The Family Home
Fr. Bernard O'Reilly, D.L., 1877
All the institutions and ordinances which God has created in civil society or bestowed upon his Church, have for their main purpose to secure the existence, the honour, and the happiness of every home in the community, from that of the sovereign or supreme magistrate to that of the most obscure individual who labours to rear a family. There is nothing on earth which the Creator and Lord of all things holds more dear than this home, in which a father's ever watchful care, untiring labour, and enlightened love, aim at creating for His children a little Eden in which they may grow up to the true perfection of children of God; in which a mother's unfailing and all-embracing tenderness will be, like the light and warmth of the sun in the heavens, the source of life, and joy, and strength, and all goodness to her dear ones, as well as to all who come within the reach of her influence.
The most learned men of modern times agree in saying that the sun's light and warmth are, in the order established by the Creator, the sources of all vegetable and animal life on the surface of our globe. They regulate the succession of seasons, the growth of all the wonderful varieties of tree and shrub and flower and grass that make of the surface of the earth an image of Paradise. They give health and vigour to the myriads of animals of every kind that live in the air or in the waters or on the dry land, and to which, in turn, the vegetable world furnishes food and sustenance. The very motion given to the rain in falling, to the rivers in their course, to the oceans and their currents, comes from that sun-force, as well as the clouds which sail above our heads in the firmament and the lovely colours that paint them, Nay, there is not a single beauty in the million----million shades which embellish the flowers of grove, or garden, or field, or clothe at dawn, or noontide, or sunset, the face of earth and Heaven, which is not a creation of glorious light, the visible image of His Divine countenance, in Whom is the source of all splendour, and life, and beauty.
Even so, O woman, within that world which is your home and kingdom, your face is to light up and brighten and beautify all things, and your heart is to be the source of that vital fire and strength without which the father can be no true father, the brother no true brother, the sister no true sister, since all have to learn from you how to love, how to labour lovingly, how to be forgetful of self, and mindful only of the welfare of others.
The natural affection by which the Creator of our souls draws to each other husband and wife, and which, in turn, they pour out on their children and receive back from these in filial regard and reverence, is the very source of domestic happiness. We cannot estimate too highly this holy mutual love which knits together the hearts of parents and children. It is as necessary to the peace, the comfort, the prosperity, and the bliss of every home, as the dew and the rain and the streams of running water are necessary to the husbandman for the ferti lity of the land he cultivates, and the growth of the harvest on which depend both his subsistence and his wealth.
Let the dew and rain of Heaven cease to fall on the fairest valley, let the springs of living water be dried up allover its bosom, and the rivers which brighten and fertilise it cease to flow but for a few seasons, and it will be like the vale of death, forsaken of every living thing.
Do you wish, O reader, to learn how the springs of true life, of true love and joy, may flow, unfailing and eternal, within the little paradise of your home? Then weigh well the words of the great Martyr-Pope placed at the head of this chapter. These point out the virtues and qualities which should adorn every household in which Christ is worshipped:---a lively faith, a piety full of sweetness and modesty, a generous hospitality, holiness of life,serenity and innocence of conversation. Let us examine together how much there is in every one of these. We need not send to a great distance for one of those men famed for their skill in discovering hidden and plentiful springs of water beneath the surface of the ground. Their mysterious knowledge and the use of their magic wand are useless here; for here we have seven pure and exhaustless wells of living water created for our home by the Maker of all things, and placed ready to our hand for every need.
And, first of all, is a lively faith. We Christians are given that eye of the soul which enables us to see the invisible world, as if the veil which hides it were withdrawn. God becomes to us an ever present, most sweet and most comforting reality. The great patriarch, Abraham, was bidden, in his long exile, and as a sure means of bearing up against his manifold trials, to walk before God---that is, to have God ever present before the eye of his soul. This sense of the Divine Majesty as a vision always accompanying us in our every occupation, in labour as well as repose, just as the pillar of cloud went with the Israelites in their journeyings towards the Promised Land, gives wonderful light to us in our darkness and difficulties, cheers us marvellously in distress and adversity, lightens the hardest labour and the most intolerable burden, imparts a Divine strength in the hour of temptation; for what can we not undertake and accomplish, what enemy can we not resist and put to flight, when we feel that his eye is on us, that we have Him there face to face, that his arm is ever stretched out to support and shield us, and that all the love of his fatherly heart sweetens the bitterness of our struggle, and rewards our generosity of overcoming all for his sake?
Joseph and Mary at Nazareth were privileged above all human beings to behold that Wisdom which created the world living and labouring daily beneath their humble roof, and growing up into the successive perfection of holy infancy, boyhood, and manhood, while concealing his quality from the surrounding multitude, and revealing only to a few like themselves His Godhead and His mission. It is certain that He practised all the virtues and fulfilled all the duties of His age and station in the way best fitted to glorify His Father; He was enlightening the world, sanctifying Himself, and marking out the path of life as truly for every one of us, during these long and obscure years of his abode in Nazareth, as when His teaching and His miracles drew around Him all Galilee and Judea.
And what an eloquent lesson was there, exemplifying that "life of faith" without which the existence of the Christian man or woman is barren of all supernatural merit! Christ, in the helpless years of His infancy and boyhood, when His life was one of entire dependence and submission, glorified and pleased His Father by solely seeking His good-will and pleasure in obeying those appointed His earthly parents, and in accomplishing the obscure duties of His age. This lesson Joseph and Mary were not slow to learn and to practice. They read, in the rapt charity with which their worshipped Charge offered to the Divine Majesty every day and hour and moment of these golden years of toil, this all-important law of life for the children of God: "That the value of what we do does not depend on the greatness or publicity of the work accomplished; but on the spirit of love towards the Father with which it is undertaken and carried out; and that the pure purpose and offering of the heart is what God prizes above all else."
It has been the constant belief and teaching of Christian ages that the lives of Joseph and Mary, consumed in the voluntary poverty, lowliness, and toil of their condition, were ennobled, elevated, sanctified, and made most precious before God by being, after the example of the Divine Model before them, devoted to God alone, and animated by the one sole thought and purpose of pleasing and glorifying Him by perfect conformity to His holy will.
The Mother who ruled in this most blessed home beheld, in the Divine Babe confided to her, the Incarnate Son of God walking before her in the true way of holiness, and, like Him, she applied herself to set the Eternal Father constantly before her eyes, studying to make every thought and word and aim and action most pleasing to that Infinite Perfection.
When Christ had begun His public life, when the home at Nazareth was broken up, and Mary had taken up her abode with her kinsfolk at Capharnaum, the light of the Father's countenance, in which she had learned to live, accompanied her, and the grace of her Son's example continued to surround her like a living atmosphere. After the terrible scenes at Calvary, and the glories of the Ascension, she brought with her to the home which St. John and his mother, Mary Salome, so lovingly offered her, the image of her Crucified Love, as the one great mirror in which she could behold the new heights of sanctity and self-sacrifice which she was called on to tread with Him.
Since her day who was Mother of our Head, Mother of the Church which she laboured to beget and to form, and Mother of us all, since she quitted her home on earth for Heaven, the image of the Crucified God has ever been the chief ornament, the principal light and the great Book of life in every true Christian home.
Not one saintly mother among the millions who have trained sons and daughters, ay, and husbands and dependents, to be the true followers of Christ, His apostles and His Martyrs, when need was, but always His faithful servants and imitators, who did not read in the ever open page of her crucifix how she might best lead a life of self-sacrifice, and best induce her dear ones to be "crucified to the world."
But let no one fancy that, in placing before her this holy model-home of the ever-blessed Mother of God, it is the intention of the writer to urge anyone who chances to read these pages to expect to equal in self-sacrifice either herself or her Divine Son. No; the aim of the instruction here given is to encourage all who look into this mirror to adorn their homes with some of the heavenly flowers which bloomed in Nazareth, to bring to the performance of their daily duties in their own appointed sphere, that lofty spirit of unselfish devotion to God which will make everything they do most precious in his .sight, transform the poorest, narrowest, most cheerless home into a bright temple filled with the light of God's presence, blessed and protected by God's visiting Angels, and fragrant with the odourof Paradise. It is merely sought to open to the darkened eyes visions of a world which will enable the burdened soul to bear patiently and joyously the load of present ills, to fire the spirit of the careworn and the despairing with an energy which will enable them to take up the inevitable cross and follow Mary and her Son up to heights where rest is certain and the promised glory unfading. No; you shall not be asked to quit your home, or exchange your occupations, or add one single particle to the burden of your toil, your care, or your suffering; but she who is the dear Mother of us all, will teach you by the silent voice of her example, how to bring the light of Heaven down into your home, the generosityof the children of God into the discharge of your every occupation, and the sweet spirit of Christ to ennoble your toil to brighten your care and your suffering.
Travelers among the loftiest mountains often chance upon calm bright lakes, within whose crystal depths are mirrored not only the blue heavens into which the eagle alone can soar, and the cold, ice-covered summits which only the feet of the most daring few have trodden, but the low and fertile hills around the shore covered with the green woods, the healthful pastures, and frequented by the shepherds and their flocks. It is to these lovely, safe, and accessible heights of virtue that this little book would guide the footsteps of mother and maiden alike.
And of such easy access is the height of purity of intention and living faith which should be the constant light of your home. It is characteristic of the depth and constancy of womanly affection that the thought of the loved one, during the longest and most painful absence, will suffice to sustain them and to brighten a life which otherwise would appear cheerless . . . .
TAKEN FROM The Mirror of True Womanhood, by the same author.
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