Keeping in mind that this was written in a different era, it reminds us of the importance of this time of life for the mother and child….
Education: When Does It Start?
Most of you have been blessed by God with offspring. Merely to have children is not a great credit; but to bring them up carefully in the knowledge, love and service of God is a credit.
To affect this abidingly all the good sense, virtue and tact of both father and mother are required.
When is the education of the child to begin?
As soon as it is conceived, or, rather, at the very conception. A child that is conceived whilst both its parents are in proper physical and moral condition starts with a better chance for a good and fruitful life than one at whose conception its parents are not in a condition fit for generation.
The nine months of gestation mean a great deal to the future life of the child. It draws the gradual formation of its body from the mother, on whose actual condition the state of the child’s body very much depends. Between body and soul there is a close interrelation of influence and condition. Consequently the condition of the expectant mother is very material to the child’s fate.
The Effects of Heredity
One must not stress the burden of heredity too far: yet there seems to be ground to believe, that many convicts who are in our prisons and penitentiaries today, women as well as men, would not be there, had their parents been in a more favorable state at their conception and gestation.
The mother, of course, plays the more important role here. She should therefore be attentive to herself in this sacred period of pregnancy. She must avoid every undue agitation and worry of mind, and eschew anything smacking of excessive or passionate indulgence. This has reference not only to drunkenness or lust, but also to violent anger, jealousy, envy, revenge, and to inordinate anxiety, fear, depression, despondency and melancholy.
All these and similar sentiments, when freely pursued, are likely to affect the mind and body of the mother in a sinister manner, and to have a disastrous influence on the child that is forming under her heart. It will behoove both mother and child, if the pregnant mother keeps herself well, easy and happy as much as possible in body and soul, and nurses feelings of the love of God and her neighbor, of trust and confidence in God’s
Sweet providence, and of virtuous resignation to His holy will in all things.
She will foster these feelings by the regular attendance at Holy Mass and by the frequent reception of the Sacraments.
On his part her husband will assist her towards this disposition of body and mind by behaving towards her, in the season of pregnancy, with more than ordinary love, tenderness, devotion, attachment, respect and consideration, which prompt him to anticipate her every want and to meet her most silent desires as much as his circumstances will allow.
Expectant Mothers and Sunday Mass
As to hearing the obligatory Mass on Sundays and holydays, some expectant mothers are exempt or dispensed early in their sacred period because of peculiar personal conditions: with the best will in the world they cannot attend Mass, for fear of nausea or some kindred indisposition.
Others again keep on assisting at Mass until almost immediately before the day of their delivery. In case of doubt as to the obligation, the pastor will gladly give a dispensation, or the confessor a declaration in the matter.
To discontinue going to Mass merely from embarrassment at the appearances and the consequent comment of others is hardly commendable, as a rule. It is certainly no dishonor, but rather an honor and a sign of God’s favor and blessing to be an expectant mother, and something of which a good woman has every reason to be justly proud.
Of course an innate feeling of delicacy will prompt a woman not to parade her condition unnecessarily before the world. For very good reasons God desired that the origin of human life should be veiled by a certain mysteriousness that shrinks from notice and publicity.
As the pregnancy progresses to the fifth and sixth month, the mother must be especially cautious not to exert herself unduly in a physical way. She will avoid heavy lifting, high reaching or jumping, and every other unusual tax on her bodily condition, in order to avoid a miscarriage.
The husband will see to it that his wife is then excused from all manner of work that is likely to jeopardize her health and the life of her blessed charge.
It happens not infrequently that, without any fault at all of the parents, a miscarriage ensues. This is deplorable, of course; but it calls for nothing else than conformity to the holy will of God, Who arranges everything sweetly and wisely.
In case baptism can be administered to the prematurely ejected fetus, it should not be neglected. The mother, taking notice of it, opens the involucrum or sack, and pours water over the contents whilst saying the words: “If you are living, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, aid of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Life may still be there; if so, the baptism will open the gates of heaven to the child’s soul. In case the administration of baptism is out of question, the soul of the child will not go to heaven, it is true; but it will neither go to a place of torments; it will go to what is called the limbo of infants, where it will enjoy natural happiness in a high degree: in a higher degree than is tasted by children or men in general on this earth.
This is an opinion quite commonly held by theologians, and not at all frowned upon by the Church. At all events such a child is immensely better off in being as it is than if it had never been conceived at all: hence its parents who, as we suppose, had no guilt whatever in regard to the miscarriage, have no cause for worry or regret.
“In God We Trust”
When the time for the delivery approaches, the mother will not grow over-anxious, but she will entrust herself unreservedly to the goodness and providence of God. The less timid and nervous she is the more natural and easy will the birth prove to be.
On the other hand she will be prepared against every possible eventuality, both spiritually and materially.
Statistics tell us that the mortality of parturient mothers in the United States is about at the rate of one out of one-hundred and fifty. The proportion is lower than it used to be, thanks to the progress of medicine and surgery; but is still far too high, and we hope it will continue to be reduced until it is at its minimum.
All other things being equal, it is advisable to have a Catholic doctor and a Catholic wife or nurse at the birth. Often baptism must be administered before or during birth; and a Catholic may be counted on for doing this more reliably than a non-Catholic.
The wisdom and training you give to your child will determine the outcome. It is not the time to give in to weariness, indifference, laziness or careless neglect. Their souls are in your hands…. Painting by Tasha Tudor
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