The Catholic Mother (Part Three) ~ The Profession of Motherhood, A New Age, Wise Sacrifice


The Catholic Mother (Part One)

The Catholic Mother (Part Two)

Profession of Motherhood

All this makes the profession of motherhood a very high responsibility. Indeed, it is a profession more challenging than any other profession in the world.

There are professions which demand of those who practice them that they should be ready to face death in the discharge of their professional duties. Thus a soldier and a sailor have to be ready to give their lives upon demand. A doctor, a nurse, a priest, have each of them often to risk their strength, or even their lives, if the need of human service demands them.

But yet soldier, sailor, doctor, nurse, priest, may live to ripe old age without actually having to put their lives in jeopardy. They may never be in danger from the duties of their profession.

A mother is not like that. She has not only to be ready to endanger her life: she has actually to risk that danger. No mother but has actually faced that risk when she has acquitted herself again of motherhood.

Hence motherhood asks of every mother a character of heroism. Mothers are the most constantly heroic of mankind.

Mothers have therefore nearly always been found on the side of religion, for religion demands heroism of its followers.

Religion is not an opiate, for religion does not help people to forget, but to remember. It does not dull people. It does not say Take, but Give.

Religion asks everything of its believers, for religion is love, and love is the most demanding, the most costing, of all the passions of man. That is why Our Lord compressed the whole of religion into one commandment: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart. whole soul, whole strength.

Mothers perhaps more easily understand this than others (except young men, perhaps, who are learning it by falling in love).

Moreover, not only are mothers heroic because they are constantly being challenged to risk their lives, but also because more than any others they find their profession to be a whole-time job.

Mothers are never unemployed, or should not be, for their children are not merely to be born of them but tended by them until death parts them. Children take a deal of tending, children of all ages; and here, in the number of a mother’s children, even their father is to be reckoned.

To the mother, her very husband is always a child. He needs looking after as much as any of them, but he must not realize that she so judges of him. He is even more sensitive than the children are to the indignity of being publicly looked after by the mother. That only means that she must wait on him with the greater tact.

But her cares are only increased the more by this, and her employment is only the more continuous. She has to go on looking after them as long as any of them are still at home; that is what inevitably happens, for she is the home.

The family carries the nation, she carries the family. The whole of Christendom rests on the mother’s knee.

A New Age

Mothers are sometimes discouraged by their experiences to believe that these old ideals of motherhood are done with. In some moods they are led to think that the world has altered and that children no longer obey their parents nor will be governed by them as they once did.

It may be true. But if it is true, the cause for it is manifest. If a whole generation of youth no longer is governed by its parents, no longer reverences them, is utterly selfish towards them, the only people who can have brought this about are the parents themselves.

Individual cases indeed do not prove that individual parents have failed, for good parents can have ill-bred children and, contrariwise, careless parents may have children who worship them.

But it remains true that a whole generation can fail only because the generation immediately before it disregarded its duty.

The excuse is sometimes made that the young folk grew up in the war without a father to look after them. That alone would not have caused the trouble. The real cause was not that the fathers were not present, but that the mothers were absent. They went to work, or were touched by their excitement, and neglected their duty because, in that pitiful phrase, they wanted a good time.

Wise Self-Sacrifice

Perhaps, after all, the cause of that selfish generation of children was not exactly because mothers were negligent of their duty in that they did not look after their children. The selfishness of children may be due to another cause which, however, will not free the parents from blame.

It may be unselfishness that has been the mother’s undoing. To be self-sacrificing is admirable and motherly; but it has its disadvantages. It can be unwise.

Let us put it in this way. A mother will come to the priest and complain of her child to him. “Father, I have done everything for him, and now he turns round and is most selfish to me.”

Poor mother! All the more shall we pity her because his selfishness is in part her fault. Why did she do everything for her child? She should not have done everything. She should have let him do things for her himself.

When children are little, the mother does everything for them since they cannot do anything for themselves. But gradually she has to steel her heart against doing everything for them. They must be trained to do things for themselves. They must not be forever dependent on her. She has to train them to get on without her, to be independent of her, to live their own lives, to look after themselves.

Even that is not enough. They must not only be trained to do things for themselves, they must be trained to do things for her. And they will want to do many things for her; that is their nature, they will want to help.

There will be some things, of course, that very soon they will not want to do for her..dull, dreary things, fetching, cleaning, carrying. But these also they must be trained to do. The mother will often want to save time and trouble by doing them for herself, but if she does she will hurt her children’s character. She must train them young to work for others, to be unselfish, to give.

It is an almost inevitable effect of a large family that the children of themselves grow up generous and tolerant. This is thumped into them by the aid of many fists. But with a small family, it has all to de done by the mother and father. They have to do for their children what brothers and sisters would have done for them, for, whatever happens, the work needs to be done.

Mothers, then, must not allow their self-sacrificing nature, their heroism, to prevent them from demanding sacrifices in return from their children. Their needs and not her needs must be remembered. They need to be trained to give. Of their very childhood they are impulsive and generous, but this spontaneous character of theirs can be hurt. It can also be developed. Let mothers look into it.

That only is wise self-sacrifice when it encourages and demands sacrifice. A generous mother can reduce her children to selfishness, a mother who does everything for her child has actually taught that child to be selfish. She has no right to complain of his subsequent ingratitude. Her folly has ruined her child.

That is why it has happened that good mothers have ill-bred children; they were not really good mothers, for goodness includes prudence and wisdom.

Really good mothers are also wise mothers.

“The man takes you to the movie, to dinner, to a dance, to a party, or for an automobile drive, but you owe him no liberties for this. If you are an earnest Catholic girl, you will retain the grace of God and your self-respect, while enjoying the esteem of all good men. You will even make evil minds pause, dazzled by the purity in your eyes, the modesty of your actions, and the reserve in your words.” -Fr. Lovasik, Clean Love in Courtship https://amzn.to/2zcAFO7 (afflink)

Available here.

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