First published in The Reign of Mary, Issue #123
Complete, successful family living requires the cooperation of both husband and wife. Both have their specific roles; both, consequently, have their quota to contribute to the supply of family tranquility, order, and harmony. Still, it is clear, from the very nature of her role, that the wife and mother can contribute more to the felicity of the home than can her husband. Wherefore, Pius XII would dub her the “sun” of the family.
She is the “sun” because her self-sacrificing generosity is ever operative in diffusing love. Her affectionate and provident attentions are consistently and delicately attuned to bring cheer to her husband and children. In this way, she diffuses “light and warmth about herself. And if then it is said that a marriage is successful, when each of the spouses upon contracting it, contemplates not his own happiness but that of the other party, this noble feeling and intention, even though the concern of both, is nevertheless mainly that of the woman, born as she is with the instinct of a mother and the wisdom of the heart; that wisdom which, if pained, desires to return only joy and if humiliated, wants to return only dignity and respect, like the sun that cheers the cloudy morning with its light and gilds the clouds with rays at its settings” (Address to Spouses, 1942).
Prayer to Be Recited by Catholic Mothers
O Mary, “full of grace and blessed among women,” stretch out the hand of thy motherly protection, we beseech thee, upon us who gather round thy queenly throne as thy handmaidens, obedient to thy command and resolved with thy help to bring to realization in ourselves and our sisters the ideals of truth and Christian perfection.
Our eyes are fixed on thee in admiration, Immaculate Virgin; thou who art loved by the Heavenly Father above all others! O Virgin Spouse of the Holy Ghost! Tender Mother of Jesus! Obtain for us from thy Divine Son the grace to reflect thy sublime virtues in our conduct, according to our age and condition of life. Grant that we may be spotless and pure in our thoughts and in our behavior; gentle, affectionate, and sympathetic companions to our husbands; to our children solicitous, vigilant and wise mothers; prudent administrators of our homes; exemplary citizens of our dear country; faithful daughters of the Church, ever ready to allow ourselves to be guided by her in thought and deed.
Help us, loving Mother, to be truly devoted to the duties of our state of life; help us make our homes true centers of spiritual life and active charity, schools where consciences will be rightly formed, gardens where every virtue will flourish. Give us thy help that in social and political life we may be patterns of deep faith, of consistent and gracious practice, of incorruptible integrity, and of well-balanced judgment based upon the solid principles of religion.
Bless these resolutions which thou hast inspired us to make and the trials thou hast helped us to bear; may we with thine aid come to see their abundant fruits in time and in eternity. Amen.
— Composed by Pope Pius XII, May 26, 1957
She is the “sun” of the family, in the second place, because she possesses the superior though delicate power of softening the tumult of the passions. The limpidity of her glance and the fire of her words, the Holy Father comments with keen psychological insight, “penetrate gently into the soul, bend it, soften and raise it beyond the tumult of the passions, and attract the husband to the enjoyment of the good and of family conversation, after a long day of continued, and perhaps painful, professional and agricultural work, or of important commercial or industrial business. Her eyes shed a light and her voice gives forth a melody that have a thousand flashes in a single glance and a thousand affections in a single sound. They are flashes and the sounds that spring from the heart of a mother, that create and vivify the paradise of childhood and always radiate goodness and gentleness even when they admonish or reprove. For the youthful minds that feel more strongly, receive more intimately and more deeply the dictates and teachings of love” (Ibid.).
Finally, the wife is the “sun” of the family because by her candid naturalness and dignified simplicity she reflects solid virtue, the spectral rays of the Divine Sun of Justice. Her truly Christian decorum is mirrored in the recollection and in the rectitude of her spirit, in the subtle nobility of her poise, and in the delicate reserve of her general bearing. Thus, her “slight suggestions, hints, graceful expressions of the face, prudent silences and smiles, a condescending inclination of the head, give her the grace of a chosen yet simple flower, that opens its corolla to receive and reflect the color of the sun” (Ibid.).
Tremendous, then, is the mother’s power to determine the tenor of the home. Tremendous, too, is the dignity and nobility that has its enhancement in this power. For, the high mystical character of motherhood is inextricably interwoven with the mother’s ability to sublimate the domestic peace and tranquility which she, more than anyone else, has the gift to fabricate. Her tender, maternal love-instinct, upon which the supernatural is built, is the all-pervading transforming power. It strengthens and fortifies, refines and elevates the natural blessedness of the family circle. This truth is strikingly pointed out by Pius XII. “When,” he says, “to the bride the Lord in His bounty will have granted the dignity of motherhood to the side of the cradle, the crying of the infant will neither lessen nor destroy the felicity of the home; but rather it will increase and elevate it into that divine circle, where the heavenly angels shine and whence descends a ray of life that conquers nature and regenerates the sons of men into sons of God” (Ibid.).
But a mother’s dignity further arises from her utility in structuring the supernatural fabric of the home and of the society. For, precisely in her maternal mission of childbearing lies the secret to the motherís salvation and sanctification, if she but remain true to faith and love and holy living. Thus, her holiness becomes profitable and all-availing, since it promises life both for the present and for the future. Accordingly, with St. Ambrose, Pius XII considers a good mother the foundation of all virtues. A cradle, he asserts “consecrates the mother; and more cradles will sanctify her and glorify her in the eyes of the husband and of the children, in the eyes of the Church and of the country” (Ibid.).
It is at once apparent that such a quality of life shares the sublime consecration of the cross. Down to its deepest roots her life is a life of sacrifice. Yet, though the maternal sacrifices be painful, the powerful graces of the Sacrament temper it, or as the Holy Pontiff asserts, “The love of God, that raises her in her sacrifice beyond herself, opens the heart to all piety and sanctifies her.” This supernatural love is the beginning of all the finer instincts of the children. Its delicacy and tenderness exercise the strongest influence. Of it are born to the children piety, modesty, purity, and fear of the Lord — all learned immediately from the mother.