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Thursday
Nov202008

Be of Good Cheer

The best photograph I have of my great-grandparents features them standing in front of a Christmas tree.  Neither are anywhere close to smiling.

At first I chalked this up to a lifetime diet of sauerkraut.  Now I've found another potential Misery Factor:  After my grandfather died, we dug through the basement of the home he and my grandmother occupied for nearly forty years, which, like the basement of many Depression-era citizens, contained enough housecoats, broken lamps, white belts, and to general rust to tide the entire family over through any manner of worldwide emergency.

My favorite items are the documents and books they actually used, one of which is a collection of prayers and recommendations entitled Mother Love, published in 1925.  It's about seven hundred pages long and includes such admonitions as "Both the son and the daughter should be earnestly warned against picking up indiscriminately every magazine that flaunts gay colors or a catchy title."

And: "Associations and friendships with non-Catholics should not be fostered lest perhaps the danger of a mixed marriage arise... After the life-partner has been chosen and the engagement has been closed, the parents must not relax their vigilance over the couple.  Liberties and familiarities should not be permitted to them, and they should not be allowed to meet except in the presence of a third person; at least, they should not be permitted to be alone together for any length of time."

And:  "Has (your child) been guilty of some naughtiness, say, 'Ah, you are now grieving dear Little Jesus!' or 'What would the little Child Jesus think were you to do such a thing!'"

And then, when it's all over:  "Many a father and many a mother who relied too much upon the fine promises of their children and who expected greater filial devotion and love in exchange for their own generosity, were cruelly neglected and their death was hailed with joy by their precious offspring."

And:  "A Christian mother should let her children play much in the open air, even when the weather is somewhat cold and unpleasant... Children should always be cheerful not only at their games and recreations but also at their work and even in their little trials and hurts.  As early in life as possible they should be taught that the afflictions and reverses of life, such as excessive cold or heat, slander or gossip, offenses and insults and abuse, sickness and wounds and death, are blessings in disguise and sent by God to wean us from the world and its attractions and arouse in us a greater love and desire for the eternal joys of heaven."

So:  Smiling through the femur bone sticking up through one's thigh muscles after playing outside in a sub-zero windstorm, no gay colors (lavender?  dusty pink?), no touching, no non-Catholic friends, and then you die.  And then your children eat cupcakes and caviar right over your open grave.

To avoid such a fate, the mother in Mother Love is instructed to put the children to bed in the following manner, complete with several pages of formal prayers ("Father", btw, is curiously missing throughout this entire procedure):

"Sprinkle yourself and your children with holy water... Be watchful that your children undress and lie down modestly.  Be a model for them in this respect... When in bed fold your hands and reflect that even so you will one day lie in your coffin.  Say:  'I am once to die.  But when, or where, or how, I know not.  This only do I know that, if I die in mortal sin, I shall eternally suffer the frightful pains of hell...'"

And directly on the heels of that:  "Endeavour to fall asleep whilst entertaining some good thought."  Sleep tight!

To be sure, there's some excellent advice in Mother Love, which, frankly, might do the world of 2008 a great deal of good, such as the wild suggestion that children should be fed "candies and sweetmeets in moderation" and in general focus on the eternal.  But still:  Wow, you have to watch out for those mixed marriages.

aunt love at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

tip the bartender

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Reader Comments (8)

Holy cow! I feel oppressed & oddly guilty just reading that post. Crazy.

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVicki

And my mother wonders why I am no longer Catholic???

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

"“Both the son and the daughter should be earnestly warned against picking up indiscriminately every magazine that flaunts gay colors or a catchy title.”

How about a magazine that flaunts gay titles & catchy colors?? "Blessed me Father, for I have bought 'Wired' yet again!".

‘What would the little Child Jesus think were you to do such a thing!’”

I would ask lil' Jesus to play a Wingman with me in Gears of War 2 ;-)

"”Father”, btw, is curiously missing throughout this entire procedure"

Father was busy providing for the table or fighting the war. He got the chance to hang out with his offspring during weddings or funerals.

"When in bed fold your hands and reflect that even so you will one day lie in your coffin."

In fact, buy the most uncomfortable bed you can find, so the coffin actually feels like an improvement!!

This reminds me of one time when my father and I were cleaning a house where my grandmother was going to live. My dad found this... wooden stick or something that had engraved some verse from the old Testament —basically, that if you hit your children was a sign that you loved them— My dad handed it to me with a mischevious smile on his face. I took it and snapped it in two in front of him.

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Well, it was also 1925, Kelly. A few things have changed :)

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

They still don't like mixed marriages and have the whole guilt thing going on.

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

If we-- sorry, but I can't speak in terms of "they"-- didn't like mixed marriages, I'd be minus one Protestant husband right now. We even had the option of a full Mass for our wedding. The priest who married Josh and me talked to us very seriously about the challenges of raising children in a mixed marriage, but never dissuaded us.

As for the guilt, I was too busy making felt banners and prayer painting in school to get any of that. Any guilt I get is self-imposed. I get upset with the Church for plenty, but guilt and Protestant-bashing aren't among them for me :)

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

How does one "undress modestly?"

November 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBB

Jeez, I'm surprised it wasn't written in Latin.

November 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterINCITEmarsh
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