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The Family Home

“Who is not struck with beholding your lively faith; your piety full of sweetness and modesty; your generous hospitality; the holiness which reigns within your families; the serenity and innocence of your conversation?”

St. Clement, Pope and Martyr, First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Picture of the Holy Family“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 honor, 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 labors 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 labor, 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 vigor 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 colors which paint them. Nay, there is not a single beauty in the 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 splendor 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 labor 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 fertility 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 all over its bosom, and the rivers which brighten and fertilize it cease to flow but for a few seasons, and it will be like the vale of death, forsaken of every living thing.

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 aim and word 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 of 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 labored 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 any one 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 every thing 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 odor of paradise. It is merely sought to open to the darkened eyes visions of a world which will enable the burdened soul to bear pa- tiently 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 generosity of 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.”

Source:  Fr. Bernard O’Reilly (1823-1907), Mirror of True Womanhood.

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