The Mother’s Office Toward Childhood ~ Fr. Bernard O’Reilly


From True Womanhood, Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, 1894


Oh! the joy

Of young ideas, painted upon the mind

In the warm glowing colors fancy spreads

On objects not yet known; when all is new

And all is lovely: he looks around, and lo!

As if returned to Eden bowers, everything

Is very good.

You know the manners of boys, the characteristics of children —that these are innocence, simplicity, purity, truth, and humility. They have no passion they need blush for, no ambition, no care for riches, no anxious solicitudes, neither malice, nor fraud, nor suspicion, nor hatred. . . .

All is pure, so that the very word boy, or puer (in Latin), is derived from purity. O happy state of boys! O golden age of children! Add intelligence, and what will be wanting to make them angels? For in both are the same beauty, the same countenance, the same native joyousness.

O how often, when I see them passing by, do I wish that they might grow in intelligence and not in stature! Truly it would be good for them to continue thus until Christ shall come.—St. Thomas Villanova

Assuredly if Christian mothers make it the chief purpose of their life to be supernatural in their own interior, and in all their motives, actions, and methods,—they will only have to labor with the divine assistance, “to add intelligence” to all the treasures of mind and heart bestowed upon their babes by nature, increased and hallowed in such a wondrous way by Baptism,—and nothing “will be wanting to make them angels.”

Nay, if they cultivate in them the “gifts of the Holy Ghost,” bestowed in an inferior degree in Baptism and in their fullness in Confirmation, they will grow in that understanding which is all divine in its objects and the light it pours on all things, without ceasing to grow ” in stature.”

Such mothers, by the careful and loving culture of the pure souls confided to them, will omit nothing that is “wanting to make them angels ;” and as the result of such training many will continue angels “,until Christ shall come.”

We have some of these angelic men and women before our mind’s eye now, watched over in childhood, as if they were incarnate spirits entrusted to the mother’s care, to be trained in all the perfection of manhood and womanhood while preserving all the glorious characteristics of their angel-nature.

They grew up in the spiritual beauty and spotless innocence of their baptism, unfolding in mind and heart these priceless “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, just as they developed all the exterior graces and loveliness of their human character; and so they continued till Christ came to summon them away,—all too early, the world thought,— from the society which so much needed the light of their examples.

Once more, let us see in the baptized babe of the Christian mother what God sees in it: let the same sublime conception of the child’s position and destinies which is in the Divine Mind be also in the mind of the parent.

Just as a savage, ignorant of the value of gems or the precious metals, will prefer brilliant-colored glass beads to the diamonds of Brazil, the emeralds of New Grenada, or the pearls of Coromandel, even so will it be with the mother who forgets or ignores what is the divine destiny of her babe, what price Christ has paid on the cross to lift it up to His own level, and what capacities are in that young soul for the most godlike virtues and goodness.

In the child brought back from the baptismal font to the mother’s arms, there is the human being with the fallen nature inherited from Adam, but redeemed. and restored in Christ, and there is also the godlike being created anew in baptism in the likeness of its Divine Parent.

In spite of the sacrament of the second birth and the grace of elevation with all its attendant gifts and aids,—there remains in the child the wound left by the primeval transgression: our inclinations are downward, and they have to be resisted, to be overcome, mortified and deadened, if we would rise to the glorious heights of Christian heroism and godliness, which belong to the angelic and heavenly nature we have put on in Christ.

Thus, the mother has to watch over the manifestation of the evil dispositions which early peep out in the child, and tend to drag it down, because they are the inclinations of flesh and blood, and are of earth, earthly.

These have to be combated, counteracted, immediately and unceasingly, from their first appearance in infancy and childhood, if the mother would not see them shoot up in boyhood and girlhood, overtopping and choking the growth of every supernatural, or even natural, virtue.

It would be a fatal neglect,—one, in all likelihood, irreparable,—to allow the babe to have its own way in everything. Wise mothers are careful to check the temper of their youngest infants, and they do succeed in making them acquire even then habits which ever after grow with their growth.

Even pagans looked upon the soul of the child as a something so mysterious, so deep, and so holy,—as if a divine being tenanted the little helpless body,—that they would have their babes treated with infinite reverence.

We Christians know clearly what mighty spirit dwells within that regenerated soul; and we may divine somewhat of the workings and promptings of the Paraclete in His living tabernacle.

Who of us, who has roamed in boyhood or early manhood through the solitudes of our great virgin forests, but has come unexpectedly upon a lovely little lake,—the parent spring of some lordly river,—nestling in a secluded valley, with the great trees along its margin sending their roots down to drink of the pure waters, that margin itself fringed all around with wild flowers,—while the calm mirror-like bosom reflected the blue skies above, with their white or golden clouds, and the mighty hills which stood sentinels around to protect from intrusion or profanation all the sanctities of the place?

It is not a mere reflection of the heavens, or an image of the eternal hills that the attentive and wondering mind can see within the pure passionless depths of the soul of infancy or childhood. We know that the God of that great temple we call the universe, the Spirit Creator and Sanctifier, is there Himself in person.

What is the nature of his working within these mysterious depths of the child-soul? What foundations of mighty things to come is His hand laying beneath the untroubled surface of that life in its well-spring?

Mothers,—the educated, the wealthy, the God-fearing,—would do wisely to ask themselves such questions as these, —when they gaze into the upturned face of their babe, and look down into these deep and fearless eyes, through which a glimpse is had of the mysterious infant world of thought and feeling within.

“Children in their tabernacle know the secrets, not of cities, not of human society, not of history, but of God—their fair eyes are full of infinite sweetness—their little hands, joyous and blessed, have not committed evil—their young feet have never touched our defilement—their sacred heads wear an aureole of light—their smile, their voice, proclaim their twofold purity.

O the paradisaical ignorance, coveted, perhaps, by angels, of all the errors which heresy has sown in later times What cruelty to intercept the view of children by suffering their feet to get entangled in such briers, and their minds to be thus cankered, as is the bud bit with an envious worm, ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air, or dedicate his beauty to the sun!

Later they will not thank you; far happier had it sufficed them to have known good by itself, and evil not at all! As terns and other birds from arctic solitudes, when found flapping their long, silver, tapering wings over our rivers that wind. through woodlands and rich yellow meadows, show no fear of man, but keep close hovering over the clowns who with stones and staves assail them, so these innocent souls, coming first amid the crowded haunts of life, are ignorant of evil, and of all dangers unsuspicious.”

It should be our principal business to conquer ourselves and, from day to day, to go on increasing in strength and perfection. Above all, however, it is necessary for us to strive to conquer our little temptations, such as fits of anger, suspicions, jealousies, envy, deceitfulness, vanity, attachments, and evil thoughts. For in this way we shall acquire strength to subdue greater ones. – Saint Francis de Sales

At the end of the day, you need to first and foremost be patient with yourself….look back on the day and see the energy you DID EXPEND for your family….

Our granddaughter, Agnes, who is 8 years old, has started her own little business! It is called “Agnes’ Clayspirations”. She is very good at what she does and, so far, has given her creations away for gifts to all the ladies in the family. We are impressed! Here is her first Clayspiration that she put on our shop. She will be doing more when she finds time. She’s a busy little lady looking after Esther and doing school! 😉

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The first of Ronald Knox’s three “Slow Motion” collections, The Mass in Slow Motion comprises fourteen sermons preached during World War II to the students of the Assumption Sisters at Aldenham Park. Modest yet arresting in style, Knox explains the Mass from the opening psalm to the solemn words of conclusion: Ite missa est. While the liturgy Knox contemplates is that of the Tridentine Rite, the abundant fruits of his contemplation can be easily translated to the Ordinary Form of the present day. Indeed, their primary impetus is the powerful portrayal of the continuous action of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which formula yields to mystery and man participates in his own salvation.

During the WWII bombing of London, Ronald Knox—a priest, radio personality, detective novelist, scholar, and Catholic convert—found himself the chaplain of a girls’ school where students were being sheltered. When his existing homilies were exhausted, Knox began to write new ones for his students based on the Apostles’ Creed. The homilies were so well-received that they were later published as The Creed in Slow Motion.

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