsaken to a certain extent by her husband,
one of her biographers informs us. Did she shower him with
reproaches? Did she send him upbraiding letters, violent
literature? Nothing of the sort. With firm simplicity mixed with
tenderness she wrote:
". . . I am very well. Your Highness must not say it is my fault if I
disagree with you, because as long as you showed me some love,
no one could have persuaded me that you did not love me. But I do
not need anyone to tell me to know that for some time Your
Highness has loved me very little. However as this is an
unpleasant subject, I shall cut it short and speak no more of it..."
Whether or not her husband returned to his duty after receiving
this message is not so sure. There are some hearts that resist
everything. At least his wife had chosen the best means to win him
MEN'S VIRTUES VERSUS WOMEN'S VIRTUES
MANY MEN, still victims of an old prejudice, are very demanding
when there is question of the moral life of their wife or their
fiancee, yet strangely indulgent with regard to their own moral
life. It is taken for granted that the wife must be pure and remain
pure; she must come to marriage as a virgin and preserve the
chastity of her married state. What of the man?
It is significant that women too seem to expect men to act
differently, and to accept this double standard, as the reaction of
the young woman in the following incident indicates:
Her husband was guilty of a flagrant betrayal of their love and had
been unfaithful almost from the beginning of their marriage. The
poor girl was discussing the situation with her father-in-law who
was incensed at his son and raged against him, "If he carries on
like that he is a blackguard, a vile monster!" And the wife had no
other comment to make than, "He's a man!"
Questionable praise, we must confess, for the masculine gender!
Christian morality does not subscribe at all to such standards.
There is no double standard: one type of morality for young men
and one for young women; one for husbands and one for wives.
That man has a stronger pull toward the physical is possible; that
he may be bolder and less restricted by delicacy or timidity; that
because of his profession he must leave home frequently and
consequently have more occasion to forget his wife and as the
ugly saying goes "have his fling" is very true. But none of these
reasons justifies or authorizes his misconduct.
An author who plays up his native city in his writing does not
refrain from criticizing, and justly, those respectable men--the
seventeenth century called them persons of quality--who in their
own city enjoy an honorable reputation, figure prominently in
their parish church, entertain the clergy frequently, but the minute
they have left their city, forget their principles, take their morals
lightly, read sexy novels which they lay in store at the station if
they can do so unobserved and think nothing of sharing their hotel
room with a chance woman acquaintance.
Let us allow for the author's satire and his outlook. But is it all
And when the little ragamuffin standing on the station platform
heard the woman say to her departing husband, "Take care of
yourself and don't forget me," wasn't it just the impudence of the
rascal that made him say to her smartly, "Don't fret ma'am, he just
tied a knot in his handkerchief!"
Out of sight, out of mind . . . May that never be true! Likewise may
it never be said, "Out of sight, free from duty!"
THE tolerance with which some worldly people regard the
irregularities of men is scarcely credible. That is none the less
their attitude. Everything is permissible for men. They are to be
excused because of their temperament. "Nature gets the best of
them, isn't that true? We must understand them and not be over
How refreshing it is to hear a woman repudiate such unwarranted
indulgence and condemn as should be condemned the liberties the
world accords men in the matter of marital betrayal. Isabelle
Riviere in "The Bouquet of Red Roses" gives us this satisfaction:
Agatha, the young woman in the story, picks up a volume of a
contemporary writer; in the selection "The Evening With Mr. Teste"
by Paul Valery, she came upon this opening paragraph:
"Stupidity is not my strong point. I have seen many individuals,
visited several nations, I have taken part in various enterprises
without liking them. I have eaten every day. I have gone with
She blushed with indignation and showed this last sentence to her
"I find that statement more vile than the worst obscenity."
"Why, my dear?"
"Such utter disregard of fidelity! That complacent way of regarding
man alone as the center of the world, and regarding the whole
world, women included, as objects for his use, as just so many
accessories. Don't you find that disgusting?"
"Yes . . . I believe it is the negation of all truth, of all love in any
Bravo! Let this vagabond Mr. Teste claim if he will that stupidity is
not his strong point. He certainly takes the prize for presumption
Granted that woman is more soul than man, and he more body than
woman, more alive to the physical, that does not authorize him to
do as he pleases with the law of God and the dignity of women.
Certainly if he expects to remain faithful without taking the
necessary means, he will hold out only with great difficulty.
Watch and Pray. Here is a man who exposes himself to every risk,
who seldom if ever prays, who receives Holy Communion just at
Eastertide or at very, very great intervals. Even if he has a high
sense of honor and deep respect for woman's dignity, he will have
great difficulty keeping his soul intact. We must not separate the
demands of morality from the helps Our Lord gave us to observe
them. To conform to the laws without having recourse to the helps
is practically impossible. "Without Me," said our good Master, "You
can do nothing."
What must we conclude then from the fact that man has greater
difficulty than woman in preserving chastity? That he is free to
dispense himself from chastity? Certainly not, but that he must
pray more than his wife, practice more Christian prudence than his
wife since he is more exposed to danger than she is both by his
more vehement temperament and the occasions brought about by
A WIFE WITH CHARACTER
PEOPLE say that husbands do not like too strong a personality in
their wives. Doubtless there are some sufficiently imprudent to
prefer a simpleton or a doll, provided she is exteriorly alluring, to
a woman of real worth who may prove to be someone to cope with.
To such men, the otherwise incorrect but witty sentence might
truly be applied, "Women know well that men are not so stupid as
people believe, they are more so!"
In the history of Byzantium, an interesting incident is related.
Queen Theodora had just come into power. Her son, the prince who
would succeed her should have a wife. According to custom
messengers were sent out to bring to the palace the twelve most
beautiful girls they could find.
After the first elimination six remained from whom the future
emperor. Theophilus was to choose his wife.
Holding a golden apple in his hand the prince began his review. He
was much attracted by a certain Kasia and just for something to
say, he paid her this dubious compliment, "It is through woman
that all evil has come to us."
"Yes," retorted Kasia, "but also all good."
Frightened by such quick reply, indicative of a quick
temperament, Theophilus carried his golden apple to someone
A splendid example of masculine stupidity!
Happily the time when men reasoned that way is past. Those who
are intelligent want to find in the woman they choose for their wife
a person who is a real person.
Not one of those blue-stockings justly contemned by the truly wise,
for forgetting the reserve which is the precious attribute of their
sex, posing as intellectuals, acting mannish, using language which
lacks refinement and foolishly aping masculine ways.
When women are not women, they are worse than men and they are
Man does not desire to find a duplicate of what he is when he looks
for a companion! It is Eve that Adam desires.
But he wants an Eve who is not just a woman expert in trinkets and
in whom veneer takes the place of mental and moral virtues; he
wants an Eve who is an honest-to-goodness woman, and if possible,
one of unusual character; one who can see the world otherwise
than through the narrow dimensions of the ring she wears on her
finger and does not concentrate all her attention on her jams and
jellies or her next new outfit; a woman who thinks before all else of
her home, but precisely because she wants her home to be
attractive and she herself to be attractive in that home, seeks to
enlarge her horizons and to be truly a real person.
A HUSBAND who is a man of sense as well as a good Catholic
proposes this question: Ought concern for their appearance be
something foreign to Christian wives? He answers the question
"That would be simply ridiculous. I confess that I feel thoroughly
enraged when I see women who act as if they were being very
virtuous by their slovenly appearance and poor taste in dress. First
of all, they commit a fault against beauty and grace which are
God's gifts. But their fault is graver still: Have these noble souls
taken care to consult their husbands and to assure themselves that
he approves of this treatment? Let them not be surprised then if
their husbands look elsewhere for satisfaction. Christian women
must know once for all that to dress with taste and even with
distinction is not a fault; that to use cosmetics is no fault either
unless the results are esthetically to be regretted; that adornment
as such is one of those questions of convention which is purely
accidental and remains completely foreign to the moral order.
Virtue owes it to itself to be attractive and even strongly attractive.
The only thing that must be avoided is excess. There is excess
when a Christian woman devotes all the powers of her mind to
becoming as exact a copy as possible of the models in Vogue or
Charm to the point of neglecting her duty. A woman who for love
of dress would ruin her husband, neglect her children or even
refuse to have them for fear of spoiling her figure would fail by
This viewpoint is full of wisdom; it defends right use and at the
same time condemns abuse.
One of the most ordinary vanities of women is the desire to look
young. Husbands are in sympathy with this trait especially when
years have rolled over the home. All women need do is purify their
intention so as not to offer sacrifice to vanity; they should avoid
exaggeration which makes them ridiculous.
They might just as well, for no one will be deceived except those
who are willing to be. The world is penetrating almost to the
degree of the oculist described in the book "The World As I See It":
This dignified gentleman, wise in the ways of the world, received
his patient and listened sympathetically to her symptoms, asked
the necessary questions, made his examination and gave his
verdict: "Well, it's plain, you have cataracts. It's not a disease, it's
sign of age. You told me you were forty-three: I wrote you down in
my record as being forty-seven; but you have passed the fifty
mark. Don't be disturbed by this."
If husbands have the right to demand that their wives try to keep
themselves attractive, it is clearly evident that they in turn must
do the same.
The wise advice to wives on the subject of personal appearance
which was quoted earlier was followed by this equally judicious
advice to husbands:
"They have a duty to avoid becoming absorbed completely by their
professional concerns. They ought to show themselves not only
eager to be in their wife's company but attentive, even loving, and
that, whatever be their age. There must be no false modesty or
self-consciousness here: a husband owes it to himself to merit
each day the love of his wife. Is it right for them to be willing to
make the solidity of their home rest solely on the sense of duty
they assume their wife possesses? Don't they ever fear losing her
love or do they imagine such fears to be restricted to lovers only?
Do they then want to treat their wife less considerately than they
would treat a mistress?"
Let husbands and wives in wise self-possession enjoy a happy,
beautiful, and reverent liberty.
A DIRECTOR'S COUNSELS
IN HIS book "La jeune Mariee," Leon de la Briere quotes the advice
given by a spiritual director to his penitent in the 14th century:
"You ought to be attentive and devoted to the person of your
husband. Take care of him lovingly, keep his linens clean and
orderly because that is your affair. Men should take care of the
outside business; husbands must be busy going and coming,
running here and there in rain, wind, storm, and sleet; they must
keep going dry days or rainy days; one day freezing, another day
sweltering, badly fed, badly lodged in poorly heated houses and
forced to rest in uncomfortable beds.
"But they do not mind any of this because they are comforted by
the hope that they will enjoy the care their wife will give them on
"How pleasant the thought of taking of his shoes before a cheerful
fire, of bathing, putting on clean clothes, fresh shoes and
stockings; eating well prepared meals that are properly served; of
being sheltered from the inclemencies of the weather; of being
obeyed; of retiring to sleep between fresh sheets and under warm
bed coverings; good furs.
"Remember the country proverb which says that there are three
things which drive a man from his house: "a house without a roof,
a chimney that smokes, and an argumentative wife."
"Therefore, my daughter, I urge you to be gentle, agreeable and
good-natured in order to keep in the good graces and the love of
"Then all the while he is busy, he will have his mind and his heart
directed toward you and your loving service. He will abandon
every other house, every other woman, every other service. It will
all be as so much mud compared to you."
Some very definite virtues are needed to follow out such program:-
-a very high degree of pure intention to accomplish in a
supernatural spirit the thousand little attentions required by
human love; a deep seated charity that becomes more active and
more vital by the tender affections of the heart for the beloved; a
habit of order which has a place for everything and everything in
its place; skill in home-making, that essential feminine talent of
making a house a home, cheerful and agreeable, a warm and
pleasant nest, and the desire on the part of the wife to make as
many things as she can herself.
At the beginning of married life love alone without any special
attraction toward renunciation makes such a harmony of virtues a
However, there comes a time in many homes when the spirit of
renunciation must come to the rescue of love. Not that husband
and wife no longer hold any attraction for each other, but they
know each other too well to be under any delusions regarding their
insufficiencies and they have to be able to pass over many
imperfections. It is helpful for them under such circumstances to
recall that marriage is a sacrament whose particular grace is to
help the wedded couple live their life together.
Honest observers of Christian marriage recognize this: Catholicism
has worked a great wonder, "it has succeeded in steadying the
vagabond and insatiable sexual urge, it makes long cohabitation
possible, it makes characters more supple and tempers
dispositions; through constant effort and the joy of duty
accomplished, it increases the moral worth of the individual giving
meaning thereby to life and to death; it gives to society the most
solid support upon which it can stand."
JUST as bickering, sulking, and domineering opposition should be
avoided by husbands and wives, so free and friendly discussions
should be encouraged as an aid to bind their souls in a closer
union. Strife and rivalry motivated by self love is one thing, but
sane and cordial disagreement or exchange of ideas is quite
another. It is from the clash of ideas that light shines forth. And
Writing to a young married couple, Bishop Dupanloup said to
"You were both astonished the first time I recommended argument
to you--friendly argument--and still more astonished when I
answered your statement, "we shall never argue," with the
comment "So much the worse for you!"
"The truth is that in a society so intimate, so constant as marriage,
if you do not feel free to discuss and even to engage in friendly
argument, it is evidence of constraint between you; there is
something which is preventing the free expansion of your souls.
"These little disagreements founded primarily on the affectionate
observation of your mutual failings will not alter the peace of your
home in the least; on the contrary, I believe that they will establish
in it a more profound peace and more intimate union, because
they will assure both of you of your reciprocal confidence."
Actually, as it is easy to see, the bishop was advising his spiritual
children not so much to argue as to discuss. And if one insists on
using the word "argument" it must be modified by the word
"friendly." Then let them go to it!
Saint Louis was conversing one day with Queen Marguerite. She
was complaining that the king did not have enough pomp in court
functions and that he himself did not dress with the magnificence
befitting official ceremonies. He thought, on his side, that the
queen was taking some advantage of her position and that she
gave way to excess in the richness of her dress.
"Would it really please you if I dressed more magnificently?" asked
"Yes, I so wish you would."
"Very well then, I shall do so, because the law of marriage urges
the husband to try to please his wife. But since this obligation is
reciprocal, it is only right that you should conform to my desire."
"And what is that?"
"That you get into the habit of dressing as simply as possible!"
Well done! In friendly arguments such as this, charity as well as
finesse and courtesy scores its point.
Don't think you must always be right. You ought to defend your
point of view but you should not be hostile to the opposite
viewpoint just because it's the opposite viewpoint and before you
ever begin to discuss. Two minds are better than one--unless of
course they're two negatives.
If the other person is right or it is better for the sake of peace to
pull down your flag, then give in graciously and without
WOMAN has a lively imagination; that is an asset. It can, however,
soon become a fault; she readily builds up fanciful notions, and
because an object is pleasant and flatters her taste, she seizes
upon it as something worth having, confounding the attractive
with the good, and salves her conscience with this false sense of
A critic could say with no little truth, "Every woman has three
lives--a life she endures, a life she wants, and a life she dreams
about; the first is made up of the things she does despite the fact
they do not please her, the second is made up of the things she
does because they please her and the third, of the things she
doesn't do either because she can't or because even while desiring
them she does not actually want them."
The third trait is the most interesting--this dream-life is the one
that occupies woman the most. She plots situations to suit her
fancy in which through the power of her imagination she is the
heroine. The result is that she chafes at the impossibility of
actually achieving what her imagination conceives or her
Man, being obliged to plunge himself into things, to lose himself
in occupations which if not more engrossing than home-tasks are
at least more evident as to their consequences and much less
conducive to meanderings of the imagination, is more given to
hard-headed realism. He is in danger of living too much in the
prosaic and of lacking verve; woman is generally not lacking in
verve, but she easily lands in the stars for riding a myth.
Further, man, unless he is born talkative--and then he is truly
obnoxious--is much less tempted to loquaciousness than woman.
Knowing better than woman how difficult it is to be informed and
being unwilling to talk unless he is informed, he is more discreet,
less discursive; woman, less impressed by the necessity of being
well-informed before speaking, begins by talking; she learns later.
Since woman's intuitions are much more rapid, she manages to
talk on almost any subject without knowing much of anything
thoroughly; it is a wonderful help to speak with ease because she
is not hampered by the difficulty of being exact.
In addition woman has greater zeal, she is more apostolic, she has
proselytizing in her blood. When Our Lord wanted to evangelize
Sichem, it was a woman he sent--the Samaritan woman. And the
work was well done; she quickly told her friends and
acquaintances--all the people of the little village--what she had
said to Jesus and what Jesus had said to her, even the admonition
He had given her "Thou hast said well, 'I have no husband,' for thou
hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy
The love to talk is so strong in a woman that she does not hesitate
to speak evil of herself to satisfy it.
Some cynic credits these cruel words to a child. Sympathetic
friends asked the little one what his father's last words were. He
said, "Papa did not say any last words; Mamma was with him to the
end." It is too clever to be true.
It is a well known and incontestable fact that there are many
women who possess exquisite discretion. Indeed, if men were not
also inveterate talkers, would they find so much occasion as they
do to speak unkindly of women?
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF A MOTHER
FRANCOIS MAURIAC gives us a keen analysis of a phase of
"So did our mother appear to me: a creature above all creatures . . .
It is strange to think that the most mediocre women and even the
most wicked have been in the eyes of their little boy this almost
". . . The child must grow, withdraw from his mother; it requires
separation for him to judge this creature of whom he was born. It
is necessary for her to let this man, her son, try his luck, take
risks, love a woman and take her to himself. All that seems simple
and in keeping with the wish of nature. Yet, it is just that which
gives rise to a drama more often than one would think.
". . . The hen drives away the grown chick who persists in following
her but many women do not have that instinct. In their son they
never see the child die; and this graying man that they wait on,
that they scold, is still a little boy to them."
Further on he says:
"As we advance in life, we perceive that man in his declining years
has as much need of his mother as when he was a child. In truth,
the child in us never dies; as soon as sickness attacks us and
disarms us, the child is there again, that demanding child, who
needs spoiling, confidence, who wants to be consoled and cradled.
And that is why very often, the wife from instinct becomes a
mother again at the bedside of this sick man; she assumes for the
man whom weakness has reduced to a child the role of the mother
who is no longer there.
"Such is perhaps the greatest marvel of the feminine heart--the
intermingling of maternal and conjugal love within it, so fused
into one that there remains only this tenderness of the wife
bending over her wounded and suffering companion; this
tenderness of which poor Verlaine dreamed when he wrote these
"How I am going to love you, beautiful little hands
Clasped for a moment, you who will close our eyes."
Coleridge has said it well:
A mother is a mother still the holiest thing alive.
Unhappily, what has contemporary society not done to "kill the
In how many places, children are said to belong to the State; they
do not even have to take the name of their parents; mothers are
merely the material producers of the living persons which the
country, the factories, and the army need. Their generative organs
are considered. Their heart, not at all!
In other places maternity is so ridiculed that to have a family,
particularly a large family, instead of being a glory, is an evidence
of simple mindedness, old-fashioned ideas, and stupidity.
Again, selfishness has been developed to such a point that while
sterility may not be directly advocated, an immoderate limitation
of births has been effected. To be tied down with children! No,
Before the war, Mauriac justly commented:
"Everything takes place in the world as if there existed a leader of
gambling, a leader of the ball who feels that to fulfill his designs
he must first of all strike at the mother."
And these last lines have become more timely than ever:
"In the world that it will be necessary to reconstruct, effort will
have to bear upon this aim: to restore woman to her true place, to
give her back her essential mission."
EVERY woman, by the fact that she becomes a mother, is
courageous, at least in regard to all that concerns her children.
She does not consider the trouble it is for her to watch at their
bedside, to take care of them, to feed them, to help them; and if
danger ever threatens them she will brave any peril to save them.
Our Lord's example of the mother hen gathering her chicks under
her wing is touching and at the same time far below the realities of
Sometimes this courage grows to unbelievable force. It is enough
to recall many instances of this during the war. Times of peace are
not without their examples. Here is one that is profoundly
At a certain high school located by the seashore, several students
who had gone out for an afternoon of swimming were drowned
despite the vigilance of the instructors. With which family should
the faculty begin to break the bad news? One mother whose son
had been killed in the war of 1914-1918, lost two boys in this
tragedy. She had a profound faith, a valor without equal. The
Father Superior knew her. He would begin with her.
She was admirable. Standing before the two beds, she uttered no
complaint, no reproach. The priest wanted to thank her for her
delicacy in the face of such grief.
But how was he to inform the other mothers?
I will go," she said immediately. "They will not be able to say
anything to me, for I have lost two."
When misfortune strikes someone belonging to me, do I manifest
the same serenity, the same supernatural spirit?
In the course of a pilgrimage from the North of France to Lourdes,
a poor child had to be taken off the train at Poitiers. His mother
and he were going to petition Our Lady for the cure of his malady
which was in its last stages. Mary doubtless thought it better not to
let this poor child on earth any longer. Shortly after the train left
Tours, he died. At the Poitiers station the waiting room was quickly
arranged to receive him. The mother remained near the body of
her little one while the necessary preparations were made. She was
not weeping, she held the child on her knees, she was praying.
"You would think it was Our Lady of Seven Dolors," whispered a
sympathetic onlooker. It was true. She was not upset by the going
and coming; she was absorbed in her suffering or rather she was
dominating it; there was no outburst, no sobbing; she was praying.
It was as if a halo of holiness surrounded her.
In sorrow it is not necessary to parade an impassibility which does
not belong to earth. Our Lord wept over Lazarus. But it is essential
to rise above the pain, to supernaturalize it; not to let it crush us;
to understand through our tears that God is always good, and that
if He makes us suffer, it is not to break us but to lift us up, to let
us share His Calvary, to give us the means of sharing more richly
in the Redemption.
O my God, I offer You my poor heart ravaged, bruised and aching.
Crucified Jesus, help me in my crucifixion. I unite my tears with
the Blood of Your wounds. May all serve for the good of my dear
ones, for souls, for all souls.
IF MOTHERS who have a profound faith can give evidence of a
courageous zeal, fathers who are animated by solid religious
principles can also offer examples of singular magnanimity.
A young Jesuit who had come from a large family was stricken with
a sudden fatal illness. Hurriedly his parents were sent for. When
they arrived their boy was already in his agony and died before
their eyes. As soon as he had gasped his last breath, the father
knelt down and leaning toward his wife asked, "If you will, dear, let
us recite the Magnificat that God called our boy to religious life
and that He took him at the age of Saint Aloysius."
Pierre Termier, the famous Christian geologist had a son. One day,
the boy who was then fourteen years old, came home from school
in gay spirits. He took the elevator to go to their apartment. There
was an accident on the way up and the boy's head was badly
crushed, causing instant death. The mother was overcome with
grief. Her husband said to her, "Believe sincerely, my poor wife,
that if God asks such a sacrifice of us, it is not for the pleasure of
making us suffer, but for the eternal happiness of our child."
In how many homes where death has come because of the war has
God been able to admire heroic resignation like this and
superhuman joys in trial!
Assuredly, the designs of Divine Providence are mysterious. Why,
why have all these young lives been snuffed out before they were
able to attain virtues or enjoy the achievements of maturity? There
is doubtless the possibility for expiation; who will ever know the
power for reparation that all these holocausts will have in the life
of a people called to offer them?
Then too there are individual reasons. How do we know what would
have become of so-and-so or such a one among the young men of
our acquaintance if they had lived? Being mortal, they have died.
Too young, no doubt. But who knows if this death in their youth
has not assured their eternity? We judge as the world judges--the
only precious thing seems to be life on earth. Really the only
precious thing is eternal happiness. Perhaps many of these
youthful dead, had they lived in our world of sin, mingling with
sin, would have lived in sin and died in sin. Is it not better, a
thousand times better that they should have fallen at twenty in a
magnificent act of generosity than to fall later at fifty or sixty with
hell facing them?
Without even mentioning hell, what do a few years more bring to
life if they must be passed--let us suppose they have been so
passed--in spiritual insignificance and moral poverty?
To leave, if leave they must, is it not better that it be in beauty and
in the exercise of heroic courage?
To be sure these noble thoughts cannot suppress the sufferings of
fathers or of mothers. But in whatever situation we may be or
whatever trial we must endure ought not faith always animate us?
God never permits evil except that good may come. That is the
truth we heard Pierre Termier recalling to his wife before the dead
body of their son. I must tell it to myself in every trial and
especially when faced with the bereavement of a dear one's early
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name
of the Lord;" that is how saintly Job spoke. That is how I want to
speak in my turn.
A MOTHER'S ZEAL
A MARRIED woman, the mother of a family, writes:
"I do not lack zeal; it is ardent, but is it well understood? I should
like to lead all men to be good, virtuous Christians, but my
position offers me so few occasions to put my zeal to work."
Is it really true that a wife, a mother, a woman who stays at home
has so little opportunity for the apostolate?
There is first of all the good she can do her children by simply
being near them and letting the flames of divine love which she
nourishes within her soul penetrate them. Anyone who loves God
and is eager for the salvation of his brethren cannot ever hide the
inmost concern of his soul--this desire to glorify God as much as
possible and to cooperate with his best effort for the sanctification
of the world.
To practice the devotion of duty faithfully performed is not less
efficacious than a more spectacular apostolate. To manifest by
one's example that the Will of God holds first place, that caprice
counts for nothing, and that true happiness is in faithful,
generous, fervent service is an apostolate in itself.
To bear witness to a great religion before the children calls for
zeal. The mother quoted before seems aware of this. She says, "To
unfold religion to them as a vast system, which it really is, a
system which envelops nature and humanity to unite them to God,
cannot but give them a desire to know it."
So many educators and so many mothers fail miserably in this;
they teach the children a religion without breadth, a religion which
instead of delighting them repels them. That of course is the result
of their not having sufficiently profound and sufficiently broad
religious knowledge themselves. They have perhaps never read
since they left school, no longer studied religious problems; they
are satisfied to use their meager equipment into which erroneous
ideas may have slipped and as a consequence they are incapable
of answering difficulties or even imparting any enthusiasm to
those with whom they speak.
Then there is the apostolate than can be exercised at home. Many
wives regret that their husbands have not advanced farther
religiously or that they are remiss in the practice of their religion
generally because of a lack of intellectual Christian training.
Let them do all they possibly can to help their husbands and count
on God to do the rest.
"I count on my daughters," continues the woman quoted before, to
accomplish a task that I have barely begun although I believed I
was working at it. Let them pray often for their father that God may
enlighten him on the important obligations of Christianity, that the
world and its prejudices may quietly withdraw from his soul in
order to let the true light shine in it with full splendor. Charles is
good, fundamentally good; it seems to me that the uprightness of
his heart, his excellent qualities call for a more perfect
understanding of the truth. He has good will, respect for religion,
esteem for virtue but he does not have within himself all the
resources necessary. It is not his fault. God will doubtless
accomplish His work and my children will have the consolation of
seeing their father become a good and perfect Christian; it is the
desire of my soul."
And what about home-life? Is there no room for improvement? It is
difficult, generally unwise to preach. The same holds true in
regard to the circle of relatives, friends, and visitors who are often
at the home. But a beautiful testimony of the Christian Faith in
daily living will win hearts.
Is this not a very extensive field for apostolic zeal?
A RECENT book on marriage is filled with splendid suggestions for
happy home-life. One of its most interesting chapters is entitled
"Those Who Help Us." It glorifies the domestic personnel, those
who despite the beautiful derivation from the ancient word prefer
now to be called the help.
It is clear first of all that their reason for existence is not that their
employers have a right to lead a lazy life because the help
dispense them from working. Those who secure help for
themselves must work as well as their servants. Since the demands
of motherhood or of education for the mother or father, or
professional duties outside the home constitute heavy obligations
which will not leave time for all the housework too, it is easy to
understand that they will call in helpers.
The ancient Latin word famuli which was used to designate the
servants who shared the life of the family, familia, strikes the right
note. Hired help should not be slaves in the service of hard and
overbearing idlers; they are an enlargement of the family for a
common task in which all hearts and all activities performed
together form but a single unit, with each person in his proper
place, but in intimate cohesion with the rest, or ought we not say,
"intimate communion" with the rest.
Thanks be to God, we can still find employers who do consider
their servants in this light and also servants whose spirit of charity
makes their task if not always easy at least always loved, servants
for whom it is an honor to serve.
In reality, masters of the house as well as hired help have the duty
to serve. The useless have no place at all in Christian society. Saint
Paul says that they who do not work have no right to eat. But the
same kind of service is not required of all. In an army, there are
those who fight on the front line, those who transport food
supplies and munitions, those who prepare the ammunition behind
the lines or spend themselves in the numberless tasks the country
needs done. All contribute to the good of the whole.
To serve in the more humble positions requires a greater virtue,
above all when this service requires subordination to those who
have authority; we will never praise those too much who accept the
employment of serving others, not with jealousy in their hearts
and only because necessity forces them, but with humility and
Those who are obliged to have domestic help ought to hold them
in high esteem. They would of course fail in their duty if they let
each one have his own way in the running of things; in domestic
society as well as in every other society, there must be authority to
Employers must not demand tyrannically more than is fitting; they
should give sufficient recompense for the services rendered. They
need not think they have fulfilled their whole duty just because
they pay a just wage; in a family all have rights, each one
according to his position has a right to the affection of all.
Employers who are parents must insist that their children be
respectful to the help. The help should be invited to live in the
atmosphere of the home and while high moral standards must be
required of them they should be allowed liberty in their religious
A family is a domestic community. The zeal of all must be aroused
for the well-being of each and in such a way that God may be
glorified to a maximum degree in this nest where the great rule is
understood to be not the code of the worldly spirit but the
peaceable demands of the Gospel.
LOVE OUT OF BOUNDS
HERE is a married individual who has not found in marriage all
that marriage seemed to promise or here is one who so far has had
perfect happiness. But one fine day there comes into the picture
the perfect creature, the dream-person--the ideal.
Oh, to be sure, there is no thought of renouncing one's home, but
one dreams of a friendship of a very special kind . . . intellectual
exchanges . . . There will be bodily separation but as high a degree
as possible of soul union. They do not wish to fall. They will not
fall. Is such a noble friendship forbidden?
A noble friendship is certainly not forbidden. But is that the case
we are considering or is it not rather a dangerous friendship of
which we speak? When beauty--let us suppose it is not just an
imaginary ideal--does not coincide with the good, can there be
anything else possible but seduction and fatal risk?
After all, have you not promised to another the entire gift of
yourself. Love does not consist only in the material gift of the
body but also and still more in the gift of the soul and of the heart.
What then does this mean? Do you think you can divide the divine
arrangement? Reserve for your marriage partner the traditional
gift of your flesh while you are withdrawing the very part that
gives honor and dignity to this tradition--your interior affection
Your partner in marriage has a right to your whole being. The day
of your marriage you indicated no division; therefore you are in
contradiction to what you have promised, to what God demands
and to what your partner expects. Would either of you have
accepted the other if you thought the endurance of the bond was
based on whim and that an essential reserve was contemplated?
Does not marriage involve at one and the same time the body and
the heart. There can be no thought then of a simple material
Reverse the roles. The temptation which you are experiencing--
because it is a temptation and a sly temptation at that--is not
experienced by you but by your partner. What would you think of
giving in to it then? Would you be willing to accept the situation
for yourself that you are tempted to impose on your partner?
You say "we shall never go so far as to be intimate." Are you sure?
How can you guarantee that after a primary infidelity you will not
fall into a secondary infidelity? And what assurance against
surprise have you? If you boldly walk up to danger, do you believe
divine grace to be obligated to save you in spite of yourself? How
many who like you claimed to be strong and sure of themselves
have fallen! All the sins of infidelity in marriage begin like this.
Surely if at the first attack, this perverse love would reveal all its
batteries the noble soul would revolt. But it doesn't. It ingratiates
itself, slipping in decorously and gently. Patience! It will turn
sensual and you will be tricked!
Besides, suppose you do keep your senses in control, are sins of
action only to be condemned? What of sins of thought? Of desire?
Our Lord said, "that anyone who even looks with lust at a woman
has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
But you say, I shall accept only what is elevated, noble, in this
friendship. So you say. But that you will not do because it is
practically impossible. Let us just admit your hypothesis for the
sake of discussion. All right, it is true for you. Is it true for the
other person? Can you say positively that your imprudence will
not arouse in him or in her troubled thoughts and desires? You are
not an Archangel; the other person is no Seraphim. Well then? . . .
No! no! Away with lies and false reasoning! Lord, put order into my
love. Grant that I may love only according to Your law.
THE FOLLY OF LOVE OUT OF BOUNDS
I HAVE meditated on the ethics on this kind of love. Now I shall
consider a few examples of its consequences to convince myself of
the right attitude if by chance I still need convincing.
Countess Potochka relates in her memoires that during the
occupation of Poland by Napoleon she paid too much attention to
a young French officer. Her words are interesting: "Faithful to my
duties, I would not even consider the possibility of a sentiment
that I should have avoided and I contented myself with denying
the danger." How many in similar circumstances do just that!
"It seemed permissible to me," she continues, "to entertain
friendship for a man who possessed all the qualities one would
have desired in a brother." She emphasizes the next point, and it is
a current delusion: "I forgot--and this was the greatest of my
wrongs--that a young wife ought not to have any other confidant,
any other friend than her husband. But then, why did not my
husband make me remember it?"
If women can profit by meditating on the whole text, men ought to
memorize the last line of it. It is unfortunately only too true that
the infidelities of many wives have as their explanation, let us not
say excuse, an initial fault on the part of the husband. Likewise the
failings of many husbands in regard to marital fidelity have been
prepared for at least by the bungling of their wives. Some men and
some women try to justify their conduct on the basis of their
"We are no longer in the ordinary conditions of marriage. We live
fraternally and are consequently more free in our interior life
since we have found through experience that a union of souls
between us is not possible. . ." There is only one answer to such a
statement: Even when by mutual consent, because of a lack of
soul-union, husbands and wives live without practicing bodily
union, they still have no right to infidelity of the heart. Such
infidelity in addition to being against God's law is opposed to the
divine institution of the family.
I saw in the preceding meditation how it is against the law of God.
How is it against the divine institution of the family?
The family is a couple and not an assembly of three persons. "They
shall be two in one flesh." To yield themselves to a passionate love
outside of marriage can only augment and accentuate the distance
between the husband and wife and introduce an element of
damnable licentiousness. And if this new love does not satisfy
you, will you have recourse to a third, a fourth? Where will you
Throw away your novel and start living your duty! It is austere
perhaps, but it brings its reward with it. Never will an upright soul
find peace and happiness in a love which his conscience
condemns, which it cannot do otherwise than condemn.
The Prayer Of The Married
OF PRIME importance to the married is their prayer together--that
precious time in which the two souls united by the sacred bonds of
marriage fuse their aspirations, thoughts and desires, forgetting to
discriminate which are their own individually and present
themselves to God, each mindful of the other, offering themselves
in a unity that is continuously strengthened by a mutual love
which increases tenfold every day.
Then when God has sent newcomers to the home, there will be
prayer in common, each of the little tots and each of the older
children will join in the prayer of father and mother and all will
recommend to Our Lord the sanctification of the whole
If ever circumstances such as war, travels, duties of state require a
temporary and perhaps periodic separation, there will be the
prayer said at a distance by each of the two hearts torn apart by
the good-byes of parting and the prolongation of the absence--a
prayer in which each under the eye of God strives to live together
the same moment of life and pleads for the courage to continue
the trip in unison to heaven.
Nor is any of this kind of prayer prejudicial to solitary prayer;
when one of the two is engaged in the duties of his state or in
some apostolic activity, the other more drawn to prayer, can in the
silence of the soul seek to acquire from God for both of them and
for the whole family, opportune graces. Prayer at such times will
not only be prayer of petition but even more--an elevation of the
soul to God to adore Him, to keep the Good Master company. There
will be few words or specific reflections, but a gift of the heart, a
search for union through intimacy of the soul. Or when one
participates in the Liturgical prayer of the Church, there will be
union of heart with the whole Church, a warmer and more fervent
share in the Communion of Saints. The soul at the center of the
world joins in the Sanctus of the numerous Masses that are being
celebrated, and shares in the Great Prayer of Christ for the world.
There remains another form of prayer, the conjoined prayer of the
parallel union of their two lives, not through any words or special
acts, but by the consecration to God of the deeds of all their days,
the wife at home, the husband in his office, or store, or shop. "Pray
always," said Our Lord; He did not mean that we must necessarily
be always in the act of praying but in a state of prayer which
means to so act that one's whole life rises as a prayer because of
the offering made of it to God and frequently renewed. The state
of prayer is the state of elevation, the explicit or implicit gift made
to God of all the minute particles of each instant's activity.
Toward the end of his life, Saint Francis de Sales, overwhelmed by
the occupations of his ministry and the responsibilities of a large
diocese thought he was obliged to curtail somewhat his extra
prayers of devotion. "I am doing," he explained, "what is the same
thing as praying."
Mental prayer and vocal prayer are not always possible to the same
degree for all, although all must assure themselves of at least the
minimum, as the vital prayer of maintaining union with God.
IF Our Savior's words, "Where two or three are gathered together in
My Name, I am in the midst of them," apply to strangers and
persons indifferent to one another, how much more significant
they are for two beings destined to be but one heart and one soul!
No society can better draw down the graces of God through prayer
than the society of man and wife. Already united by so many
bonds, what a truly community-union does their conjoined prayer
General Reibell who was asked to write the preface to a World War
book took leave to strike this personal note: "There are two habits
to which I remained faithful during our expedition: I kept a diary
of each day's events and the reflections they aroused in me; then I
read a chapter of the New Testament and a selection from the
Imitation in the order my wife and I had agreed upon before
parting; in this way we prepared a meeting place for our intimate
thoughts across the distances which separated us. If, as happened
on rare occasions, I was obliged to neglect this double obligation
for a day or two at the most, I made up for it the following days,
bringing myself up to date both in my journal and in my reading.
When I completed the reading material I began over in the same
order as before until the end of the double set of three hundred
sixty-five days of our African campaign."
The husband in this case is the one who took the first step.
Frequently the lead in the spiritual is taken by the wife. Often
husbands are grieved to the depths of their being because they see
that their wives do not draw the family to God.
Whether the husband or the wife takes the initiative matters not so
much; what does matter is that a Christian family should advance
spiritually to the degree of performing together the essential acts
There will be times when real necessity obliges husband and wife
to fulfill certain religious exercises separately; for example, if the
wife is nearing the time of her delivery or has just given birth to a
child, or if for domestic reasons they must attend different Masses
so that someone can be home to take care of the personnel or
watch the children . . .
Aside from such cases, it is desirable that they should perform as
many of their spiritual duties as they possibly can together; theirs
is to be an association. Let them pray together beside their bed,
exchange intimate thoughts after an inspiring and spiritual
reading done together, say grace before and after meals together
and so on through the other opportunities for prayer in their life.
One of the two may have a greater taste for prayer than the other
and there is no reason why it should not be satisfied, no reason
why the claims of grace and the attractions of the soul should not
be followed after the spiritual exercises which should be done
together have been fulfilled; duty of state must always come first,
must be safeguarded.
In this way independence of soul is assured along with close
cooperation, in a worship by two with souls united.
PRAYER FOR EACH OTHER
A FATHER and a mother willingly pray for a son in danger, a sick
daughter, a child in distress. But not so frequently do husbands
and wives pray for each other. Yet that would be the way they
could most easily obtain the graces necessary to achieve their
common desires and fulfill their common mission.
How beautiful it would be if, during their evening prayer together,
there could be a pause such as the one for the examination of
conscience during which time each would pray silently for the
other, recommending to God all the other's intentions sensed,
guessed, and known as well as those that only God the Master of
consciences could know.
Even more beautiful would it be if they would receive Holy
Communion together frequently so that each of them could speak
more intimately to Our Lord about the needs of the other, begging
not only temporal but spiritual favors for this cherished soul.
Cana Conferences are becoming more widespread. Here both
husband and wife listen to the same discourses, make the same
meditations and are called upon to form the same resolutions.
They are not expected to make their retreat as two married
celibates but as a couple together, to be sanctified conjointly.
They will in their Cana Conferences experience at times no doubt a
little sly joy,--quite pardonable to be sure,--at hearing the very
things they have been trying to convince their partner of, stressed
energetically by a qualified speaker and with every chance of
being effective since at such times the soul is more receptive.
They both become compromised in the eyes of the other; neither
has any excuse in the future for going off on a tangent.
A further advantage of Cana Conferences is that the couple can
more easily advance in holiness if their striving after it is
synchronized. In many homes, the wife can manage to slip away
for an annual retreat which has become habitual for her while the
husband according to his reasoning can never find the time for
these periods of recollection. As a consequence there is a sort of
spiritual cleavage between them. They do not advance equally
with the consequent danger that to one the piety of the other may
seem too rigid or too absorbing.
Let the wife, have, if she will, her additional practices of devotion
to supplement the couple's united prayers; if she is intelligently
pious they can only serve for the good of the home. But it remains
true that her efforts ought to be directed less to surpassing her
husband in spiritual exercises than to elevating his spirituality to
the heights of her own, assuming that hers is perfectly balanced,
warm and vibrant.
Certain timidities must be overcome. At the beginning of married
life, the husband will accept everything from his wife. He expects
her to surpass him spiritually and above all he expects her to draw
him forward. Let her then use her power prudently, intelligently,
delicately in virtue of her love. Let her not be motivated by the
desire to count her fine successes but to spiritualize her home.
Her husband can only be grateful for it. He will welcome her
influence, profit by it, follow it.
MARRIAGE AND A LIFE OF PRAYER
IT IS a mistake to think that only priests or religious can attain to a
life of profound payer.
A religious priest, the biographer of a young girl of the world who
had been an example of magnificent fidelity and the recipient of
singular graces from God, recounts that one of the theologians
who examined the book expressed great admiration for the young
girl. "People believe," he said, "that the great graces of
contemplation are scarcely ever found in the midst of the world. I
have found in cloisters and monasteries and among the clergy,
souls who have received astonishing graces of light and of ease in
prayer. I can therefore speak from experience. However, the two
souls who seemed to me to be the most favored were neither
priests nor nuns but two persons living in the world, two mothers
of families." He added, "They were far from being complacent
about the favors they received; they believed them to be quite
natural and never dreamed that they themselves were singularly
And all that while living in the world as married women!
Then we have the example of a doctor, an excellent practitioner in
a large city, much in demand because of his great skill and
superior knowledge. Note his deep life of prayer as revealed from
the following quotations from some of his letters:
"I recollect myself in the course of my professional visits, going
from one duty to another, those duties which present themselves
to me so clearly as acts of charity to my neighbor in whom I have
the impression of ministering to the suffering Christ.
"In the interval which separates one act of charity from another,
there spontaneously wells up in my heart irresistible movements
of adoration, a necessary worship of praise, a humble and self-
abasing offering of my impotence, a very real pain at being
separated from the Well-Beloved of my soul, and, in the midst of it
all, a consoling peace and a strong leaning on God who lifts me
above depressing physical fatigue and wearing privation."
Another time he wrote:
"The sight of souls so little concerned about God causes me pain
and heartache. I should like to see all creatures praise God,
concern themselves solely with Him and refer all to Him. I have
great difficulty lending myself to the thousand little things of
here-below which have no direct connection with God."
This interior union with God in no way hindered his exterior
ministry. With what soul power did he accomplish it!
"In the midst of overwhelming activities, an impression of
profound solitude enfolds my soul. Action is no longer anything
more for me than the accomplishment of duty, for the only duty of
my life, leaving out of the picture any consideration of this
frightful I and accomplishing everything for a single purpose
always present, always engulfing me--God.
"One might say that there is substituted for the egoism which is
proper to me a power which is foreign to me but which draws me
on while exercising over my will a force which impels and which is
In his last letter dated August, 1936, we have these thoughts.
"It has pleased God (I should never think of asking Him for it) to
grant me six months of immobilization because of a cardiac
lesion. A Garden of Gethsemani? Amen.
"I was formerly taught what adoration and thanksgiving mean. Now
I am immersed in adoration and thanksgiving. I have been taught
that we fulfill the highest apostolate in the place where God for all
eternity wants us to be. Therefore, I say three times over Amen and
Thank You, my God."
PERHAPS on reading the beautiful selections from the doctor's
letters I have somewhat envied his union with God. Perhaps there
arose in my mind the question: "What would I have to do to
achieve such close intimacy with God?"
First of all, I must remember that such a degree of union with God
is in the domain of gratuitous gifts. Our Lord gives them or does
not give them as He sees fit. That is His own concern. In
themselves, these gifts are no forecast of sanctity in the person
who receives them. Someone can be quite perfect and never
receive these favors; a person can be most faithful and attentive
but either because of special difficulties of temperament or of
capacity or because of God's permission he will never receive like
By the very fact that they are gratuitous, they are inherently out of
proportion with human efforts. They are liberalities of God that we
are powerless to merit in the formal sense of the term. I am
walking along the boulevard; I meet several poor persons along the
way; I give something to the second not to the first, to the fifth and
not to the fourth. To none of them do I owe a thing. I have
bestowed a favor pure and simple and no one can lay claim to my
bounty as his due.
So too with the special favors we are considering. They manifest
the munificence of God and do not prove the holiness of the
It is evident though that if God is free to bestow extraordinary
graces according to His own will, in general, He dispenses them to
those who by their generosity have given assurance beforehand
that these favors will fall on good ground. If by right they are
purely gratuitous, in fact they most often recompense a generosity
that is particularly ardent, a devotedness and a striving that has
been heroically maintained.
In practice, I should let God play His hand. He is well-versed in
what He is doing. I should not presume to dictate to Him the
method He should follow. I can play my hand too. His very own
specialty is liberality; mine should be generous love. I ought to be
bent on giving, not on receiving.
If in the course of my life of striving, God is pleased to give me a
keener relish of Him, an understanding of Him beyond my
knowledge of His perfections, a love for prayer and for sacrifices
He will have free sway in me. I shall praise Him with my whole
soul; but it is not to win these favors that I intend to push my
fervor to its peak.
If, on the contrary, He lets me on the level of common prayer and
the ordinary state of the general run of people; if He even
abandons me to a spell of aridity--a common trial of earth--either
for periods of time or perhaps permanently, I shall cast myself
upon His love and beg Him to insure my faith in Him and to
preserve my fidelity. I know what I am worth--not very much.
The soldier ought to serve. If his Captain notices him and puts him
on the list for the Legion of Honor, fine! A red ribbon, however,
adds nothing to the value of a man. He is worth what he gives and
not what he receives.
I shall strive to give much.