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Serious Hours Of A Young Lady by Charles Sainte-Foi

CHAPTER XIX. OBEDIENCE TO PARENTS.

In the natural order of things, man, after having obeyed his parents in his youth, becomes in turn the head of another family which he must govern by the authority of his word and example. God has given to woman another vocation. She obeys from her childhood, and obedience becomes more necessary to her as she advances in years; for when she quits the paternal roof for the one of her choice, it is still to obey and be directed by the will of another. But in this second moiety of her life she often finds the practice of obedience more difficult and painful than it was when she lived with her parents. More than once has the young woman, allured by the deceitful charms of a false liberty, left with a secret joy the paternal roof, hoping thereby to be delivered from the duty of obedience which weighed so heavily on her heart. But, alas! she has often been obliged to regret those days as the happiest of her life, when the tender solicitude of a mother rendered submission sweet and easy.

God, whose Providence is infinitely wise, has disposed all things in such a way that each epoch of life is a preparation to that which follows; strengthened by the labors of the past, we are fitted for those of the future, and prepared for the accomplishment of the duties of to-day by our fidelity to obligations less difficult of yesterday; we are thus imperceptibly and safely conducted by this graded scale to the end for which we were created.

Hence you may consider the present as your noviciate to the future; the family circle at home is the image of that with which you must live at a later time; and while your duties and trials will vary with your position, there is one obligation that always remains invariable; that is obedience. If you have learned well how to obey your parents whom God has given you, you will find it easier in after life to bend your will when obliged in submission to that of another.

At present holy obedience is not painful to you; on the contrary, it is a pleasure, as it is a means by which you can please your dear parents whom you love; and by force of habit it is now so deeply engraved in your heart as to be an act of second nature. But other times and other circumstances will present new difficulties, when perhaps you will be obliged to obey a man of your own age, possessed of none of those qualities that give authority and prestige to command.

The familiarity that exists between the married couple which, when truly Christian, is one of the greatest charms of their life, not unfrequently becomes for woman an obstacle to the observance of obedience; but she has reason to rejoice when her delinquency does not diminish the sacred authority of her husband's commands. The lady who has been docile to the orders of her parents will be docile to those of her husband; for as we are assured by Holy Writ, our accomplishment of the duties that God has imposed on us relative to our parents is rewarded even in this life; as likewise our delinquencies on this point will incur heaven's displeasure.

The paternal home should be for you a school of respect, obedience, gratitude, and love; and these virtues should be constantly manifested in your conduct; for, mark it well, you will be in the position destined for you later by God what you are presently in that which you now occupy. There is a logical succession in all our actions, whether good or bad. In each one of your actions may be found the germ of another which, being developed in due time, will produce others. The same is also true of that happy or unfortunate succession of thoughts and affections which is developed into habit; and which is engrafted in our very souls, forming, as it were, an integral part of our nature. From our infancy, God, in His infinite goodness, has given us a facility to do good, which in the course of time can be strengthened by habit; it will enable us to surmount obstacles and dangers that increase with age, but which are ignored in childhood.

The individual practice of respect, obedience, confidence; and gratitude is necessary for the preservation of society; and in order to render this practice easy for us, God, in loving goodness has removed from those beautiful flowers of virtue, whose perfume should embalm our whole life, the thorns that might pierce us. He has confided their care to those to whom, after God, we owe our life, and towards whom we are drawn by an invincible inclination of the heart. When we merge into the noon-tide of life we find these virtues already engrafted in our souls, with little trouble to us, for they were planted there by the hands of good and pious parents; and, as a reward for our fidelity to their instructions, those cherished virtues take deep root in the heart and grow imperceptibly as we advance in years.

But if, instead of being docile to their orders, we have stubbornly resisted them, if, by some unaccountable egotism, the soul has become concentrated in herself; and instead of giving our confidence and love to those who have so generously given their life and means to secure to us the happiness we enjoy, we rest satisfied with living on the fruits of their labors without making them any return; we will carry with us later on into the family of our choice only a withered heart, dead to every noble and generous sentiment.

You should respect and honor your parents with the filial love of a Christian daughter. Such is the precise meaning of the precept given you by God in their regard: Honor thy father and thy mother! Relative to you they hold God's place, who is the source of all paternity in heaven and upon earth. Nothing can dispense you from this respect which God requires for them, and which nature ought to render easy to you; for, even when your parents would suffer by a criminal negligence the image of God to be deteriorated in their souls; they always remain His representatives for you, because they are always, no matter what they may do, the instruments that God employed to give you existence.

The faults of your parents should never diminish in your heart the respect and honor that you owe them; and in certain painful and delicate circumstances, you should imitate the example of the two sons of Noah in order to escape the malediction that fell upon Cham for his impudent strictures of his father's faults. You should carefully draw the mantle of charity over any fault of your parents that might tend to weaken your respect for them. Silence should seal your lips forever on all their shortcomings, even before those who know them, unless that it be to ask advice in some critical conjuncture, or bring them to receive some useful and charitable counsel. God alone should be the depository of your sorrowful confidence in this matter. To Him alone you should confide your sorrows and alarms, because He alone should hold the first place in your mind and heart, for He will be your judge as well as theirs.

If you see that a salutary effect may be obtained by a prudent and respectful observation, be slow in making it, and never act before having consulted some virtuous and enlightened persons; should they advise you in the affirmative, let your observation assume the tone of a remonstration rather than a warning. Your language, actions or gestures should never savor of anything that betrayed a disregard for that profound veneration with which you should honor in them the title of God's representatives in your regard. An unfortunate custom, the fruit of a bad education, or of an excessive tenderness on the part of parents, has sadly vitiated the nature and form of the relations that should exist between child and parent.

During the present century in many places a fatal familiarity seems to have sapped the very foundation from that profound respect which was the honor and glory of the Christian family, and the salt that preserves nations from corruption; that respect which children, who truly feared God, paid to their parents. To that beautiful order that reigned in the Christian family, and which preserved inviolable the father's authority in Christian times, has succeeded a spirit of equality as hostile to the natural order as to the order of Divine Providence, since it destroys both rank and duty. It gives birth to that false independence which may justly be called the seed of revolution and anarchy; no consequence is more natural, for what can be expected of a citizen who imbibed in his childhood, under the paternal roof, the spirit of disobedience and insubordination, who was taught to regard superiority with a jealous eye, and treat with contempt those who are beneath him.

After paying due respect to your parents, they should be, after God, the depositories of your confidence, and since a daughter's wants are more easily communicated to her mother, it is in her mother's heart that a Christian daughter will deposit the secrets of her own. This filial confidence supposes, also, in a young lady a sincere diffidence in her self, a consciousness of her own weakness which, so far from being a fault, is the result of true humility. Those young ladies who are wanting in confidence in their own mothers are indeed great objects of compassion. For this confidence is not only an essential condition to their advancement in virtue, but also one of their principal safeguards against deception and intrigue.

The heart of woman, especially at your age, feels an imperative need of making a confidant of some one, and if that one is not her mother, it will be some friend who, perhaps, will not possess greater experience nor more wisdom or force than herself, and consequently, instead of giving the proper counsel, will add evil to evil by the fatal help of encouragement in a course that should be abandoned. Rest assured that you can never find any one able to fill the mother's place in this regard. This unreserved abandonment to a mother's confiding heart is not always possible, since death often interferes. When such is the case it is a great misfortune for a young lady -- a misfortune that can scarcely be retrieved in her lifetime. It is easy to recognise a woman whose soul has been fostered in that of her mother. Such women ordinarily possess a milder disposition, a more amiable ingenuousness, with a certain simplicity of heart which, without being prejudicial in the least to her mind, adds a new charm to the noble and generous virtues which become the mother of a family. Those habits of confidence and abandonment contracted from childhood have made frankness and sincerity second nature. Their love for truth and sincerity is revealed in their conversation, the sanctity of which is the echo of their souls. Their whole demeanor sheds such a halo of delight around them that they become, unpretentiously, the centre of attraction for all those whose enviable pleasure it is to be honored by their company.

If up to this hour you have concealed nothing from your mother; if you have given her the key to your soul; if your heart is for her an open book; if she can at all times read in your looks your very thoughts; on bended knees thank God from the depths of your soul for having given you such a mother, and the grace of giving her your confidence. If you remain a child to your mother you will preserve your youth through the toilsome days of life to a ripe old age, an advantage so precious that nothing should be left undone to secure it.

Woman is pleasing to others only in as much as she possesses this adornment, which exhales a sweet odor like the perfume of youth. Alas! how many women there are who have never been children even with their mothers. Women from their youth, they have treated their mother with a kind of diffidence, dissembling at an age when the only danger to be feared should be an excessive confidence.

As for the gratitude and love that you owe your parents, I would regard it as an injury offered to the candor of your age and the sincerity of your heart to undertake to prove that these are obligations which you are in duty bound to discharge. God who has commanded us to honor our parents, left us no precept obliging us to love them; but while He engraved other commandments upon stone this one He has written in the very essence of our being. Hence I appeal only to your heart in this matter, leaving you entirely to its instincts to point out to you your duty, which to assert by any other proof, I fear would lead you to suspect that there are children unnatural enough to forget and neglect their parents.

Bear in mind, however, that your love and gratitude for them must by no means be restricted to a sentiment of the heart or an instinct of nature. Those virtues must find an echo both in your words and actions. Love founded on sensibility has no signification, if you can make no sacrifice to obey or please them. Love in man is effective, and this is why our Lord tells us with regard to the love we owe Him: He who loves me keeps my commandments.

To love consists in pleasing him who is loved; it is prefering his will to our own, his interests to ours; in a word, it is to seek him rather than attract him; it is to become his property rather than to appropriate him; it is to forget ourself to think of him. Love lives upon sacrifices; as the pious author of the Following of Christ says: where love is, there is also pain: but love converts that pain into pleasure. If this be true of all the affections of the human heart; what shall we think of the one that we have first felt, and which in some way forms a part of our very nature?

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