Dignity of Woman as Mother
The dignity of woman as wife and manager of the family is undoubtedly very great; but it appears almost divine if considered in her quality as mother. The sublime office of a mother is the care of her children. For this she is endowed with patience, endurance, quick sensibilities, a sympathetic nature, and above all, with an exceedingly great love for her offspring.
To take proper care of children is a heavy, a very heavy burden indeed. But let it be remembered that the real moral grandeur of the family lies in the fact that it rests entirely on sacrifice. There are two existences that must be blended into one; two lives which form but one. There are here two beings that constantly devote themselves for a third; and this devotion ennobles them, transfigures them, so to speak, in our eyes. What is it that imparts, in an especial manner, to the mother of the family that dignified character which raises her above herself?
It is, that in her person she presents a striking example of sacrifice; it is that her title suggests a ministry of sufferings, a life given to the peril of her own, an existence which doubles itself, in a manner; of days, months, and of whole years stolen from rest j from youth and pleasure; of alarms, of painful vigils, of deepest sorrows, everything, in a word, that we surround with the greatest honor, and the greatest respect, because we behold in them the very height of sacrifice.
Now, as a rule, mothers cannot live up to this spirit of sacrifice without a tender love for their children. Hence, God has made the love of mothers for their children a necessary love. It is for this reason that there is no command in the divine law for parents to love their children, whilst, on the contrary, children are commanded to love their parents. Love towards one’s own offspring is a love so deeply planted in the heart by nature herself that the wild beasts never fail to love their young. It is said that even tigers, hearing the cry of their whelps when they are taken by the hunters, will plunge into the sea to swim after the vessels where they are confined.
A mother s love is proverbial. Indeed, there is no love so pure and so thoroughly disinterested as the love of a good mother for her child. Her love knows no change; brothers and sisters have forgotten one another; fathers have proved unforgiving to their children; husbands have been false to their wives, and wives to their husbands, and children too often forgot their parents; but you rarely hear of a mother forgetting even her ungrateful, disobedient children, whose actions have lacerated her heart, and caused dark shadows to glide before her eyes, and enter her very soul. Still there are moments when her faithful heart yearns towards them; there are moments when the reminiscences of the happy past obliterate the present sorrow, and the poor, wounded spirit is cheered for a while, because there is still one of the fibres of the root of hope left in her forlorn breast, and a languid smile will flit over her wan and prematurely faded face. Yes, she forgives, though there is no river Lethe for her to drink from in this life; showing that her love is the most pure in this world, and the nearest approach to the love that God has so graciously bestowed upon her.
Some years ago a vessel sailed from the coast of Ireland. It was filled with passengers who were coming to this country to better their fortune. The vessel set sail with a favorable wind. The sky was clear, and the sun shone gayly upon the sparkling sea. But suddenly the heavens grew dark. A fierce storm arose. The winds howled madly around the vessel. The ship was hurried on—on, till it was dashed against the rocks. The wild, surging waves dashed over it. The vessel split in twain. Part remained hanging amid the rocks, and the rest sank, with those on board, beneath the waves, far down into the depths of the sea. The storm continued to rage for several days. At last, when the wind had died away, some hardy fishermen, who lived on the coast, took a skiff and rowed out to the wreck. They entered the part of the vessel that remained hanging amid the rocks. They broke open the cabin door. They heard distinctly the feeble wail of a child. They rushed in. They found a little babe lying upon the breast of its dead mother. The child was eagerly sucking the blood which oozed from a large wound in its mother’s breast. The mother had died of cold and hunger; but, even amid her fearful sufferings, she did not forget her child. She took a sharp knife, and, with a wonderful love of a mother s heart, she made a deep gash in her breast, in order that her child might preserve its life by drinking her own heart’s blood!
And when the darling child of the Christian mother is on the point of death, ah! how tender is not her prayer to the Author of Life that he spare the child.
“Oh, God of mercy, ” she prays, ” spare my child ! Heaven is already full of light and gladness. Do not then take to heaven the light and joy of my heart. Thou art ever happy, my God! do not then deprive me of my only happiness. God of compassion, leave me the sweet babe whom thou hast given me! my love, and all my happiness, is centered in him. Since he has come to me, the earth, and sea, and sky, the whole world around has grown doubly beautiful. The air seems filled with light, and song, and sweetness. Ah, do not take my child away, for when his tender body lies beneath the sod, my heart and life shall lie there with it, and this whole world shall grow dark and dreary as one vast gloomy graveyard. God! remember I am yet so young. I am not used to tears. Deal gently with my poor weak heart! I have never yet known what it is to lose a friend, a relative, or beloved one. O God! shall, then, the first that teaches me the dread meaning of grave and shroud be my own, my first-born child? O Jesus, I conjure Thee, by Thy wounded heart wounded for love of me do not crush my tender heart, for Thou hast made it tender. Thou hast made me a mother; Oh, spare my darling child.” Ah! who can measure the depth of the wonderful love of a mother s heart!
My mother! tis a holy name, endowed with magic power
To soothe the sadly troubled soul in dark affliction’s hour;
It sweeps the spirit’s chords like songs of angels heard in dreams,
It opes the fountains of the heart as spring unlocks the streams.
No voice like hers whose lullaby was o’er our cradle sung.
Can calm the heart of sorrow s stern, cold grasp too rudely wrung;
No hand like hers, whose gentle touch in childhood banished pain,
Can fold the downy wings of sleep above the throbbing brain.
The world-worn spirit, wildly tossed by fortune s treacherous gale,
Beholds the faithless friends on whom its hopes were anchored fail;
And seeking rest, as to the Ark returned the weary dove,
From smiling masks and hollow hearts turns to a mother’s love.
And pausing o’er the cruelty of fickle friends to grieve,
Cries, “Mother, mother, yours the heart that never could deceive!”
Oh, but to lay my head as oft in childhood on your breast,
And sobbing out my griefs, once more sink in your arms to rest.
The outlaw, bold and hard of heart, with dark and stormy soul,
O’er which the fiercely surging waves of passion madly roll,
Though he the great All-father‘s love and mercy fail to see,
Can ne’er forget the childish prayer lisped at his mother’s knee.
While struggling on with weary feet to reach the cloudless land,
Though wrong, deceit and chill distrust around us ever stand,
The memory of a mother’s love lifts up the anguish bowed,
And shines out through the darkest gloom like sunshine from a cloud.
Her prayers, though long the mute, cold lips have lain beneath the sod,
Will ever seem like golden cords to draw us home to God;
They follow us through joy and woe, they reach o’er land and wave:
The first beside the cradle found, the last beside the grave.
Compared with hers, all other love is like an April day,
That folds its smiles and frowns at last in cold gray mists away.
As boundless as the universe, as pure as heaven above,
Ending as eternity, such is a mother’s love!
Now, God gives such wonderful love to Christian mothers to enable them to discharge most faithfully the duties Towards their children.
Woman as mother bears the human race beneath her heart. It is she who brings forth, nourishes and trains mankind from the cradle to the grave. It is she who smiles upon our infant eyes in the very dawning of life. It is she who catches our first look of love. Her lessons sink the deepest into the mind and heart and last the longest. Hence it is that God in Holy Writ praises so highly a good woman, and blames so severely the woman that is wicked. “A good, virtuous woman is a great treasure. Her worth is beyond compare. 7 (Prov. xxx, 10.) But, “Better dwell in a desert than with a wicked woman. 7 (Prov. xxi., 19.) Indeed, the weal or woe of the entire human race depends in a great measure upon the conduct of mothers. Many of the noblest and best men that ever lived and adorned and benefited the world have declared that, under God, they owed everything that was good and useful in their lives, to the lessons of virtue instilled into their hearts by the lips of a pious mother.
Boleslas and St. Wenzeslas were brothers according to the flesh, and princes of the royal family of Bohemia.
Wenzeslas was always very abstemious in eating and drinking and devoted to the practice of all other virtues.
Boleslas, on the contrary, was so impious and cruel as to murder his own brother Wenzeslas. What made the one so pious and the other so impious? It was education. Wenzeslas was educated by his grandmother Ludmila, who was a holy matron; but Boleslas was educated by his own mother Drahomira, who was so impious that God, to punish her for her impiety, permitted the earth to open under her feet and swallow her alive. (Surius). Indeed, are we to have good citizens in the country, good bishops and priests, and practical Catholics in the Church, good religious in the convent, and a vast army of saints in heaven all these depend on the proper education of children. How great, how sublime, therefore, is not the office of a mother! Her grand mission consists in bringing up children for heaven. What a dignity, what a happiness, what an honor for a mother to give angels to heaven! Would to God, she only knew the real dignity and importance of her mission, and comprehended the qualifications in the moral and religious order that best prepare her for the duties of her sublime calling ! What mission can be more sublime, more sacred, what mission can be more meritorious before God than that of showing to the young child the way to heaven by giving it the primary lessons of the true religion ?
There is, indeed, nothing more honorable, nothing more meritorious, nothing that leads to higher perfection than the instruction of children in their religious duties. This instruction of children is a royal, apostolic, angelic and divine function. This instruction is a royal function, because the office of a king is to protect his subjects from danger. This instruction of children is an apostolic function, because our Lord commissioned his apostles to instruct the nations, and thus made them the saviours of men. The instruction of children in their religious duties is an angelic function, because the angelical spirits of a higher order in heaven enlighten those of a lower order, and their earthly mission is to labor without ceasing for the salvation of men. lt Those who instruct others in the way of salvation/ 7 says St. Peter Chrysologus,” are the substitutes of angels. “Indeed, this mission of mothers is divine. They are called to carry on the very work of God himself. All that God has done from the beginning of the world, and which he will continue to do to the end of time, has been, and will be, for the salvation of mankind. For this he sent his Son from heaven, who enlightened the world by his doctrine, and who still continues to instruct his people by his chosen disciples. Those mothers, then, who direct their children in the paths to heaven, who allure them from vice, who form them to virtue, may fitly be termed apostles, angels, and saviours. what glory awaits those mothers who perform the office of angels, and even of God himself, in laboring for the salvation of the souls of their children !
If this employment is honorable for mothers, it is also not less meritorious for them. What is the religious instruction of children but conferring, with inconceivable labor and fatigue, on a class of our race the weakest and most helpless, the greatest of all blessings? For, while the physical development of the child advances with age, it is not so with the mental; for religious instruction only can develop the noble faculties of the soul. The soul of a child, so to speak, would continue to live enshrouded in pagan darkness, if the mother did not impart and infuse the light of truth. All the gold in the world is but dross in comparison with true religious knowledge.
Our Saviour says: “Whosoever shall give drink to one of these little ones, even a cup of cold water, shall not lose his reward.” (Matt, x., 42.) May we not infer that those mothers, who bestow upon children the treasures of divine knowledge, will receive an exceedingly great reward? If God denounces so severely those who scandalize little children: “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt, xviii, 6), what recompense will mothers not receive who instruct and sanctify them?
Mothers who give their efforts and means to this object choose the surest way to appease the anger of God, and to insure their own salvation. They choose the best means of attaining a high degree of perfection. Almighty God gives to each the graces proper to his vocation. Mothers, therefore, who are devoted to the religious instruction of their children, must rest assured that God will give them extraordinary graces to arrive at perfection: “Whoever,” says our Lord, “shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.” (Matt, xviii, 5.) Whosoever, then, believes that our Saviour will not allow himself to be surpassed in liberality, must also believe that he will bestow his choicest blessings on those mothers who instruct their children in the knowledge of God and the love of virtue.
What obligations have not the “angels” of children “who always see the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Matt, xviii, 10), to pray for these mothers their dear colleagues and charitable substitutes, who perform their office and hold their place on earth! The children will pray for their mothers, and God can refuse nothing to the prayers of children, and their supplications will ascend with the prayers of the angels.
Do you desire, Christian mother! to be saved ? Do you wish to acquire great treasures in heaven, and to attain great perfection in this life f Employ yourself diligently in the religious instruction of your children. Do you wish to gain the love of our Lord, and to deserve his protection? Teach your children to fear and love God: you cannot do anything more pleasing to his divine heart.
It is related in the Gospel that mothers brought to him little children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. And when Jesus saw this he was much displeased, and said to them: “Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God: and embracing them, and laying his hands on them, he blessed them.” If Jesus was displeased with those who prevented little children from coming to him, what love and tenderness will he not have for those mothers by whose means they come to him?
O how consoled will they not be in their last hour, when they shall see the souls of those whom they prepared for heaven, accompanied by their good angels, surrounding their bed of death, forming as it were, a guard to protect
them from the snares and assaults of the enemy!
This is a happiness which those mothers may confidently expect who labor assiduously to give their children a good religious education. Ah! Would to God, I say once more, that mothers would understand their sublime mission and dignity on earth!