From True Womanhood, Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894

We have known great-souled women among the log-cabins of the forest settlements of Canada, in the crowded tenement houses and most ill-favored quarters of London and Liverpool and New York, as well as in the hard worked manufacturing population of the New-England towns and the poor slaves of Maryland: women animated, enlightened, and moved in all their actions by the Spirit of God,—the Spirit who filled Mary at Nazareth, Elizabeth in her mountain home, and Margaret of Scotland amid the manifold cares and duties of a kingdom.

What our country,—indeed, what every Christian country under the sun,—needs most, are these great-souled wives, mothers, and sisters in the dwellings of our over-burdened laborers; women for whom the roof above them and the four walls which enclose their dear ones are the only world they care to know, the little paradise which they set their hearts on making pleasant, sunny, and fragrant for the husband who is out in the hot sun or the bitter cold, beneath the pelting of the rain or the snow or the sleet,

— who, poorly clad and shod, with his scanty fare of hard bread and cold tea, is working away for the little home and the wife and babes,—and who is singing in his heart as he bethinks him of the warm welcome that awaits him when the long day is over,—of the bright smile and the loving words that will be sure to greet him when he crosses the threshold of his own little Eden,—of the cheerful fire in winter and the humble meal made so delicious by the love that prepares it and the sweet words that season it,—of the rest and the security and the peace which force the overflowing heart of the husband and father and brother to think and to say that there is no spot of earth so dear and so blessed as the little sanctuary built up and adorned and made full of song by a true woman’s heart.

O woman, woman! If you only knew how much you have it in your power to do,—with His assistance who can never fail us when we do our best,—to make true men of the husband of your choice, of the sons whom God has given you as his most precious treasures; true women, in their turn, of the little girls who are growing up at your knee,— to be, when you are gone to your reward, mothers blessed and praised by all who know them!

We have just spoken of the Divine assistance which never fails the soul striving earnestly to fulfill important duties and to do all the good she can.

Think of the contract God entered into with you, when you entered into the married state and received at the hands of the Church the nuptial blessing. You were told that the matrimonial union had its model in the union of Christ with his Church, that his great love for her, which brought him to the Cross and binds him to be present on our altars to the end of time, — is the type of the great and self-devoting love which husband and wife should ever have for each other.

Did you ever reflect, that when you put your hand in your husband’s hand before the Church, giving him your heart and your life thenceforward,—that God, who is ever by the side of those who believe and trust in him, promised you a mighty wealth of grace to be all your own till death, enabling you to love your husband more and more daily, with a deeper and a holier love, to make your own life like that of the Church toward her Crucified Love, one perpetual act of devotion and self-sacrifice, giving him in his every need your own strong love to sustain and comfort and strengthen him, taking up his cross courageously, and cheering him to labor and to suffer, because you both know, or ought to know, that God is ever with you!

Were your lot cast and your home built in a treeless plain amid a dry and barren country, how you would thank the man who would dig for you at your very door a well so deep and so unfailing that its cool and sweet waters would ever flow forth, winter and summer, for yourself and your dear ones!

And yet the great graces attached by Christ to the worthy reception of the divine Sacrament of Matrimony, form within your home, wherever you chance to be, a well of water for the soul’s health and strength so divinely prepared, that no length of time can exhaust it. Why do you not drink of the waters of your own well?





“God has thus put into the hand of the parents at their own hearthstone, a power greater than that which kings and queens wield, and which must issue in either the weal or the woe of their children. It would surely seem to be worth while to make any sacrifice of personal comfort or pleasure—to transmit a legacy of holy memories which shall be through all the years, like a host of pure angels hovering over those we love, to guard and guide them.” J.R. Miller