Little Book of Instructions for Christian Mothers
(from Mother Love – A Manual for Christian Mothers – by Rev. Pius Franciscus, O.M.Cap., 1926) On the Christian Training of Children
A Christian Mother’s Care of Her Child after the Period of School-Life.
The periods of childhood and school-life are soon past, and then there begins a period of life which is, indeed, fraught with dangers for your son and your daughter. It is the period of transition in which the life-course of your child is definitely settled, its character firmly fixed, and its vocation decided. It is the period which decides the weal or woe of your child’s whole future, both temporal and eternal. During this period the battle between Christ and Satan, between the Church and the World, rages more than ever for the possession of the heart of your growing boy and girl. In this period your child experiences new and strange sensations; and novel ideas, inclinations and desires present themselves; they promise pleasure and more or less insistently demand gratification. On every side the child beholds the alluring appeals of the three-fold concupiscence, everywhere it sees the wanton abandon with which the votaries of the world seem to surrender themselves to every enjoyment and pleasure. Few it sees who follow in the footsteps of Christ, few who mortify their passions and deny their inclinations, and these few are despised and ridiculed. Will your child join the big crowd, or will it follow in the wake of the few?
This is not all that faces your child, dear Christian Mother, in making its choice. Your boy and your girl have started to feel their importance since graduating from school. They are working, they are earning money which every week helps to meet the expenses for the upkeep of the family. They feel that, because they are contributing towards the family funds, they ought to have more liberty than heretofore and be allowed to be the masters of their time and of their action. The urge of independence is becoming stronger.
They do not want you to interfere with their “fun,” as they call it. All the young people are having good times, why shouldn’t they have them just as well?
These two new conditions — the strange physical manifestations and the urge of independence — are the factors that make it so necessary for the prudent mother to keep her eyes more widely open than ever. If ever, so especially now a mother should possess the full confidence of her boy and girl, and strive to hold it without seeming to pry into any secrets. This may be difficult at times, but if the child has been reared according to the principles and suggestions laid down in this book, it ought to be comparatively easy. The boy and girl and have come to realize that mother is not unsympathetic, that, while she believes life to be an earnest duty, she at the same time believes that it should be generously interspersed with innocent amusements and recreations and with every comfort and ease that is compatible with Christian ideals and principles. And there need be no special effort to confirm your boy and girl in this view. Having held their confidence for so many years, you need but sympathize with the new spirit that possesses them and, ordinarily they will accept your interpretations of the changing phases of their life. But in her sympathy mother must not compromise her position. She must not only be her children’s sympathetic companion and guide, she must also remain the queen of her home and assert her God-given right of authority. Therefore, while she may relax somewhat in supervising every detail of her growing children’s actions, yet she must not tolerate any willful disobedience in moral problems of importance. The following paragraphs will attempt to show how a Christina mother may cope with the various phases of this new period of her children’s life.
In the first place a Christian mother will direct her children at this period in the employment of their time. As long as the children went to school, the school practically regulated their time on account of the demands which their teachers and their lessons made upon them. Since their graduation from school, the children will have much leisure time which must be well utilized if it should not make them dissipated. In every household there should be a regular daily routine, which barring extraordinary cases should be observed faithfully. There should be a fixed hour for rising, a fixed hour for family morning prayer, a fixed hour for breakfast, a fixed hour for going to or beginning work, a fixed time for the noon-meal and the return to work, a fixed time for the evening meal and a fixed time and a fixed period for recreation and relaxation and enjoyment, a for profitable reading, for self-improvement, both intellectual and physical, and a fixed time for family night prayer. The son, having finished school, should be assigned to the work for which his talents, natural gifts and abilities fit him. It may be that he is fitted for more than just manual labor. In this case his parents should strive to give him the opportunity to become proficient in the profession most suitable to him, may it be law, medicine, business, or some particular commercial pursuit. He should be encouraged in his ambitions, as long as they do not interfere with the interests of his soul, and if they are not beyond the family finances.
As regards the daughter we would strongly discourage the idea of putting girls to work among strangers at the age of sixteen. We believe in the old-fashioned idea of keeping them at home and teaching them the important occupation of housewifery in some shape or form. There are so many domestic duties to be fulfilled, duties which mean so much for the comfort and the happiness of home-life. Girls should become acquainted with and learn all of them, cooking, washing, cleaning, sewing, darning, fancy work, etc. After girls have become older and after they have been trained in the various duties of housework, they may, if necessary, be allowed to go out to work, but they should be given charge of some of the household duties even then. The principal aim in the training of the girls must be, after all, to fit them for good housewives and mothers.
The next point of importance is recreation. How much recreation should boys and girls have? There certainly must be a limit, though, in general, we may say that it should be plentiful, taking care merely that recreation and enjoyment do not interfere with the proper fulfillment of the daily duties. When pleasures are sought merely for the sake of enjoyment we consider them injurious to the spiritual welfare of a person. If in any way possible, all recreation and pleasure should be provided for at home, music, singing, dancing, interesting books, games, cards, etc. The more attractive and pleasant you can make your home, the less desire your children will have to seek their enjoyments outside, and the more the family will keep united. Fewer sins are committed in a bright home than in a dull, gloomy one, and this is surely a great gain. As much as possible, the frequentation of theaters, public dances and amusement places should be discouraged and, indeed, should not be allowed except under the escort of mother or of some discreet elderly person; this should at least be the rule for the girls. Outdoor games, such as baseball, tennis, swimming, skating, and others are very conducive to the physical well-being of the young, and should also be readily allowed, but never to be pursued so far as to become a passion, or an injury to the health.
The choice of companions or friends is a third point that requires the earnest attention of a good Christian mother. All the good which a careful education may have sowed into the hearts of your children, can be rooted out again in a very short time by dangerous companions and friends. Experience only too frequently has proven the truth of that Scriptural proverb, “Evil associations corrupt good manners.” Mother should investigate thoroughly the moral character of every companion of her son or daughter before approving of the companionship. Innocence and faith are easily endangered, love of God and peace of conscience are easily lost, and neither can be regained except through mighty struggles and severe penance, if at all. Particular supervision must be exercised in your children’s associations with persons of the opposite sex. All the warnings that mother ever heard from the pulpit or read in books of instruction should be ever before her mind, so that her boy and her girl may not become victims of the devil of lust who only too often lurks under the guise of refinement and etiquette.
The choice of books and other reading material is another grave matter. Mother should never permit any trashy novel to come into her house whether it be gotten at the public library, or be bought at a nearby newsstand. No magazine, pamphlet or newspaper of whatever type — literary, scientific, political, economic, or social — should be permitted if it contains anything that might be contrary to good faith and good morals. Both the son and daughter should be earnestly warned against picking up indiscriminately every magazine that flaunts gay colors or a catchy title. A good rule which mother should inculcate into the hearts of both her sons and daughters is the following: “Never read a book by yourself, which you would blush to read aloud to a respectable person.”
Mother should also gently but firmly urge the practice of weekly confession and communion. She should also recommend devout assistance at daily Mass and at the ordinary church services, and whatever she admonishes her children to do, she herself should practice and induce her husband and the father of her children to fulfill as far as his business or work permits. Here we would also urge mother to have her boy and her girl enrolled in the young men’s or the young ladies’ sodality, and she should send them to the vocational instructions which are occasionally given by the sodality director. Those instructions will no doubt supplement many of her own admonitions and teachings and will keep alive in her children the earlier instructions of their schooldays.
It may be that God will inspire your son or daughter with the desire of consecrating themselves to a higher, to the more perfect life in the service of God. This call should be appreciated, indeed, as a special favor of God, and if your boy be otherwise fitted for the holy priesthood, dear Christian Mother, rejoice! Do not oppose his desire, but urge him to seek the advice of his confessor, who will more thoroughly investigate the purity of the boy’s intentions and who will advise the manner of preserving and attaining his desire. And if your daughter desires to devote her life in holy virginity to the care of the sick or to the education of the young and ignorant, encourage her in her laudable aspirations and thank God that He has singled out one of your own flesh and blood for so noble a calling. Indeed, the world may speak about the burying of talents behind gloomy convent or monastery walls, it may deplore what it calls the fanaticism which prompts a young man to forego a brilliant worldly career in exchange for the tame career of a priest, but all the criticism of the worldly-minded should not be allowed to influence your willingness to surrender your daughter or your son to God’s service and the service of mankind. Christ’s call of your children – If thou wilt be perfect, come and follow me — is, indeed, a pledge of their salvation and even of your own; if you place no obstacles in their way to obey that call.
Matrimony is the other vocation, which your son or daughter might choose. Teach your children to consider this state of life also as a holy one, and fraught with momentous and noble obligations; that it entails many sacrifices, sorrows and suffering, though these are coupled also with many pleasures and with many merits for eternity. In choosing a companion for life, the Christian mother should advise her boy or girl against making mistakes. A mistake in this choice will be a misfortune, indeed, for it can never be remedied. Passion and infatuation are poor guides in this decision. Wise reflection and calm, judicious deliberation with father and mother as well as with the confessor are indispensable in making a wise choice, a choice, that promises with some guarantee a future of temporal happiness and eternal salvation. Surely physical and intellectual accomplishments and talents will greatly influence the final decision, but “the one thing necessary” for both parties is sincere Catholicity, Christian virtue and earnest piety. These three form the solid foundation for a happy marriage, all others are merely contributing factors. Associations and friendships with non-Catholics should not be fostered lest perhaps the danger of a mixed marriage arise. Mixed marriages are forbidden by the Church, and this should be sufficient reason to make them odious to a sincere Catholic. A marriage forbidden by the Church cannot be acceptable in the eyes of God, must not be countenanced by good Catholic parents, and dare not be desired by a Catholic youth or maiden.
After the life-partner has been chosen and the engagement has been closed, the parents must not relax their vigilance over the young couple. Liberties and familiarities should not be permitted to them, and they should not be allowed to meet except in the presence of a third person; at least, they should not be permitted to be alone together for any length of time. They should be admonished to receive the sacraments frequently before the day of marriage, if possible, every week, to foster a tender devotion to the purest Virgin Mary and her most chaste Spouse, St. Joseph, and thus to prepare their hearts for receiving the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, and also to escape the allurements of unholy passion.
Let the wedding day be celebrated in a decent manner without too much worldly pomp and clamor. Catholics should always remember that the day of the wedding is a holy day, and that our Lord Himself sanctifies it by deigning to become a guest in the souls of the bride and bridegroom.
After the marriage has taken place the parents should assist the young couple with impartial affection, and in the little ups-and-downs which naturally occur in the course of married life, they should encourage them to bear with patience each other’s faults, to rear their children in the fear and piety of the Lord, and in all things to place their confidence in the Providence of God. It is then that parents may expect to reap the fruits of the education they have given their children. In the happiness of their children, in their grateful love, as well as in the reverence in which they are held, father and mother enjoy a sweet and well-earned reward for the innumerable and great sacrifices which they once made. Therefore, father and mother, continue to follow your children with your prayers and counsels, your admonitions and your encouragements. But in your love for them do not during your life-time share all your material possessions with them and thus make yourself entirely dependent on them. Many sad examples show the imprudence of such a proceeding. Many a father and many a mother who relied too much upon the fine promises of their children and who expected greater filial devotion and love in exchange for their own generosity, were cruelly neglected and their death was hailed with joy by their precious offspring.
In concluding these instructions we would earnestly urge all Christian parents to decorate their homes with some expressive marks of their Catholic Faith, such as crucifixes, holy water fonts, images or pictures of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of St. Joseph, of the Guardian Angel, and of some Saint or Saints to whom they may have a special devotion. We would recommend a crucifix for every bedroom besides a picture of the Blessed Virgin in the bedrooms of the girls as well as of the boys. A beautiful picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus would surely be an ornament even to the most gorgeously furnished parlor. In every bedroom there should also be found a holy water font, which should always contain a generous supply of holy water. Besides these religious articles each Christian family should possess a number of pious books of instruction and edification, which may serve as spiritual reading for the members of the family. We would recommend a large family Bible and a more or less elaborate volume of the Lives of the Saints. Furthermore, a larger catechism with popular explanations of the text should be considered an important general household book. For general spiritual instruction in our warfare against passion, temptation, and sin, Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat was highly recommended and also extensively used by St. Francis de Sales. Appropriate prayerbooks are Father Lasance’s Young Man’s Guide and Catholic Girls’ Guide, and for Christian Mothers the prayerbook, Mother Love. A special book of spiritual value is Introduction to a Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. There are other books which might appeal more to the individual taste, but it would lead too far to mention them all. Your pastor will surely be glad to give you any desired information and will gladly furnish you also with the addresses of the firms from which the above-mentioned or any other books may be purchased.