The Counsels of Madame Elizabeth – Christ in the Home


 by Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., Christ in the Home, 1950’s

The sister of Louis XVI, Madame Elizabeth, who was a woman of fine psychological acumen and deep nobility of character, gave to one of her ladies in waiting who had recently married this practical advice:

“Above all seek to please your husband . . . he has good qualities but he can also have some that are not so pleasing.

Make it a rule for yourself never to concentrate on these and above all never permit yourself to talk of them; you owe it to him as you owe it to yourself.

Try to look at his heart; if you truly possess it, you will always be happy.

Make his house agreeable for him; let him always find in it a woman eager to please him, busy with her duties, with her children, and you will in this way win his confidence; when you once have that, you will be able to do, with the mind heaven has given you and a bit of cleverness, anything you wish.”

The outcome is interesting. Everyone knows it: “Man reigns but woman governs.”

“I will do it if God wills it,” said the husband of a rather dictatorial wife.

“Now you are talking nonsense,” said his friend, “why you haven’t even asked your wife’s permission. “

Woman instinctively, and above all when she loves, loves to be docile. Nothing costs her too much and at times she goes to the point of sacrifices extremely taxing for herself if her heart is captive.

But at the same time she loves to dominate.

The heroine of a comedy revealed, with exaggeration of course, a trait that is often found in woman. The said heroine had not yet married but she already was engaged in making her fiancée dance to her thirty-six wills and to goad him on with a thousand pin pricks:

“I prick him, I make him go, I already treat him as my husband.”

Even when they are not so naughty, women, by using to advantage their weakness and their charm, usually succeed in making their husbands pretty much as they want them.

In his genially caustic style Emile Faguet used to say, “Women are divided into three classes: those who are inclined to obey sometimes, those who never obey, those who always command.”

Let women never use their power for the egotistic satisfaction of their self-love. Let them rather have in view only God’s glory and, especially in the spiritual government of their home, let them know how to make God’s glory understood as it ought to be.

They should be able to gain a hearing in the most vital matters when duty is at stake or when the worship due to God is involved; in other matters let them be ready to yield.

They will purchase by their perpetual abnegation in these lesser things the right to be listened to in more important matters and their husbands will realize that when they do resist their wishes it is not because of vanity but because of virtue.

Woman, The Strength of Man

Is it not often true in a home that “the strength of the man is many times in the woman.”

Man, who in principle at least and often in fact possesses physical resistance and moral energy, is sometimes singularly deficient; he hides under the appearance of strength an intimate need to lean on someone, to be led, encouraged, assisted.

Is it not also true that one great source of happiness in marriage is the reciprocal help the two give each other, the husband to his wife, the wife to her husband?

Joseph Proudhon from whom we would not expect such correct ideas, has given us some beautiful pages on the help that woman is called to give to her husband.

He took for his theme the Bible text: “And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself.“

“Woman is a helper for man because by showing him the ideality of his being she becomes for him a principle of admiration, a gift of strength, of prudence, of justice, of courage, of patience, of holiness, of hope, of consolation without which he would be incapable of bearing up under the burden of life, of preserving his dignity, of fulfilling his destiny of bearing with himself.

“Woman is man’s helper first of all in work by her attentions, her sweet company, her vigilant charity. It is she who wipes his forehead that is moist with perspiration, who rests his tired head upon her knees, who cools the fever of his blood and pours balm into his wounds.

She is his sister of charity. Ah! let her only look at him, let her season the bread she brings him with her tenderness: he will be strong as two, he will work like four.

“She is his helper in the things of the mind by her reserve, her simplicity, her prudence, by the vivacity and the charm of her intuitions.

“She is his helper in justice, she is the angel of patience, of resignation, of tolerance, the guardian of his faith, the mirror of his conscience, the source of his devotedness.

“Man can brook no criticism, no censure from man; even friendship is powerless to conquer his obstinacy. Still less will he suffer harm or insult. Woman alone knows how to make him come back and prepares him for repentance and for pardon.

“Against love and its entanglements, woman, marvelous being that she is, is for man the only remedy.

“Under whatever aspect he regards her, she is the fortress of his conscience, the splendor of his soul, the principle of his happiness, the star of his life, the flower of his being.“

What praise for woman! What responsibility for her to be in her home, the fortress of conscience, almost a living translation of divine commands!

Let her strive to deserve this role by the solidity of her principles, the energy of her convictions, the convincing strength of her calm statements.

What is our conversation like each day, especially with the members of our family? Do we continually talk about depressing news, do we regularly voice our negative opinions about the people and situations around us? Do we talk about our own sufferings and our needs in a complaining manner? How about a different approach? Let’s talk about the positive instead. If we are talking of people, let’s make the effort to only bring up the good. Want to talk about heroes? Our grandparents, parents, ordinary folk and how they have overcome obstacles would be a good testimony to your kids. We all have stories to tell….make sure they are bringing out the best in those who are listening! – Finer Femininity 💖

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