The Wife Desired is Religious (Part One)


From The Wife Desired, Fr. Leo Kinsella, 1950’s

Mrs. Brown walked through the vestibule of St. Luke’s and out into the evening mist with a handkerchief held to her nose. She looked to the little group of women standing under the street light.

Mrs. Julia Thup, the Brownie leader of Troop Sixteen, surely must have been to services. It was a pity if she had not been. The Reverend Towne talked with glowing terms about public spirited citizens who left their homes and gave unstintingly of themselves.

Yes, mused Mrs. Brown, Julie was an asset to the community. Having only one child herself, a delightful little Brownie, she could be a sort of mother by proxy to all the girls making up Troop Sixteen.

Mrs. Thup did not believe a mother should have too many children. Else how could she be active in community affairs?

Julia was emphatic on this score. Mrs. Brown could remember how having her little girl almost forced Julia to give up her work with the Orphans of the Storm, the anti-cruelty to animals society.

There were few women with the force of character of Julia. If it had not been for her Mrs. Brown was sure that she never would have given two thoughts to the suffering little animals. In fact, just that afternoon she did not feel too kindly about Snap, the next door neighbor’s poodle. Snap barked incessantly all afternoon and robbed her of several hours sleep. As she walked up to the group of ladies, her cold seemed to go before her and introduce its victim.

“Why Mrs. Brown,” exclaimed Mrs. Thup, “What are you doing out on a night like this with such a heavy cold?”

Now wasn’t that just like her kind friend, Julia. Mrs. Brown tried hard to reply with a look of fierce heroism that said she would sidestep three weeks’ ironing, if necessary, to come to church services. Her reputation of being a religious and church-going woman would not suffer tonight, thanks to Julia.

Julia deserved some reward for pointing out to the other less discerning ladies what suffering the evening attendance at church had caused Mrs. Brown. As they left the front of St. Luke’s to walk each other home, Mrs. Brown began to tell Julia something perfectly awful. Julia was a Brownie leader and she should know.

Besides, the information would help her better understand little Ginger, who was a Brownie. Of course, Julia was not to whisper a word of these scandalous goings on to a soul.

Could Julia ever believe that Ginger’s father and mother were seen- – – ? Mr. Brown wanted to take her to one of those places some years ago. The very idea! Why, she was furious, and gave him a tongue lashing he would never forget.

Mr. Brown, as Muriel was sorry to say Julia must know, was not a churchgoing man. It was her cross, as the Rev. Towne had consoled her. She tried to make up for him.

“And you do such a wonderful job. Muriel.”

“Thanks, Julia, you know how much that means to me.”

The two friends parted company, and Mrs. Brown stalked into her home. It was not a very happy home, nor a very tidy one tither.

Muriel did not get around to the house work or the ironing that day. She rested for the sake of her cold. Since Mr. Brown was not a church-going person and since Mrs. Brown was one with a vengeance, it was crystal clear to Mrs. Brown where the fault lay for their shabby marriage.

Mr. Brown got more than his share of good example. He was always right up to his ears in it. He could never rely on a clean, ironed shirt, but he could ever depend on Muriel’s giving him the best advice about going to church.

If Mr. Brown looked askance at some old friends returning to the table from the refrigerator by way of the pot on the stove, he was informed of how the Rev. Towne suffered in his early missionary days. His food was most primitive and meager.

Mr. Brown never seemed to be comforted by reference to the past austerities of the Rev. Towne. The present trials and tribulations of his own appeared more real and pressing.

Once, however, he was so overcome with emotion concerning his wife’s recital of the fearful missionland experiences that he pitched the pot of “old friends” out the kitchen window.

He had no intention of hitting Snap next door. Yet he could not convince the imbeciles who belonged to Snap of his innocence. They, being regular members, felt that the Anti-Cruelty to Animals Society of dowagers should come into the case.

Julia, living down the block, was the nearest Field Representative and was contacted quickly by the central office. Her appearance at the Brown threshold caused strong emotional reactions in both of the Browns.

Mr. Brown slammed the door in her face with a house rattling crash, which did not quite drown out his imprecation. Mrs. Brown fell away into what was the nearest thing to a faint she could manage. Her recovery from this episode was slow. It was some time before she ventured to show her face at St. Luke’s. What would Julia and the rest think?

Only the irreligious would call Mrs. Brown religious. We doubt that they would consider her an ideal wife. Thus at the outset it behooves us to understand that affiliation with and even regular attendance at church in itself does not necessarily bring into being the virtue of religion, at least not in the sense in which it should be exercised by the ideal wife.

Granted that it is a step in the right direction, there are too many Muriel Browns around for any church-going wife to be complacent. No wife can assume that she is an ideal wife because she goes to church. It does happen that she can be a pillar of the church and a pillory of grief for her husband.

The word “religious” is used here in its true etymological sense.

The Latin word “ligare” means to bind, to tie, to connect something with something. The “re” signifies “back.” Thus the English word, really a transliteration of the Latin word means a binding of the creature back to its Creator.

When the creature acknowledges its Creator and translates this knowledge into its daily life, we say that person is religious. In other words, when a person recognizes her real worth as an image of God and her ultimate destiny in a union of love with Him, she is said to be religious.

For our purpose we use the word “religious” in this sense and shun any secondary meaning of the word, any false concepts of the word amounting sometimes to a very travesty on true religion.

The little Penny Catechism told us that we are images of God, made after His own likeness. We were created in closer likeness to Him than any other creature in the world because He desired us to love Him and be loved by Him.

No one can love unless she possess intelligence to know and free will to choose. Because of these powers of God Himself, we are His children and closer to Him than a child is to its human mother.

A human being is a most lovable being because she is an image of God. The goodness and lovableness of God shines through her.

When a young man becomes aware of this wonderful and exciting fact, he has already fallen in love with her. He has rubbed elbows with thousands of other images of God during his life, but for some mysterious reasons she disclosed to him a preview of and glimpse of God. She became for him an image of God.

Of course, she was this all the time. No one else noticed it. At first he did not either. Then the lightning struck. He was in love. He had found the Ideal Woman of all the dreams of his life, and he was content.

Others may be blind and unable to see the image of God in her. To him has been given the happy privilege of seeing what others cannot see. “The beauty of a woman cheereth the countenance of her husband, and a man desireth nothing more.” Ecclus. 36, 24.

How often have we heard the question of how John could possibly have married the girl he did. She was a rather plain girl, perhaps even a little bit on the homely side. As frequently as not people who were perplexed at John’s choice admitted that the couple was deeply in love.

John thought that the sun rose and set on his wife. They were happy and made an ideal husband and wife. The reason is simple. They saw the goodness of God in each other. They wanted this goodness above all else in life. They were in love.

It is thus obvious that no young man falls in love with a girl because of the evil in her life. He may fall in love with her in spite of evil or in ignorance of it but never because of it. He never is really in love with her, unless he sees that she is an image of God.

Certainly he may become physically attracted and infatuated and marry her on this basis. Though this may lead to love, still it is not genuine love.

Love is something spiritual and must have reference to God. It has repercussions in the physical order of our natures, but of its essence it transcends the biological.

Human love could never exist but for God. It will never endure, if God is shut out of the picture. In the words of the poet, “All things betray thee who betrayest Me.”

Sooner or later love will betray the wife who betrays God, for the simple reason that devoid of God she has pitifully little wherewith to command love.

A person, no matter how evil she becomes, always remains an image of God. But, if she should allow evil in any form: dishonesty, lying and deceit, racial or nationalistic hatreds, gluttony and sloth to come into her life and practically obscure the beautiful image she is or could be for her husband, who could be attracted to her, who could love her?

Young people often ask whether true love can ever die. They seem to expect the answer in the negative. The sad fact is that it happens every day.

Some women think that they can dispense with the precepts and counsels of their youth. As children they learned from their parents and from religious instruction that they could never be happy in sin.

Lying, they were told, would hurt them much more than anyone else whom they might deceive. No lie could be justified, even if it would spare the whole world its aches and pains.

Somewhere along the line in their lives they felt that this was impractical. Life was a matter of “dog eat dog”. A lie here and there made things much easier.

I wonder how many marriages I have seen ruined by the untruthfulness of a wife. These lying creatures, caught in the mesh of their vice, had to learn the hard way the wisdom of their youthful religious training. Truth was lightly regarded, if not condemned. They felt, apparently, that as long as they did not kill or steal they were doing all right. That the truth is worth living and dying for never entered their minds.

Cases of lost love and respect because of a lying wife crowd in upon my memory. These husbands loved their wives with sufficient love at least to marry them. With the years this love normally would have deepened had they been able to continue seeing the image of God which had originally attracted them. Soon after marriage the true worth of these lying wives disclosed itself.

Instead of seeing in their wives the beauty of God these men saw the deceit of the devil. Instead of the God of truth they saw the father of lies. Is it any wonder that they were repelled and came to the parting of the ways?

Without truth there can be no trust, and without trust there can be no love. The lying wife so often learns only through bitter experience in her remorse that by lying she flees from God, who is truth.

She should also know that by separating herself from God she is in the greatest danger of separating herself from everything worthwhile, her husband included.

“Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me.

Strange, piteous, futile thing . . .

And human love needs human meriting:

How hast thou merited–

Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?

Alack, thou knowest not

How little worth of any love thou art!”

Francis Thompson did not write these lines about lying wives. Yet, any woman careless of the truth could well ponder them. No one can expect to merit human love by lying. Although no woman becomes a desired wife by the possession of only the virtue of truth, yet this virtue is an essential part of the picture of the ideal wife. Without it all her other accomplishments and attributes may be wasted.

“And you, too, must stand by your convictions at the cost of things you love. An ideal is worth little if it is not worth wholehearted, honest effort. Nothing is more pitiful than a woman whose mind admires purity and right, yet whose will is too weak to choose them and whose life is blighted by sin and mire about her. Be true, be noble, aim high, and God will give you strength to keep your ideals.” – Mabel Hale, Beautiful Girlhood http://amzn.to/2ucQAF0 (afflink)

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