A good mother’s influence over an adolescent child surpasses that of any mentor. She conveys virtues that indelibly mark her children, who are mostly modeled by how she raises them.
The enlightening passages about mothers below are from the book The Family Spirit, by Msgr. Henri Delassus. They highlight a mother’s role in forming her children in virtue and fidelity to the perennial principles based on Catholic doctrine. The mother’s particularly important and irreplaceable role is especially needed today when the family institution is being mercilessly destroyed.
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“Happy that man to whom God gave a holy mother!” said Alphonse Lamartine. He was among those who had this good fortune, and he never failed to admit the debt of gratitude he owed her, “for having watched day in, day out, the thoughts of this child to turn them toward God, as one watches the stream at its fountainhead in order to guide it to the meadows which one wants to see rejuvenated with new grass.”
As Joseph de Maistre said, “If a mother has made it her duty to imprint deeply on her child’s forehead the divine character, one can be almost certain that the hand of vice will never be able to efface it completely.”
How many other mothers imprinted deeply on the soul of their children those sentiments of respect, worship and adoration of God, of which, through the purity of their life, they were the living image!
As mother, the Christian woman sanctifies the man-child; as daughter, she edifies the man-father; as sister, she improves the man-brother; as wife, she sanctifies the man-husband.
The “Root” of Sanctification
“I want to make my son a saint.” said the mother of Saint Athanasius.
“My God, we thank Thee a thousand times for having given us a saint for mother,” cried out Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, the two sons of Saint Nonna, at her death.
“O my God, I owe everything to my mother,” said St. Augustine.
As a gesture of gratitude for her having impressed upon him so profoundly the doctrine of Christ, Saint Gregory the Great had his mother, Saint Sylvia, painted alongside him, clothed in a white robe, with the miter of the doctors, extending two fingers of the right hand as if in blessing and holding in her left hand the book of the Holy Gospels under her son’s rooks.
Who gave us St. Bernard and made him so pure, so strong, and so aflame with love for God? His mother Aleth.
Closer to our days, Napoleon Bonaparte said: “A child’s future is the work of his mother.” And Daniel Lesueur observed: “When someone is something, it is very rare that he does not owe this to his mother.” “Oh, my father and mother, who lived so modestly,” said Louis Pasteur, “I owe you everything! Your enthusiasms, my valiant mother, you passed them on to me. If I always linked the grandeur of science to the grandeur of the nation, it is because I was imbued with the sentiments you inspired in me.” To some persons who congratulated him for having acquired early on the love of piety, the saintly Curé of Ars replied, “After God, it was the work of my mother.”
Almost all the saints ascribed the origins of their sanctity to their mothers.
The “Root” of Great Characters…
One could add: Our great men, they too were made by their mothers.
In a letter to Charlemagne, bishop Castulf reminds the Emperor of the memory of his mother, Bertrada, saying to him: “Oh king, if Almighty God has raised you in honor and glory above all your contemporaries and predecessors, you owe this above all to the virtues of your mother.”
Joseph de Maistre says: “That which the world has of most excellent is made on the knees of the mother.”
She is that bright flame in the home that the Gospel speaks of, spreading over all the light of the faith and the fires of divine charity. She brings alive in the family thoughts on the sovereignty of God, our first principle and ultimate end; the thoughts of love and gratitude we should have for His Infinite Goodness, fear of His Justice, the spirit of faith that unites us to Him, the law of chaste mores, of honesty in our dealings, and sincerity in our words; thoughts of mutual support and dedication; thoughts of work and temperance.
…and of Men of Any Social Condition
“In the working family,” says Augustin Cochin, “the dominant figure is the wife, it is the mother. Everything depends on her virtue and is modeled after her. The husband concerns himself with the work and profits of the household. The wife concerns herself with the cares of its internal governance. The husband is the wage earner, the wife saves it. The husband is the head of the family, the wife is its bond of unity. The husband is the family’s honor, the wife its blessing.”
A Catholic Mother, the “Root” of Heroism
In the words of the Viscount de Maumigny, “We owe to our mothers and sisters the backdrop of honor and chivalrous dedication which is the life of France. We owe to them the Catholic Faith. Disciples of the Queen of Apostles and Martyrs, women have implanted their own heart in the hearts of their sons… Mary is their model. Mary taught these mothers how to sacrifice one’s only son to God and to the Church.”
“No,” said Pius IX upon hearing the narration of these sublime immolations, “the France who produced such saints shall not perish!”
Upon seeing the Pope for the first time, the heroic widow of Pimodan did not say: ‘Oh! Holy Father, give me back my husband!’ Rather, she said, ‘Oh! Tell me that he is in Heaven!’ And when Pius IX answered, ‘I no longer pray for him,’ she said nothing further as she understood that she was the widow of a martyr, and that sufficed.”
The women are the soul of everything that has stirred France, and through her, the world. At Castelfidardo the Pontifical Zouaves fought under the eyes of their mothers, pictured in their mind, and under the walls of the sanctuary where the Queen of martyrs conceived the King of martyrs. All of them, as they marched against the enemy, repeated these words of one of them: “My soul to God, my heart to my mother, my body to Loretto.” The honor of the battle went to their mothers, to Mary who inspired them all. As with the knights in ages past, and later with the Vendeans, they learned how to die for God, the Church and the country on the knees of their mothers. (Viscount de Maumigny, Les Voix de Rome, apud Huguet, Triomphe de Pie IX, pp. 157-158).
“Most Comprehensive Synthesis of All Mothers”
This final citation closes the selected excerpts from the splendid work by the Catholic polemist Msgr. Henri Delassus. However, it is only appropriate to recall how Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the distinguished TFP founder, attributed the best of his moral and religious formation to his beloved mother, the traditional Brazilan lady from the city of São Paulo, Lucília Ribeiro dos Santos Corrêa de Oliveira. An extremely affectionate but firm mother, she fulfilled the ideal of a fully Brazilian, Catholic and aristocratic lady at a time when the maternal figure was already being obscured by revolutionary waves of modern fashions and habits.
Upon closing this series, the words below by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira are directed to Our Lady, to whom he was always ardently devoted, describing her as the highest model of a true family mother: Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Ghost, and Daughter of God the Father. The text reads:
The Blessed Virgin represents the ineffable quintessence, the vast synthesis of all mothers that existed, exist, and will exist; of all the maternal virtues that the intellect and the human heart can know.
Even more, of those degrees of virtue that only saints know how to find and only they can attain, flying on the wings of grace and heroism.
She is the mother of all children and all mothers. She is the mother of all men. She is the mother of God-Man.
Yes, of God who became Man in the virginal womb of this Mother in order to rescue all men.
She is a Mother who defines herself with a word: mar, sea, which in turn gives rise to a heavenly name: Mary.