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who compelled the French king, Philip Augustus, to dismiss Agnes de Méranie, whom he had unlawfully married, and take back his lawful wife, Ingelburga of Denmark, whom he had discarded! And all know with what firmness Pius VII., in the present century, refused to dissolve the marriage of Jerome Bonaparte with Elizabeth Patterson.
The Protestant Bishop of Maine makes the following candid avowal: "Laxity of opinion and teaching on the sacredness of the marriage bond and on the question of divorce originated among the Protestants of Continental Europe in the sixteenth century. It soon began to appear in the legislation of Protestant States on that Continent, and nearly at the same time to affect the laws of New England. From that time to the present it has proceeded from one degree to another in this country, until, especially in New England and in States most directly affected by New England opinions and usages, the Christian conception of the nature and obligations of the marriage bond finds scarcely any recognition in legislation or in the prevailing sentiment of the community." In confirmation of this statement, it may be remarked that, according to the latest census, there was one divorce to every eight marriages in Ashtabula County, Ohio, which is the focus of the Western Reserve, a colony founded by New England settlers. Had the indissoluble character of the marriage bond not already taken so deep and firm a
1Quoted from The Calling of a Christian Woman, by Rev. Morgan Dix.
hold upon the heart and conscience of Europe at the time of the "Reformation," it would have been uprooted by the storm of licentiousness aroused by the teaching and practice of the "Reformers."
What woman can calmly reflect on these facts without blessing the Catholic Church as, under God, the saviour of her sex? If virginal and conjugal chastity is held to-day as the brightest gem in the diadem of woman; if the wife is regarded as the peer of her husband, and not as his slave, the toy of his caprice and passion, as are the wives of Asiatic nations; if she is honored as the mistress of her household, and not looked upon as a tenant at will, as were the wives of Greece and Rome; if she is respected as the queen of the domestic kingdom, to be dethroned only by death, and not treated as the victim of rival queens, like the Mohammedan and Mormon wives, she is indebted to the Church which always held inviolate the unity and indissolubility of marriage, and especially to the Roman Pontiffs who never failed to enforce those fundamental laws.
And if woman has been elevated and ennobled by the Gospel, she has not been ungrateful for the boon conferred; she merits the eternal gratitude of the Christian world for the influence she has zealously exerted and is still exerting in behalf of religion and society. It is fearful to contemplate what would have become of our Christian civilization without the aid of the female sex. Not to speak of the grand army of consecrated virgins who
are fanning the flame of faith and charity throughout the world, how many thousands of homes are there in our country from which God withholds His avenging hand, and to which He shows mercy, solely on account of a pious mother or daughter, just as He was willing to show mercy to Sodom for the sake of a few righteous souls, and as He restored life to the young man borne to the tomb, for the sake of his mother, the widow of Naim! How many brothers, who had been long since buried in the grave of sin, are brought back to a life of virtue through the intercession of a pious sister, just as Lazarus was raised from the dead by the prayers and tears of Mary and Martha ! How many daughters keep alive the spark of religion, which otherwise would be utterly extinguished, in many a household! How many are in their families angels of expiation, atoning by their prayers and mortification for the sins of fathers and sons!
Women, it is true, are debarred from the exercise of the public ministry and the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, for they are commanded by the Apostle to "keep silence in the churches." if they are not apostles by preaching, they are apostles by prayer, by charity, and by good example. If they cannot offer up the Sacrifice of the Mass, they are priests in the broader sense of the term; for they offer up in the sanctuary of their own
homes and on the altar of their hearts the acceptable sacrifice of supplication, praise, and thanksgiving to God. Viewing, then, woman's dignity and her work in the cause of Christ, well may we apply to her these words of the Prince of the Apostles: "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people."1
The noblest work given to woman is to take care of her children. The most important part of her apostleship should consist in instructing them in the ways of God. The education of the young should begin at the mother's knee. The mind of a child, like softened wax, receives with ease the first impressions, which are always the deepest and most enduring. "A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it." 2 A child is susceptible of instruction much earlier in life than parents generally imagine. Mothers should watch with a jealous eye the first unfolding of the infant mind, and pour into it the seed of heavenly knowledge.
For various reasons the mother should be the first instructor of her children:
1st. As nature ordains that the mother should be the first to feed her offspring with her own substance, so does God ordain that she should be the first to impart to her little ones the "rational milk" whereby they "may grow unto salvation." 3
2d. Those children that are nurtured by their
1I. Peter, II., 9.
2 Prov. XXII., 6.
3 I. Peter, II., 2,
own mother are usually more healthy and robust than those that are nursed by strangers. In like manner they that are instructed by their own mother in the principles of Christian piety, are usually more robust in faith than those that have been guided exclusively by other teachers.
3d. It cannot be doubted that maternal and filial affections are mutually nurtured by the closer and intimate relations that mother and child have with each other, while these affections are chilled by a prolonged separation.
4th. The more confidence a child has in its preceptor, the more he is apt to advance in learning. Now, in whom does a child confide more implicitly than in his mother? In every danger he flies to her as to an ark of safety; he will place the utmost reliance on what she says. The mother should not lose the golden opportunity of instructing her children in faith and morals while their hearts are open to receive her every word.
5th. Lastly, the mother occupies the same house with her children, frequently the same apartment, and eats at the same table with them. She is the visible guardian-angel of her children. She is therefore the best calculated to instruct them, as she can avail herself of every little circumstance that presents itself to draw from it a moral lesson.
Let Christian mothers recognize their sublime mission. Let them bear in mind that to them is confided the most tender portion of the flock of Christ, which on that account should be watched