Read CHAPTER VII of Public School Education , free online book, by Michael Mueller, on ReadCentral.com.

WHAT IS IT TO BE A MOTHER?

Let us again bear in mind that the Public School-girls of to-day will be the mothers of to-morrow. Mothers are destined, by God, to bring up children for heaven. This is their grand mission. What a happiness, what an honor for a mother to give angels to heaven! Would to God she only knew the real dignity and importance of her mission, and comprehended the qualifications in the moral and religious order that best prepare her for the duties of her sublime calling! What mission can be more sublime, more sacred, what mission can be more meritorious before God than that of giving to the young child the primary lessons of religion?

There is indeed nothing more honorable, nothing more meritorious, nothing which conducts to higher perfection, than to instruct children in their religious duties. This instruction of children is a royal, apostolic, angelic, and divine function. Royal, because the office of a king is to protect his people from danger. Apostolic, because our Lord commissioned apostles to instruct the nations, and, as St. Jerome says, thus made them the saviours of men. Angelic, because the angelical spirits in heaven enlighten, purify, and perfect each other according to their spheres, and their earthly mission is to labor without ceasing for the salvation of man. St. Peter Chrysologus calls those who instruct others in the way of salvation, “the substitutes of angels.” Indeed this mission of mothers is divine; they are called to carry on the very work of God Himself. Everything that Almighty God has done from the creation of the world, and which He will continue to do to the end, has been, and will be, for the salvation of mankind. For this He sent His Son from heaven, who enlightened the world by His doctrine, and who still continues to instruct His people by His chosen disciples. Those mothers, then, who direct their children in the paths to heaven, who allure them from vice, who form them to virtue, may fitly be termed apostles, angels, and saviours. Oh! what glory awaits those mothers who perform the office of angels, and even of God Himself, in laboring for the salvation of the souls of their children. If this employment is honorable for mothers, it is also not less meritorious for them. What is the religious instruction of children, but conferring on a class of our race, the weakest and most helpless, with inconceivable labor and fatigue, the greatest of all blessings? For while the physical development of the child advances with age, it is not so with the mental; for religious instruction only can develop the noble faculties of the soul. The soul of a child, so to speak, would continue to live enshrouded in Pagan darkness, if the mother did not impart and infuse the light of truth. All the gold in the world is but dross in comparison with true religious knowledge.

Our Saviour says: “Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones, even a cup of cold water, shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. .) May we not infer that those mothers who bestow upon children the treasures of divine knowledge will receive an exceedingly great reward? If God denounces so severely those who scandalize little children: “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. xvii, what recompense will mothers not receive who instruct and sanctify them?

Mothers who give their efforts and means to this object, choose the surest way to appease the anger of God, and to insure their own salvation. They choose the best means of attaining a high degree of perfection. Almighty God gives to each one the graces proper to his vocation. Mothers, therefore, who are devoted to the religious instruction of their children, must rest assured that God will give them extraordinary graces to arrive at perfection. “Whoever,” says our Lord, “shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me.” (Matt. xvii.) Whosoever, then, believes that our Saviour will not allow Himself to be surpassed in liberality, must also believe that He will bestow His choicest blessings on those mothers who instruct their children in the knowledge of God and the love of virtue.

What obligations have not the “angels” of children “who always see the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Matt. xvii, to pray for these mothers their dear colleagues and charitable substitutes, who perform their office and hold their place on earth. The children will pray for their mothers, and God can refuse nothing to the prayers of children, and their supplications will ascend with the prayers of the angels.

Do you desire, O Christian mother, to be saved? Do you wish to acquire great treasures in heaven, and to attain great perfection in this life? Employ yourself diligently in the religious instruction of your children. Do you wish to gain the love of our Lord, and to deserve His protection? Teach your children to fear and love God; you cannot do anything more pleasing to His Divine Heart.

It is related in the Gospel that mothers brought to Him little children, that He might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. And when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said to them: “Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God; and embracing them, and laying His hands on them, He blessed them.” If Jesus was displeased with those who prevented little children from coming to Him, what love and tenderness will He not have for those mothers by whose means they come to Him?

Oh! how consoled will they not be in their last hour, when they shall see the souls of those whom they prepared for heaven, accompanied by their good angels, surrounding their bed of death, forming, as it were, a guard to protect them from the snares and assaults of the enemy!

This is a happiness which those mothers may confidently expect who labor assiduously to give their children a good religious education. Ah! would to God, I say once more, that mothers would understand their sublime mission on earth!

But it is just here that the difficulty lies: how can a mother give the child these early lessons of piety and devotion, if she has never learned them herself? How can she train it to raise its young heart to that Heavenly Father, and ask Him for His continued mercy and blessings, of whose name or law she has never been informed or instructed in the Public Schools? How can she impart to her child that knowledge which she herself has never learned in the Public Schools, and which she has always been taught to look upon as unnecessary? Can she teach the child to love God and keep His commandments, to hate sin, and avoid it for the love of God? To love, honor, and obey its parents, not from natural motives alone, but because, in so doing, it would love, honor, and obey God in the person of its father and mother, and have thus not only a great reward, and length of days here below, but also the joys of heaven above? This lesson the poor mother was never taught in the Public Schools. How can she teach her sweet child that it has an immortal soul, that God sees even the inmost thoughts of the soul, that it is this soul that sins by consenting to the evil inclinations of the heart; that when the child is tempted to pride, gluttony, anger, disobedience, theft, lies, or any manner of uncleanness, even in thought as well as deed, that it must call on God and its good guardian angel to come to its assistance, and keep its soul from consenting, and its body from doing, any of those things that might offend its good God? All this the poor mother has not been taught in the Public Schools. The State claims the right to educate her, and it did not regard this kind of knowledge necessary, else it would have provided it.

Let us again bear in mind that the Public School-girls of to-day will be the women of to-morrow.

The most majestic kingdom for woman to reign in is home. A woman nowhere looks more lovely, more truly great, more fascinating, and more really beautiful and useful, than when in her own house, surrounded by her children, giving them what instruction she is capable of, or devising some plan of intellectual entertainment. Depend on it that this is the grandest position in this world for a woman, and this home-audience is nearer and sweeter to the affectionate heart of a mother whose brain is properly developed, than all the applause and flatteries that the outer world can bestow. It is not in the court-room, the pulpit, and rostrum, but it is among the household congregation that woman’s influence can achieve so much, and reign paramount. This, however, is not easily understood and practised by women who have been educated without religion. And it is for this reason that such women cannot make faithful wives and tender mothers.

Young ladies whose education has been devoid of moral and religious instruction, whose imagination, always over-ardent and vivacious, has been still more stimulated by a class of exercises, public examinations, and studies better calculated to give them an unreal than a sober view of life, are not prepared to fulfil their divine mission on earth. An illustration of this truth is the fact that quite recently over six hundred personal applications mostly made by girls of from fifteen to twenty were made in one day at the Grand Opera House in New York to fill places in the ballet and Oriental marches of the spectacle of Lalla Rookh. Assuredly this fact is evidence that the women in New York, like so many women in all quarters of the land, are unwilling to do the work which properly belongs to them to do, and prefer any shift, even the degrading one mentioned above, to honest household labor. There are thousands of ladies to whom the following description, written by a lady herself, may well be applied:

“How is it that there is not more nature in the present age, and less sophistication in society, and that mothers do not teach their daughters to fit themselves for wives and mothers? For they all seem to be setting traps to get husbands. Why, the young ladies of the present day are quite ashamed should they be ignorant of the name of the last new opera and its composer, but would feel quite indignant if they were asked whether they knew how to make good soup, or broil a beefsteak, or mend stockings.

“Above all, you can notice in the young ladies of the present day a madness beyond description for dress, for balls, theatres, watering-places, and all kinds of worldly amusements; you can see in them the greatest desire to appear ladies. They go and spend the whole day at the perfumer’s, where they purchase their complexion; at the goldsmith’s and the milliner’s, where they get their figures. A few days ago, the father of one of these ladies had to pay a bill of forty-nine hundred dollars at the milliner’s, for his daughter. The chief mental agony of the masses of the young women of the present day seems to be, who shall have the largest possible waterfall, the smallest bonnet, and make themselves the greatest fright. They do nothing from morning till night but read novels, and look at their white hands, or the passers-by in the street. They all seem to be senseless creatures, for their capacious brain soars no higher than dress, fashion, pleasure, comfort of life. Were it not for their vain daughters, hundreds of parents at this moment would have a happier countenance, and not that careworn, wretched look that we so frequently see when honest people get in debt, incurred by living beyond their means. Were it not for the extravagancy of young women, young men would not be afraid to marry, consequently would not be led into the temptations that they are in the single state, for marriage is one sure step towards morality, and consequently tends to the decrease of crime.

“Very many young ladies act as catch-traps, with their painted faces and affected sweetness, to lure young men into the swamps of iniquity.

“I frequently read comments about servants not knowing and performing their proper duties; in fact, of their incompetency to fill the office they apply for: and it is true.

“In Boston, a short time ago, one hundred and eighty unfortunate girls were arrested in one night; and I doubt not that the greater portion of them could have once been respectable servants, but considered the office and name too low! Men think it no disgrace to become carpenters and masons, and it is certainly as respectable to clean a house, and keep it in order, as it is to build it. And what kind of a name have these girls now? What future have these women to look forward to? Generally the world’s cold, nipping scorn, combined with ill-health and destitution. A girl would much rather work in a factory, or a ‘saloon,’ because she can be called ‘Miss,’ dress finer, and imagine she will be thought a lady! Poor girl! It is this delusion, this false pride, that crowds the streets nightly with pretty young girls, some of whom count only twelve short summers. With Hamlet, I exclaim, ’Oh, horrible! most horrible!’ I lived in a house in which there was a girl, Annie C., not seventeen, and she attended in a restaurant. I once said to her, ’Why do you not take the situation of a seamstress, or a nurse in a gentleman’s family?’ She turned upon me in the most insolent way, saying, ’Me be a servant! That will do very well for Irish, or Dutch, or English girls, but I am an American, and feel myself as good as anybody.’

“However, this girl afterwards went as a ballet-girl at one of the lowest places in Boston; and the last account I heard of her was, she was travelling with an Ethiopian troop alone. Poor young creature! what will be her end? The truth is, that after a girl is fifteen years old, in this country, she considers herself a person of sound judgment, and the parents look up to these sprites with a sort of deferential fear. These girls are simply living pictures walking about the earth, deriding everything they are incapable of understanding. And who could be charmed with such women? with such ‘Grecian Bends,’ Grecian noses? The genuine well-bred woman will shine out from beneath the plainest garb; and shoddy vulgarity, even should it be incased in rubies and diamonds, will only be rendered the more obvious and conspicuous to those who at a glance can discover the difference to those who cannot be deceived, even by the radiant sparkling of these richest of gems.”

This sort of women wish to have the “women’s rights.” They would like, if they knew how, to turn the world upside down, and inside out. This great desire among a certain class of women, to have the world think that they possess masculine power, generally proceeds from persons who wish to create a sensation, and fail to do so in the station they belong to. When a woman wishes to go out of her natural element, she shows that her intellect is shallow, and she is desirous of being thought greater than her sex generally; while, in reality, she discovers to us her own littleness. These people seem to wish to be what it is impossible for them ever to become “men.”

“When God created man in his own image, He said, ’It is not good that man should live alone: I will make him a helpmeet.’ Now, had God meant to create merely a companion capable of following the same pursuits, and capable of the same herculean labors that evidently is meant to be man’s destiny, why, He would have made another man. But no! When God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, he took out one of his ribs, and made a woman a being in EVERY WAY THE COMPLEMENT OF MAN. And, after they ate of the tree of knowledge, God said to the woman, ’Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall RULE over thee.’ And unto Adam he said, ’Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;’ thus plainly demonstrating to us, that MAN was meant to rule. Bear in mind that God was angry because Adam HEARKENED unto the voice of his WIFE; and Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living. So it is clear to be seen, that woman was meant to attend to the duties of a mother in caring for her offspring, and man was intended to labor as the provider for her whom he chose as a helpmeet, as well as for the entire household. Woman has natural nourishment sent to her for the babe long before she is able to leave her couch. Does not all this prove to every thinking person that woman’s sphere and calling are widely different?”

The good and perfection of women consist in remaining contentedly in the place which God has assigned them, and in performing well the duties of their divine calling. If the hand wishes to be in the place of the eye, and the eye wishes to be where the hand is, they become burdensome, and disturb the good order and harmony of the body. Now it is the same with the members of the social body. If women are in the place, or engaged in the occupation which God has chosen for them, they enjoy a profound peace; they rest under His protection; they are nourished by His grace; they are enriched by His blessings, and work out their eternal happiness with but little pain.

This truth, however, is considered by many women as one of trifling importance; they seem not to care as to whether they live up to their divine calling or not. The Holy Ghost, however, admonishes every one thus: “Let every man abide in the vocation to which he was called” (1 Cor. vi; for, “Blessed is the man that shall continue in wisdom and that considereth her ways in his heart.” (Eccles. xi, 23.) Blessed that woman who well considers her divine calling, penetrates into, and admires its greatness, and endeavors, with all her strength and heart, to comply with all its duties. One of the most usual temptations which the arch-enemy of mankind makes use of to shake women’s happiness, in the present day, is to excite in them disgust and dissatisfaction for their divine calling. Hence it is that we so often hear them complain of their state of life; they fancy that, by changing their condition of life, they shall fare better: yes, provided they changed themselves. Would to God they were sworn enemies of these useless, dangerous, and bad desires! God wills to speak to them amidst the thorns, and out of the midst of the bush (Exod. ii, and they will Him to speak to them in “the whistling of a gentle air.” (III Kings, xi.) They ought, then, to remain on board the ship in which they are, in order to cross from this life to the other; and they ought to remain there willingly, and with affection. Let them not think of anything else; let them not wish for that which they are not, but let them earnestly desire to be the very best of what they are. Let them endeavor to do their best to perfect themselves where they are, and bear courageously all the crosses, light or heavy, that they may encounter. Let them believe that this is the leading principle, and yet the one least understood in the Christian life. Every one follows his own taste; very few place their happiness in fulfilling their duty according to the pleasure of our Lord. What is the use of building castles in Spain, when we are obliged to live in America? “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that leaveth his place” (Prov. xxvi, his occupation, or station of life. Let every woman remain firm in her calling, if she wishes to insure her tranquillity of mind, her peace of heart, her temporal and eternal happiness.

To become unfaithful to their vocation is for women to suffer as many pangs as a limb which, through some accident, has been wrenched out of place. They are continually tormented by evil spirits, who have power over a soul that is out of its proper sphere. They are no longer under the protection of God, since they have withdrawn from His guidance, and voluntarily abandoned His watchful Providence. They fall often into grievous sins, because they are not sustained by the grace which belongs to the state in which God desires them to be. A woman, therefore, can never show her superior intellectual powers better than by cheerfully accepting the calling for which the Creator evidently intended her; that is, for woman, wife, and mother.