In What Consists True Independence of Character ~ True Womanhood, Fr. Bernard O’Reilly


Painting by Adolf Eberle

In this article, Father is adamant about taking care to monitor what your children are reading and the companions they have. As parents forming our children in the modern world, we add on top of that the movies they watch and the internet they are allowed to dabble in. Let us pray to Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636), patron of the internet,  to guide us in this daunting task…

from True Womanhood – Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894

In what consists True Independence of Character

To no one more than the child of the hard-working mother is true independence of soul,—that is, true nobility of character,—necessary and useful. Indeed, the all-seeing Author of our nature, who governs all our ways, has made every element of greatness in our souls and conduct necessary because He knew they would be useful; and He made them all the more necessary that He foresaw they would be more useful.

In what does this independence of soul and character consist? In this: that a boy or a girl brought up by a truly God-fearing mother, is so filled with the fear of that Great Majesty, in whose hands we are at every moment, and into whose hands we are sure to fall after death, that they look up to Him in everything, seek to please Him in all they do, and find it impossible to do anything which is wrong in His sight and contrary to the voice of their own conscience.

Let us understand this well. You rear your boy and your girl, from the very first moment you can make them understand anything, in the conviction that God’s truth, God’s word, God’s will is to be the sole measure by which they are to weigh and estimate everything; so that it will be practically impossible for them to do anything contrary to His truth, His law, or His will.

We say every day that such a man is a noble man, a truly independent man, because he is incapable of doing wrong to any one, of violating truth or honor or honesty, of going in anything whatever against his conscience and his known duty.

Hence it is—and this is the golden lesson which our forefathers learned so well and practiced so nobly, that they made their moral greatness and independence consist in depending on God alone and their conscience.

They were poor in this world’s goods,—for they had been stripped of everything,—they were deprived of civil and religious liberty and honor, and were thus, in the eyes of men, degraded to the level of the serf or the slave. But nothing could shake their dependence on God, or their implicit and invincible obedience to the voice of their conscience and their faith.

Now such are the noble men and women that can in our days,—in this generation as in the next,—go forth from the home of every laboring man among us, as they went forth in past generations; men attached to conscience, to honesty, to honor, to truth, to duty, to righteousness, and to God in all things and above all things, everywhere, in all employments and positions, though never so high or never so lowly.

Let us have men and women incapable of telling a lie, of wronging the neighbor in thought or word or deed, of wronging their employer in the meanest trifles or the weightiest matters, of betraying the trust placed in them, whether in the last place in lowliest office or in the highest that can be given in city, State, or Church; men and women who fear God alone, and, after Him, fear only what is contrary to truth, honor, and purity!

Dear mothers who read this, you may never be able to give your boys and girls at your death wherewith to buy a suit of clothes or to pay for their meals on the morrow. But if you labored morning, noon, and night till your dying day—because you would allow no dishonesty to taint your lives, and for the sole purpose of making of your children such godlike men and women as this,—you have left them a treasure ten thousand times more precious than all the hoarded millions of our wealthiest.

Make them Choose their Companions Well

In order to do this, you must be careful about two things: the choice of what your boys and girls read, and that of their companions at home or in the street. Choose well the books which you put in their hands, or which you permit them to bring home with them.

Public libraries are like druggists’ shops or public dispensaries; they are like them in this, that they contain all manner of poisons as well as healthful medicines; and they differ from them in this, that, whereas conscientious druggists will give what is healthful to all, they will only deal out what is poisonous in small quantities and to responsible and properly authorized persons;—while libraries and librarians have no conscience, and let the innocent child take away and devour what kills purity, innocence, and conscience forever.

Scarcely less baneful are, taken and read promiscuously, the daily and weekly papers. They are not only dangerous and hurtful to the young mind and heart as mere newspapers, because they reveal in their hideousness and obscenity what should never be known to youth, and what were better ignored by age itself; but they are still more hurtful as teachers and dogmatizers on religion and morality, either reducing the doctrines and practices of revealed religion to the same level with infidelity, and thus producing practical indifference toward divine truth; or they affect and profess to have an authority which can judge the Church of Christ herself, and enlighten her as to the way she ought to teach and to govern.

Thereby the mind is imperceptibly but inevitably filled with prejudices or preconceived opinions distrustful of the Church or hostile to her, and which act on the intelligence as the foul and poisonous air of coalmines acts on the lungs: they fill the organs with deadly exhalations which prevent the entrance into them of God’s pure vital air.

Just as you are careful of what books or papers your children read, even so be watchful over the companionships they form. It is impossible to take kindly to the low-minded, corrupt-hearted, or ill-bred and ill-mannered, without laying aside one’s own good manners, good breeding, purity of feeling, and innocence of mind in habitual intercourse with them.

There are worse consequences, as you know, which soon follow this familiarity with the low and the unworthy. Precisely because the great majority of young people around you are without sound moral education,—untruthful, intemperate, and as careless of honor and honesty as they are of decency,—it is your most pressing interest and duty to keep your treasures away from such contact.

“When we hold that tiny bundle in our arms for the very first time, a flood of hopes and dreams emerges like a great blue whale cresting to spout his spray into the air. But somewhere in the day-to-day busyness of life, encouraging words can get lost among the to-dos and not-to-dos. We need to take a fresh look at motherhood and recapture the commitment to be the great encouragers along a child’s journey toward adulthood.” -Sharon Jaynes, The Power of a Woman’s Words (Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau)

Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)


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