The Role of the Husband – Dear Newlyweds, Pope Pius XII


Yes, this one is for the guys. It is a good follow-up to the article by Pope Pius XII on the Role of the Wife.

The human family is the last, sublime prodigy from the hand of God in the natural universe, the last and crowning wonder of the visible world on the seventh and final day of creation.

He formed man and woman and led them to the garden of paradise which He had planted and prepared so that they might cultivate and watch over it and exercise dominion over the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea and the beasts of the earth.

This is the regal grandeur which man still bears, even after his fall, and which lifts him above the world to contemplate the firmament and the stars, to brave the oceans, to walk upon the earth and master it and eke his living from it.

Perhaps you wives, aware of what we have said concerning the woman’s responsibility for happiness in the family home, felt in your hearts that such a responsibility should not devolve upon her alone but should be reciprocal and should include the husband no less than the wife.

And there surely came to your minds the case of more than one woman whom you know, or of whom you have heard, an exemplary wife dedicated to the care of the family to the limit of her strength but who, after years of married life, must still cope with rude, indifferent selfishness—perhaps even violence—on the part of her husband, a selfishness which, instead of diminishing, has increased over the years.

These heroic mothers of families are daughters of Eve, yes, but strong women generously imitating the second Eve, Mary, who crushed the tempting serpent’s head and climbed sorrowful Calvary to the foot of the Cross. We have not forgotten her.

The husband’s duty to his wife and children, arising first and foremost from his responsibility for their lives, chiefly involves his profession, his art or his craft. With his professional work he must provide their food, the necessary means for a secure livelihood, and adequate clothing.

His family must feel safe and happy under the protection he provides through his labor and foresight. The situation of an unmarried man is completely different from that of a man with a wife and children to support. He frequently meets with attractive but hazardous undertakings which offer the hope of great profit, but which easily lead down unsuspected paths to disaster. Dreams of fortune deceive the mind more often than they fulfill expectations.

Moderation of the heart and its dreams is a virtue which never does harm, for it is the daughter of prudence. Hence, a married man, even though there are no other moral problems involved, ought not to go beyond proper limits imposed by his obligation not to endanger, without very grave reasons, the security of his wife and children, those already born and those to come.

It would be different if circumstances beyond his power and control jeopardized the happiness of his family, as so often happens in periods of great political and social upheaval which engulf millions of homes throughout the world in mournful floods of fear, misery and death.

However, in deciding upon action or inaction in a venture of risk, he must always ask himself: Can I assume this responsibility in view of my family?

A married man is morally bound not only to his family but to society as well. Loyalty in the exercise of his profession, art or craft; trustworthiness upon which his superiors may place unconditional reliance; correctness and integrity in conduct which earn the trust of all who deal with him—are these not outstanding social virtues?

These fine virtues constitute the defensive rampart of domestic happiness and peaceful family existence, the security of which, according to God’s law, is the first duty of a Christian father.

We could add that since the reputation and public esteem of a husband affects the honor and standing of a wife, the man, out of respect for her, should strive to surpass his equals and distinguish himself in his own field.

Generally, every woman wants to be proud of her life’s companion. A husband is therefore to be commended who, out of noble feelings and love for his wife, spares no effort to do his best in his work and, as far as he is able, to accomplish outstanding results.

If by worthily and honestly improving himself through his profession or work, a man brings honor and consolation to his wife and children—since the children’s pride is their father—the man must likewise remember how much it means to family happiness if he always demonstrates in his thinking, his conduct and his speech consideration and esteem for his wife, the mother of his children.

The wife is the sun and the sanctuary of the family, the refuge of the tearful child, the guide of older ones, comforting them in their grief, calming them in doubts, giving them faith in the future.

She is the sweet mistress of the household. The consideration which you heads of the family bear her may be discerned in your faces, your looks, your voices, and from your greetings and conduct.

May it never occur, as is sometimes said, that married couples are distinguished from the unmarried by the indifferent, inconsiderate, even downright discourteous and rude behavior of the man towards the woman.

No, the behavior of a husband towards his wife must always be characterized by that natural and dignified attention and cordiality which marks a God-fearing, well-adjusted man who understands the inestimable good effect which mutual respect between husbands and wives has on the children.

The father’s respect for the mother is an incentive to the children to look upon their mother, and the father himself, with respect, veneration and love.

But a man’s contribution to the happiness of the home can-not be limited to considerate regard for his life’s companion; it must go further and seek to appreciate and recognize the work and effort which she silently and assiduously dedicates to making the home more comfortable, pleasant and happy.

With what loving care a young woman has planned to celebrate, as happily as her circumstances permit, the anniversary of her wed-ding to the young man who was to become the companion of her life and happiness and who now is about to return home from his office or factory. Look at the table, gladdened and beautified with delicate flowers. She planned everything herself, taking special care to select whatever pleases him best.

But when the husband arrives, he is late, gloomy and preoccupied, worn out from long hours of work, perhaps more difficult than usual, irritable because of unexpected difficulties. The happy and affectionate greeting falls on deaf ears and evokes no reply.

He never even notices the table so lovingly arranged; he merely observes that the meal especially prepared to make him happy is overcooked, and he complains, without thinking that it was because of his own delay and the long wait.

He eats hurriedly, having to go out again, he says, immediately after dinner. As soon as dinner is over, the poor young woman, who had dreamed of a delightful and memorable evening together with him, finds herself alone in the empty room and needs all her faith and courage to fight her tears!

Such scenes are frequent enough in everyone’s lifetime. A principle enunciated by the great philosopher Aristotle states that a man’s viewpoint is conditioned by what he himself is.

In other words, things appear proper or not according to one’s natural disposition or to the passions which move one, and you see how even the innocent passions, such as business affairs and events, as much as the emotions, cause us to change ideas and tendencies, to forget propriety and responsibilities, and to over-look kindness and courtesy.

Doubtless the husband could offer as his excuse exhaustion from overwork, aggravated by disappointments and annoyances. But does he think that his wife never becomes fatigued nor encounters problems?

Love, true and deep, in one or the other, ought to be and show itself stronger than boredom or fatigue, stronger than changes in weather or season, stronger than the shifting personal moods and the intervention of unexpected misfortune.

We must master ourselves no less than external problems, without giving up or becoming their prey. One must learn to brighten the countenance of reciprocal love with a smile, a thank you, an appreciation of affection and courtesy, and by giving joy to those who work for us.

Therefore when you men come home, where conversation and repose restore your strength, do not be quick to seek out little defects inevitable in every human endeavor; seek rather all that is good, great or small, which is offered you as the fruit of difficult efforts, solicitous care and affectionate feminine attention to make your home, however modest it may be, a little paradise of happiness and joy.

Do not make the mistake of acknowledging or loving these good things only in the depths of your minds and hearts. No, bring it to the surface and show it openly, particularly to the one who has spared no effort to procure it for you, and whose best and sweetest reward will be a loving smile, a gracious word, a pleased look, in which she will perceive your complete appreciation.

Her soul, her life, is given you “to dress and to keep” and on your appreciating her nature and her worth, on your knowing how to call forth by your love, your care, your devotion to her service, by the sunlight of your examples much more even than by your mere love and tenderness—must depend whether or not you shall have a home-garden, a paradise—or a hell upon earth. -Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894

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