The Role of Wife – Dear Newlyweds, Pope Pius XII


I had a talk with a faithful and good Catholic woman the other day. We happened onto the subject of husbands. She said that when it came to parenting, she was the one who saw to all the details….nursed the children when they were sick, knew their emotional upsets and helped them work through it, saw to their education, did a lot of the disciplining, watched them from morning until night, knew every part of their joys and their pains.

Then, while pondering her husband’s role in this, she said, with a slight grin….”My husband knew there were children in the house!”

I chuckled.  And the amazing thing about it was that there was no bitterness in her heart. It was the way it was. Her husband had a different role and she was resigned to that.

We are called to be valiant women. It doesn’t always come out the way we imagined it would be….that dream of a knight in shining armor that is attentive to our every need.

That’s ok. We work with it…and God blesses our marriage and our family.

The following is a gem of an article from Dear Newlyweds by Pope Pius XII…

To follow will be the article “Role of a Husband” by Pope Pius XII…. Husbands, tune in!

You are entering joyously upon the path of married life; the priest has blessed the union of your hearts. We too bless you with the same good wishes for grace and comfort which the Church’s prayer invoked upon you for a happy home.

But from the threshold of your home look around you at the numerous families you know or whom you have known or whose stories you have heard retold, families close by or far away, humble families or important ones. Have all the marriages which founded these families been happy? Are all the families tranquil and at peace? Have all the couples lived up to their hopes or their first glowing expectations?

It would be vain to imagine so. Families are often afflicted by troubles even if they are not sought, even if no motive or occasion is given to attract them. “Misfortunes,” says the great Christian novelist Manzoni, “very often come because some motive is given them; but the most cautious and innocent conduct is not enough to hold them off; and when they come, through fault or not, trust in God sweetens them and makes them useful for a better life.”

The most unhappy married lives are those in which the law of God is seriously violated by one or even both of the parties. But although these offenses are the most deadly source of family misfortune, we do not wish to dwell upon them today.

We are thinking rather of those couples who conduct themselves properly, who are faithful to the basic duties of their state, but who are nonetheless unhappy in their marriages, who feel angry, ill at ease, a sense of alienation, coldness, shock.

Whose fault and responsibility is this anxiety and vexation? There is absolutely no doubt that a wife can do more than a husband to make a happy home.

The prime role of the husband is to provide a living and prepare the future for the family and the home in those matters which affect him and the children in that future.

The woman’s role encompasses those countless, ceaseless details, those imponderable daily attentions and cares which create the atmosphere of a family, and, depending on whether they are properly performed or not, make the home either healthy, attractive, and comfortable, or demoralized and unbearable.

A wife’s activities in the home must always be the work of “the valiant woman” so highly praised in Holy Scripture, the woman in whom “the heart of her husband trusteth” and who will “render him good and not evil, all the days of her life” (Prov. 31:1 1 – 1 2) .

Is it not an ageless truth—a truth rooted in the very physical conditions of a woman’s life, an inexorable truth proclaimed not only by the experience of distant centuries but also of those more recent in our era of consuming industrialization, of seeking for vindication, of competitive sport—that the woman makes the home and takes care of it and that the man can never replace her in this?

This is the mission which nature and her union with man has imposed upon her for the good of society itself. Entice her away, lure her far from her family with one of those many attractions that vie to overcome and conquer, and you will see the woman leave her family hearth untended.

Without this fire, the atmosphere of the home grows cold. For all practical purposes the home will cease to exist and will be transformed into a precarious refuge of a few hours.

The center of daily life will move elsewhere for the husband, for herself, and for the children. Now whether they wish it or not, the husband and wife who are determined to remain faithful to the duties of their way of life can erect the magnificent edifice of happiness only on the solid foundation of family life.

But where will you find true family life without a home, without a visible focal point to encompass, anchor and sustain this life, to deepen and develop it, to cause it to bloom?

Do not say that the home exists materially from the moment the two hands are joined and the newlyweds have the same room, under the same roof, in their apartment or dwelling, be it large or small, rich or poor. No.

The material house is not enough for the spiritual edifice of happiness. The material house must rise to a more wholesome level, and the living and vivifying flame of the new family must leap from the earthly hearth.

This will not be the work of a day, especially if one does not dwell in the home already prepared by preceding generations, but rather—as is most frequently the case today, at least in the cities—in a temporary residence, simply rented from someone else.

To create, therefore, little by little, day by day, a true spiritual home, will be the crowning work of the one who has become “the mistress of the house,” she whom “the heart of her husband trusteth.”

Whether the husband be a workman, a farmer, a professional man, a man of letters, a scientist, an artist, a clerk or an executive, it is inevitable that most of the time his activities take him away from home, or, if at home, he confines himself for long hours in the silence of his office away from the center of the family.

For him the focus of the family will become the place where, at the end of his day’s work, he can refresh his physical and moral powers in calm repose and serene joy.

For the woman, on the other hand, the house usually remains the center of her principal activity, and, little by little, however poor it may be, she will make that house a home.

It will become an abode of peace and joy beautified not by furniture or decorations like a hotel, without personal style or taste or character, but by reminders in the furnishings or on the walls of the events of the life together—the tastes, the ideas, the joys and sufferings shared, traces at times visible, other times almost imperceptible, from which with passage of time the physical home will draw its soul.

Its entire soul, however, will be the feminine hand and touch with which the wife will make every corner of the home attractive, if only by care, order and cleanliness, with everything ready and in place for use when needed or desired.

God has endowed woman more than man with a sense of grace and good taste, with the gift of making the simplest things pleasant and welcome precisely because, although she is formed like man to help him and to constitute the family with him, she was born to spread kindness and sweetness in her husband’s home and to see to it that their life together is harmonious, fruitful and fully developed.

And when in His goodness Our Lord blesses the wife with the dignity of motherhood, the cry of the newborn babe will neither disturb nor destroy the happiness of the home.

It will instead increase it and raise it to that divine glory where the angels of heaven shine and whence descends a ray of life which conquers nature and regenerates the children of men into sons of God.

This is the sanctity of the nuptial bed! This is the sublime nature of Christian motherhood! Here is the salvation of the married woman!

The woman, as the great Apostle Paul proclaims, will save herself through her mission as a mother, as long as she continues “in faith and love and holiness with modesty” (I Tim. 2:15).

You can understand now that “godliness is profitable in all respects, since it has the promise of the present life as well as of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8), and since it is, as St. Ambrose explains, “the foundation of all virtues.”

A cradle consecrates the mother of the family, and many cradles sanctify and glorify her in the eyes of her husband, her children, the Church and her country.

Foolish indeed, ignorant of themselves, and unhappy are those mothers who complain when a new child clings to them and asks to be fed at the fountain of their breasts!

To complain against God’s blessing which embraces and enlarges the home is to imperil the happiness of the family.

The heroism of motherhood is the pride and glory of the Christian wife. In the desolation of a home without the joy of these little angels of God, her loneliness becomes a prayer and plea to heaven and her tears join with the sobs of Anna who at the door to the temple begged the Lord for the gift of her Samuel.

Therefore, dear newlyweds, raise your thoughts constantly to a consideration of your responsibilities in order to achieve the serene bliss of married life, for you are surely well aware of its grave and serious side.

“A true wife makes a man’s life nobler, stronger, grander, by the omnipotence of her love ‘turning all the forces of manhood upward and heavenward.’ While she clings to him in holy confidence and loving dependence she brings out in him whatever is nobles and richest in his being. She inspires him with her courage and earnestness. She beautifies his life. She softens whatever is rude and harsh in his habits or his spirit. She clothes him with the gentler graces of refined and cultured manhood. While she yields to him and never disregards his lightest wish, she is really his queen, ruling his whole life and leading him onward and upward in every proper path.” J.R.Miller

Painting by Andres Orpinas

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Review: For the spiritually-conscious couple this book is a must. Written in the 1920’s by a Catholic priest to counsel married couples on sexual morality, daily problems and child rearing.
Among many wonderful lessons, it describes plainly what I needed to know about which birth-control method is moral and which is immoral, from a Traditional Roman Catholic point of view.

A Frank, Yet Reverent Instruction on the Intimate Matters of Personal Life for Young Men. To our dear and noble Catholic youths who have preserved, or want to recover, their purity of heart, and are minded to retain it throughout life. For various reasons many good fathers of themselves are not able to give their sons this enlightenment on the mysteries of life properly and sufficiently. They may find this book helpful in the discharge of their parental responsibilities in so delicate a matter.

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