As I sit down after a long day… tiredness prevails and my mind wanders…
“Father Francis?” … I say as I sip my cup of tea, “being a mother can be very challenging at times. The things to do around the house are endless, the work is repetitive. With six children, life is so full, there are so many things that need my attention and I don’t always manage to keep calm, when I lose my patience things get on top of me… and I am overwhelmed by my desire to strive for perfection.”
“My dear sister” he answers “Our daily duties are so many and so mixed that they seemed harder than they really are. You need patience. God will give you it, I am sure if you persevere in asking him for it and constantly strive to practise it.
For success in your work, don’t rely on your own ability, but on God’s help. Rest secure in his care for you, confident that he will arrange everything for the best as long as you apply yourself steadily and calmly to the the work in hand.
I mention steadiness and calmness, because impetuous activity is harmful to our work and our soul. It is not a genuine activity at all, but merely turmoil and excitability.”
“Father Francis, at the end of each day I realise there are so many unfinished jobs and It is so easy to feel discouraged.”
He readily answers: “Soon we shall be living in eternity, conscious of the insignificance of our worldly occupations, how little it mattered whether something were done or not. Yet we are as fussy about them as if it were all important.
How eagerly we used to collect pieces of broken tile, bits of wood and a handful of clay when we were little children, to build houses and make little boats! And if anyone destroyed those things, how upset and tearful we were.
We realise now the insignificance of it all and how little they mattered. It will be the same in Heaven one day; we shall see the childishness of our attachment to the things of this world.
I am not suggesting we should have no concerns at all for the trifling concerns of our daily lives; God has provided these things as part of our training. But I think we ought to moderate the feverishness of our concern for them.”
“Father Francis… I try and I try to be a perfect mother… but many times everything I see is far from perfection… and when I am tired, I easily lose it… and become very unpleasant towards my husband and my poor children who have to bear with me.”
“Be always patient with everyone” he replied ” But above all with yourself. Don’t be disturbed, I mean, because of your imperfections; always have the courage to get up after every fall. Make a fresh start every day. There is no better way to perfection than to be beginning afresh, never thinking that we have done enough.”
“Don’t be upset if you happened to get annoyed; calmly humbling yourself before God, try to recapture your peace of soul.” He added ” ‘I have made a mistake’, tell yourself, ‘I must be more careful now and act more gently in the future.’ Always do this no matter how often you fall.”
As my mind was about to wander off, he sweetly but firmly whispered: “Dear mother and sister, above all never lose heart. God, I am sure, will take you by the hand. If he lets you stumble occasionally it is to show you that you could never keep your feet at all without His support, and to make you grasp His hand more tightly.”
As I put down the little booklet I was reading entitled ‘Letters to a Wife and Mother’, the words that St Francis de Sales writes in response to the many questions of Madame de la Flechere, I realised that his wise words had come at the end of another long day, to answer the very questions I had myself.
Ever since I started a new study group in my parish on the theme of ‘Motherhood and the Saints’… The lives of the Saints, their wisdom and their total trust in God has been of great help in my vocation as a mother.
There is so much encouragement in their writings, in their words, in their lives.
I love order, I strive for perfection… human perfection… only to face my imperfection and that sense of inadequacy and unfitness for the role that God has called me to embrace, that of a mother, a Christian mother.
Walking closely with the Saints has reminded me of many things, but most importantly that it is in my imperfections where God can really act and show His glory to my children. Perfection comes from Him and total trust in Him is required for success (not the success we think 😉 ) in our vocation.