My sister sent “The Good Wife’s Guide” to me after finding it in the archives of the blog of a homeschooling mom we know (visit her here); and we both just adored it. You would never find an article like that in any housekeeping magazine these days–which is a guarantee that it’s probably worth your while. And I’m sure that most feminists would probably want to strangle me for the post I’m about to write–and again, that knowledge gives me confidence that it’s worth writing.
“Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. . . Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land.”
There are few things on this earth that I would rather do than have a good way-past-bedtime conversation with my older sister. As St. Augustine would’ve said, these conversations about God, about the spiritual life, about growing, about discernment and virtue and fighting vice, are truly food for my soul (and besides, who needs sleep?)
“. . .and they talked for a time of their plans and wishes. . .gravely, earnestly, hopefully, as youth love to talk, while the future is yet an untrodden path full of wonderful possibilities.”
-Anne of Avonlea
It is always a grace when God shows me, with the gentle light of truth, something within myself that I need to change; and if I take advantage of the opportunity, it becomes a healthy encounter with humility, repentance, and the resolution to change. We all need continual conversion, and whenever our Heavenly Father gently calls me to it, it brings me a sense of peace.
And so it’s happened over the past few days with the virtue of feminine docility and quiet.
“Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands. . .let not yours be the outward adorning. . .but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a meek and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.”
1 Peter 3
It is such a very natural, beautiful, fitting thing for a woman to cultivate this “meek and quiet spirit”, especially in regard to her relationship with her husband. It is altogether rooted in humility, in love, and in the clear and proper understanding of what God created woman to be: a companion to man, his helpmate, the gentle and weaker sex, whom, as the Catechism of Trent puts it, was created neither from the feet nor the head of Adam, but from his side. (I just love that analogy!)
Over the past year, with my ongoing discovery of truth that has come with growing up and with falling in love with the Latin Mass (not to mention the friendships I have formed with some brothers in Christ who are very, and rightly, passionate about what they believe in), I have found it easier and easier to become a little overly zealous, a little too eager to argue and inject myself unnecessarily into conversations, and (because temptation will always creep in and try to ruin the gifts God gives us) far too confident that my point of view is the most reliable one in a given argument (yes, please, laugh. It’s funny).
In short, I have been given much, but instead of growing more humble because of the gift, instead of my heart becoming softer because I have received it, I’ve let myself harden somewhat. It isn’t that truth isn’t worth being passionate and zealous for, that it shouldn’t be argued and fought for; it’s that as a young woman, I’ve been ignoring the truest and most fitting ways I can fight for the truth in my arena; or, even better, to cultivate love of the truth, and the truth of love.
As a women, I have a different array of weapons at my disposal for the spiritual combat than men do, and I am ready to embrace those weapons; weapons of love, of mildness, and of simplicity. Women were created to be the softer, gentler helpmate formed from the heart of man; we are meant to be the support, the peacemaker, the homemaker, the beacon of charity that will support them in the battle for truth. We keep their guns loaded. We welcome them home with open arms and hot meals. We warm their worn hearts with love, gentleness, innocence and fresh supplies of grace. We listen when they need to talk and counsel them when they ask for it. We mother, cherish, guard, teach, love, and guide their children. We massage their tired feet and hide love notes in their lunches and cultivate the atmosphere of our domestic church so they will have a true and secure refuge, a resting place, to retreat to from the battlefield of the world.
In a word, the woman is the heart, while the man is the head, of the home. It’s so simple; and it’s so very beautiful.
When I marry, I want to marry a man I truly look up to, who I can joyfully and proudly acknowledge is better at many things than I am. And I want to be unafraid to fade into the background when “the menfolk” talk, when he takes the reins of discipline with our children, when he exercises his role in any way as head and chief of our household. It’s not that I don’t hope he will value my opinions; it’s not that I think I will never have anything worth saying. It’s simply that, being the young woman I am, and especially one day being a wife, I want to be happier to listen than to insert myself unnecessarily into conversation.
That’s what the key of the matter is–my own need for that “meek and quiet spirit” in a woman that would rather listen to her man speak, out of respect and love; that would rather tuck her opinions to the side for a minute and be willing to see what she might learn if she only trusts in his wisdom and authority as head of the house. Really, it’s as simple as putting someone else ahead of myself, of true fraternal charity.
From The Good Wife’s Guide:
“Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first–remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
“Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”
Now, there will be times when serious things call for discussion, when he will truly need my counsel, or when, Heaven forbid, there is a blatant wrongdoing that must be addressed one way or another. But even here, St. Peter encourages wives,
“. . .be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word,
may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent
and chaste behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)
I want to be his helpmate, not his boss, his busybody, or his mother. I want to be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of his home, to give him joy when he gazes upon me and the little olive plants surrounding our table. I want to have the imperishable jewel so I can give it to him. I want to cultivate the virtues of humility, willing service, love, and gentleness in myself so that I will truly become this helpmate when the time comes; and I believe that mortifying the pride of my tongue is an excellent place for me to start applying the hoe!