My Mother ~ Fr. Bernard Vaughan, S.J.


by Father Bernard Vaughab, S.J., early 1900’s

I was only a little boy when we lost our mother. It was a loss I cannot think of even now, after half a century and more, without a shudder. To all of us she was the very ideal of everything that is lovely and holy.

We thought, and were brought up to think, that she was in every sense perfection. Hence her blessing was more to us even than her caress.

Well do I remember how we used to rush at her coming into the nursery to see who should be the first to kiss her hand with reverent devotion.

Then she would sit on the floor with half a dozen of us clinging to her, while she would give us her little crucifix and medals to venerate and fondle, or perhaps take out her watch, and placing it against the ear of one of us, would say, “Life is passing away just like that tiny ticking watch, but when the little heart stops beating here, we shall all know that God didn’t wind it up anymore because He wanted you home with Him for a never-ending holiday.”

Of course we used to kneel round her lap morning and evening to lisp after her our childlike prayers, and then were carried off, two in her arms, and others clinging to her skirts, to the chapel, where on great feasts we were privileged to kiss the altar-cloth, or even the altar itself.

Our mother reminded her children that, there in the Tabernacle, One who loved us more even than she did, was always abiding, ever ready to greet us when we went to see Him.

She loved her garden, but would have been shocked if the fairest flowers had been sent to her boudoir instead of to the chapel. She herself would gather nosegays for her children to place on our nursery altar or before the statue in her bedroom. When I look back it seems to me she could talk only about God, or the poor, or our father.

She made Heaven such a reality to us that we felt that we knew more about it, and liked it in a way far better even than our home, where, until she died, her children were wildly, supremely happy.

Religion under her teaching was made so attractive, and all the treasured items she gathered from the lives of the Saints made them so fascinating to us, that we loved them as our most intimate friends, which she assured us they most certainly were.

Our mother thought that it was her duty to teach her little ones in the nursery all manner of pious childlike practices, while the bigger children would often have to remind them not to forget God and His presence in their midst.

But it was of Our Lord’s Agony in the garden and His sacred Passion and Death that she never tired to remind us: “Look at those dear Five Wounds,” she would say; “fancy all that pain suffered, and all that blood shed, for you. You must never forget, no matter how long you live, to love more than anything on earth those Precious Wounds. If ever you are naughty and hurt God, it will be because you forget how much you have cost Him.”

What tricks and devices did we not resort to in order to be awake in the night nursery when, after dinner, Mother would pass from cot to cot blessing her children, crossing their hands upon their breast, and lulling them to sleep with such words as “Sweet Jesus, I do love Thee, Holy Mother of God, be a tender Mother to me, My good Angel, watch over me and keep me this night from all sin.”

It was not our mother’s practice to bring us any dainty from the dinner-table. We were never allowed to go down to dessert, our father thinking it might encourage greediness or undue fondness of food. We dined at our parents’ lunch and then were allowed to take what we liked.

I remember one day being offered some dish which I rejected with the incautious remark, “Thank you, Father, I don’t fancy it.” Should I live to the age of Methuselah I shall not forget how he turned upon me and in solemn voice said, “I do not wish any of my boys to indulge in fancies about food; fancies are the privilege of your sisters.”

On another occasion, when I had shown overmuch relish for some dish, my father reminded me that it was a poor thing to be a slave to any appetite or practice. Blushing to the roots of my hair, I ventured to retaliate, saying, ‘Well, Father, how is it that the snuffbox is brought to you every day at the end of dinner? — you always take out a big pinch.”

For a moment he was silent, and then made me fetch the box, and while in the act of tossing it into the fire he said, “There goes the box, and that is the end of that bit of slavery.”  His training was somewhat drastic, but it was a fine counterpart to that of the ever tender mother.

There were some fine customs which our father insisted on; for instance, that we should take our places with the village school children when they were catechized on Sunday afternoon in the chapel; and the chaplain was encouraged to be specially severe with us if we did not answer correctly.

Father liked us to give of what we had, and not merely our used-up toys, to the less well-off little ones, and nothing pleased him more than to see his children trudging off with their mother laden with good things for those who most wanted them.

When people expostulated with her for taking her children where they might catch something worse than a cold she would say, “Sickness would be a small price to pay for the exercise of this Christlike privilege — but God will take care of my children where my love fails.”

Her love of the poor was almost a passion, and but for her own children’s sake she would have parted with everything . Washing the bedridden, changing their bedding, sweeping their rooms, was the sort of thing in which she felt a real pride. Not even when she was very seriously ill would she call in any but the parish doctor, protesting that if he was good enough for her poorer sisters he would do very well for her.

As she herself could not seek perfection in the religious state, she strove to attain it in the sphere of life to which God had called her. I am told that she said the Divine Office daily, and when too ill to say it herself had it said for her. She died while Compline was being said in her room.

As a girl she had spent some considerable time in Paris receiving finishing lessons in drawing, painting, singing, and music, and nothing delighted us more than to gather about her in the round drawing-room, wild with joy, to hear her recite, or sing her own songs or hymns about Heaven as she accompanied herself on the harp. When our enthusiasm was thoroughly stirred she would pause to remind us that all this was but discord compared with what the rapturous music of Heaven would be. She was fond of whetting our appetites for Heaven.

In our mother’s time Courtfield was always so cheery, bright, and holy, that it used to be said in the county, “You nearly break your neck going, but more nearly break your heart leaving there.”

When I look back to those young days so crowded with life I cannot remember any quiet games entertaining us. Birds, dogs, other pets, and ponies were our chief delight. I fear we were dreadfully noisy, loving hare and hounds, blindman’s-buff, snapdragon, and above all theatricals, in which movement was a safety valve for what was called “the Vaughan spirits.”

On the Feast of Holy Innocents, when it was our custom to dress up in the habits of different religious orders, we used to hold high religious functions, and preach one another down till the result was a sort of pandemonium, ending in clouds of incense and a blaze of candles round the schoolroom statue, where we made peace.

I think I have sampled our early life fully enough for even an inordinate taste for childhood’s days, but I cannot end without referring to the irreparable loss that came upon us when God called our mother away. It was a catastrophe.

Personally I was too young fully to understand what had happened; what I do most vividly remember is going down to the library, where the blinds were drawn and everybody was in black.

I recollect my father’s grief-stricken countenance as, amid the sobs of his children, he called my eldest sister, Gladys, to his side, and, placing on her wrist my mother’s simple silver bracelet, with crucifix and medal attached, he told us that our mother had gone to Heaven and that the eldest girl must take her place.

I bit my lips, exclaiming internally, “She never shall with me.”

He said much more, but I did not quite understand what it all meant, or why everybody was crying. I felt sure, even if mother had gone to Heaven, she would somehow be back soon, for she was never away from us for long. It did not seem that one could possibly live without her.

Very gradually the reality of the loss came home to one, and then it seemed that nothing much mattered. We rarely spoke of mother because the mere mention of her name awakened feelings that could not be controlled.

Herbert even to the last was shy of speaking to me of her; sometimes when I ventured to plead for some of his reminiscences of her he would get red and hot, and after saying there was no one ever like her, he would turn to some other subject; and till shortly before his death he kept by him a tiny picture of :—

“That countenance in which did meet

Sweet records and promises as sweet.”

“We all carry two bags—each and every one of us—one is packed with virtue, the other our faults. I’m talking marriage here, when I say that somewhere between courtship and the seventh year many women have shifted their focus from one of adoration to fault finder. We start to analyze, dissect, and over analyze the faults that we find, hoping to reshape our husbands according to our version of the perfect man. Living in harmony requires patience on both sides as we work to rebuild our view of one another.” -The Good Wife’s Guide, Darlene Schacht

Painting by Robert Papp

November – The Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

The Suffering Souls are very powerful with God. You take care of them and they will be praying for you!
Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Prayer to Our Suffering Savior for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.

(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)

Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

Written by St. Alphonsus Liguori this novena has prayers for each day which are followed by the Prayer to Our Suffering Savior for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

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