Painting by Gregory Frank Harris

From The Mirror of True Womanhood by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894


Your boys, your girls must be trained early to be industrious. Not that they must be set to work before their time; God forbid! But it must be your care to give them, from the very beginning, habits of cleanliness, order, industry, self-respect and self-reliance.

You must be careful not to allow them to fancy for one moment that there is in your own laborious habits or in their father’s occupation or trade, anything that is not most honorable, praiseworthy, and pleasing to God.

Recall to them frequently that the most glorious names in heaven or on earth were those of men and women whose daily life was one of toil like your own: how Adam and the great patriarchs who succeeded him were tillers of the soil, husbandmen, and shepherds; that such were the great men and women who founded God’s people in the Old Law, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Israel (or Jacob) and his wife Rachel, Joseph who ruled Egypt after having been like his brothers a farmer and a shepherd, as well as Moses, the figure of our Lord, who kept the flocks of his father-in-law.

Labor was most honored always down to the days of our Lord, who himself learned the carpenter’s trade and worked at it with his foster-father, Joseph,—a prince of the royal blood of David.

Teach them to look upon idleness as a shame and disgrace, upon sloth as most degrading, and as leading to all manner of evil courses. You can always keep them joyous children, while you make them industrious and laborious children; you can make them and keep them bright, pleasant-faced, and cheerful while coaxing them to learn something new every day and to apply themselves heartily to the tasks you set for them at the appointed hours.


We have already seen what good a true wife can do by praising generously and judiciously her husband, and encouraging him thereby to rise every day higher and higher in her esteem and in his own.

Far greater is the good she can do every one of her children by judicious praise. We say “judicious ; ” for praise bestowed at every moment and for trifles loses its value by becoming common.

Praise only when something is done which deserves it, and praise in well-weighed words. Never give praise when it is not well deserved; for then it would be unjust, and you would make your children suspect your truthfulness and your honesty.


Be gentle. That does not mean to be spiritless. It means to be the opposite of violent, irascible, ill-tempered, and moody. Study to be so, for your own soul’s sake, and as if you lived in God’s presence, always keeping down for his holy love every movement of anger, irritability, temper, or moodiness.

And be gentle,—precisely because you have much to do, much to bear, many cares to burden you, many things which continually try your temper.

Be low-voiced. It is wonderful what effect a mother’s gentle manner and low voice,—when she teaches, or corrects, or praises,—will have on a band of children.

Take a schoolroom filled with very young boys or girls. Let their teacher be nervous, fidgety, and irritable; you will see all these little ones thrown into a ferment and fever and agitation, which is nothing more than a kind of disorder which they catch from the teacher’s manner. Let her be loud-voiced, teaching or speaking in loud, quick, nervous tones, and it is ten to one but you will see within a few minutes all these children becoming restless, talkative, inattentive, and ungovernable.

Now, let some quiet, gentle, calm-mannered, and low-voiced person come in, and all these children will become quieted, stop talking, listen, and be ready to give their whole attention to what is said, or to set to work, and work steadily as long as the calm eye is on them and the gentle, low voice is directing them.

You will spare yourselves and your dear ones much trouble and much unhappiness by laying this lesson to heart. You can do what you like with them,—if you are perfectly mistress of yourself.

Besides, what a service you do them; and how they will bless their mother in after life for having taught them this gentleness!

Be patient. Not only when you are suffering from aching limbs and head and heart, but when you do not succeed in making your dear ones all that you would wish.

There are certain dispositions and characters which seem naturally to defy all control, or teaching, or improvement. They will learn more than you think; and they profit much more than you can see by your lessons, and especially by your example.

Even should son or daughter of yours turn out to be everything but what you trained them to be, the memory of their gentle, patient, loving mother will remain in their souls to their dying day, like a silent voice from the past bidding them return to God and to the paths of their childhood.

Some say that steel beaten into its due form and given a keen edge while cold, is more apt to preserve both form and edge forever. So is it with the temper your patient gentleness will impart to your children’s souls. And this firmness, which is only one of the most precious dispositions of true manhood and womanhood, will be both of infinite value to them and of indispensable necessity.

“The objection that a child should wait until he can understand what he’s doing when he receives Holy Communion is no objection at all. He understands as well at seven as at seventy. The Holy Eucharist is a mystery as profound and unfathomable as the Trinity. One does not understand how Christ can assume the form of bread and wine. One believes.” -Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children (afflink)

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book suggestions

To the modern mind, the concept of poverty is often confused with destitution. But destitution emphatically is not the Gospel ideal. A love-filled sharing frugality is the message, and Happy Are You Poor explains the meaning of this beatitude lived and taught by Jesus himself. But isn’t simplicity in lifestyle meant only for nuns and priests? Are not all of us to enjoy the goodness and beauties of our magnificent creation? Are parents to be frugal with the children they love so much?

For over half a century, Catholic families have treasured the practical piety and homespun wisdom of Mary Reed Newland’s classic of domestic spirituality, The Year and Our Children. With this new edition, no longer will you have to search for worn, dusty copies to enjoy Newland’s faithful insights, gentle lessons, and delightful stories. They’re all here, and ready to be shared with your family or homeschooling group. Here, too, you’ll find all the prayers, crafts, family activities, litanies, and recipes that will help make your children ever-mindful of the beautiful rhythm of the Church calendar.