Tick-Tock: A Mother’s Teachable Moments


The mother of Cardinal Vaughan had fourteen children–eight boys and six girls.

Remarkable educator that she was, she believed that she owed the best part of her time to her little world.

The children’s special room looked like the nave of a Church for each little boy and girl had his statue to care for and they never failed to put flowers before it on special occasions.

With what art this mother settled a quarrelsome boy or a vain or untruthful little girl!

With the littlest ones she was not afraid to become a little one and, like them, to sit on the ground.

Thus, placed on their level, as the biography of her Jesuit son expresses it, she used to put her watch to their ears and explain to them that someday God would stop the tick-tock of their lives and that He would call to Himself in heaven His children whom He had lent to earth.

In the course of the day, Mrs. Vaughan loved to pick out one or other of her band, preferably two, chosen on the basis of their earnest efforts or some particular need for improvement, and make a visit to Church.

Yes, they should pray at home too; they had God in their hearts; but in each village or in each section of town, there is a special house generally of stone where Our Lord lives as He once lived at Nazareth except that now He remains hidden under the appearances of a little Host.

She explained to them that prayer consists not in reciting set words but in conversing with Jesus.

And if they had been very, very good she would let them kiss the altar cloth and sometimes the altar itself, a favor the children regarded as most precious.

When they had beautiful flowers in their greenhouse they brought them to Church; happy and proud were the ones who were entrusted with delivering the bouquets or the vases of flowers!

Besides the visits made to “Jesus, the Head” there were also visits to the “members of Jesus,”

“What you do to the least of My brethren you do to me.”

And Mrs. Vaughan explained to each child according to its capacity to understand the great duty of charity and the reason for this duty.

She did not hesitate to take them into sordid homes.

Sometimes people were horrified to see her take the children to see the sick who suffered from a contagious disease. Wasn’t she afraid her children would contract it?

But kind, firm Mrs. Vaughan did not allow herself to be the least disturbed by such comments.

“Sickness? Well if one of them contracted a sickness while visiting the poor that would still not be too high a price to pay for Christian charity.

Besides God will protect my children much better than mother-love can.

Here was true formation in piety, true formation in charity. Here too was encouragement to follow a high ideal.

Herbert, the eldest of the boys, was once quite concerned over a hunting trip that the weather threatened to spoil. “Pray mamma,” he said, “that we have good weather!“

And Mrs.Vaughan, more concerned to lift her son’s soul than to secure him a pleasurable time, answered smilingly, “I shall pray that you will be a priest!”

How the boy took such an answer at the moment is not recorded. We do know this: Herbert was . . . the future Cardinal!

Vaughan also gave her children an appreciation of the fine arts.

She herself played the harp delightfully. From time to time she gathered her household about her for a gala time playing, singing, and a bit of mimicry; she always used the occasion to remind the children that there are other melodies and other joys more beautiful than those of earth.

“At a certain moment when going to confession to a Capuchin father, St. Therese came to understand that it was just the opposite: her “defects did not displease God” and her littleness attracted God’s love, just as a father is moved by the weakness of his children and loves them still more as soon as he sees their good will and sincere love.” -Fr. Jacques Philippe,The Way of Trust and Love, http://amzn.to/2fpXVzl Painting by Millie Childers

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