J.G. H. Barry.

Our Lady Saint Mary online

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people, by "all things" understood money. You cannot build any society
which is worth the name on money, a Church least of all. It is
unimportant whether a man is rich or poor; what is important is his
spiritual accomplishment: and it is common spiritual aims and
accomplishments which should make up the "all things" which possessed in
common will form the basis of an enduring unity. But not until
accomplishment becomes the supreme interest of life can we expect to get
out of the impasse in which we at present find ourselves; in which, that
is, the person can be converted to Christianity and enter into union
with God in Christ and become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and
wake to find himself isolated from his old circle by his profession of
new principles; but not, by his new principles, truly united to his
fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God! One is tempted to write, What a
comedy; but before one can do so, realises that it is in fact a tragedy!

Mother of God - oh, rare prerogative;
Oh, glorious title - what more special grace
Could unto thee thy dear Son, dread God, give
To show how far thou dost all creatures pass?
That mighty power within the narrow fold
Did of thy ne'er polluted womb remain,
Whom, whiles he doth th' all-ruling Sceptre hold,
Not earth, nor yet the heavens can contain;
Thou in the springtide of thy age brought'st forth
Him who before all matter, time and place,
Begotten of th' Eternal Father was.
Oh, be thou then, while we admire thy worth
A means unto that Son not to proceed
In rigour with us for each sinful deed.

John Brereley, Priest (Vere Lawrence Anderton, S.J.) 1575-1643




And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was
subject unto them.

S. Luke II, 51.

The Holy Church acknowledges and confesses the pure Virgin
Mary as Mother of God through whom has been given unto us the
bread of immortality and the wine of consolation. Give
blessings then in spiritual song.


After the rapid succession of fascinating pictures which are etched for
us in the opening chapters of the Gospel there follows a space of about
twelve years of which we are told nothing. The fables which fill the
pages of the Apocryphal Gospels serve chiefly to emphasise the
difference between an inspired and an uninspired narrative. The human
imagination trying to develop the situation suggested by the Gospel and
to fill in the unwritten chapters of our Lord's life betrays its
incompetence to create a story of God Incarnate which shall have the
slightest convincing power. These Apocryphal stories are immensely
valuable to us as, by contrast, creating confidence in the story of
Jesus as told by the Evangelists, but for nothing more.

We are left to use our own imagination in filling in these years of
silence in our Lord's training; and we shall best use it, not by trying
to imagine what may have occurred, but by trying to understand what is
necessarily involved in the facts as we know them. We know that the home
in Nazareth whither Mary and Joseph brought Jesus after the death of
Herod permitted them to return from Egypt was the simple home of a
carpenter. It would appear to have been shared by the children of
Joseph, and our Lady would have been the house-mother, busy with many
cares. We know, too, that under this commonplace exterior of a poor
household there was a life of the spirit of far reaching significance.
Mary was ceaselessly pondering many things - the significance of all
those happenings which, as the years flowed on without any further
supernatural intervention, must at times have seemed as though they were
quite purposeless. Of course this could not have been a settled feeling,
for the insight of her pure soul would have held her to the certainty
that such actions of God as she had experienced would some day reveal
the meaning which as yet lay hidden.

In the meantime other things did not matter much, seeing she had Jesus,
the object of endless love. Every mother dreams over the baby she cares
for and looks out into the future with trembling hope; so S. Mary's
thoughts would go out following the hints of prophecy and angelic
utterances, unable to understand how the light and shadow which were
mingled there could find fulfilment in her Child. But like any other
mother the thought would come back to her present possession, the
satisfaction of her heart that she had in Jesus. With the growth of
Jesus there would come the unfolding of the answering love, which was
but another mode in which the love of God she had experienced all her
life was manifesting itself. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and we are
able to enter a little into the over-flowing love of Mary as she watched
the advance, this unfolding from day to day. The wonder that was hers in
guiding this mind and will, in teaching our Lord His first prayers, in
telling Him the story of the people of whom He had assumed our nature!
There was here no self-will, no resistance to guidance, no perversity to
wound a mother's heart. In the training of an ordinary child there are
from time to time hints of characteristics or tendencies which may
develop later into spiritual or moral disaster. There are growls of the
sleeping beast which make us tremble for the future: there are hours of
agony when we think of the inevitable temptations which must be met, and
suggestions of weakness which colour our imagination of the meeting of
them with the lurid light of defeat. But as Mary watched the unfolding
character of Jesus she saw nothing there that carried with it the least
suggestion of evil growth in the future, no outcropping of hereditary
sin or disordered appetite. A constantly unfolding intelligence, and
growing interest in the things that most interested her, an eagerness to
hear and to know of the will and love of the eternal Father, these are
her joy. That would have been the centre - would it not? - of the
unfolding consciousness of Jesus: the knowledge of the Father.

Training by love, so we might describe the life in the Home at Nazareth.
And we must not forget the grave ageing figure who is the head of the
household. _The Holy Family_ - that was the perfect unity that their love
created. There is a wonderful picture of these three by Sassaferato
which catches, as no other Holy Family that I know of does, the meaning
of their association. S. Mary whom the artistic imagination is so apt,
after the Nativity, to transform into a stately matron, here still
retains the note of virginity which in fact she never lost. It is the
maiden-mother who stands by the side of the grave, elderly S. Joseph,
the ideal workman, who is also the ideal guardian of his maiden-wife.
And Jesus binds these two together and with them makes a unity,
interpreting to us the perfection of family life.

Family life is a tremendous test, it brings out the best and the worst
of those who are associated in it. The ordinary restraints of social
intercourse are of less force in the intimacy of family life: there is
less need felt to watch conduct, or to mask what we know are our
disagreeable traits. It is quite easy for character to deteriorate in
the freedom of such intercourse. It is pretty sure to do so unless there
is the constant pressure of principle in the other direction. The great
safeguard is the sort of love that is based on mutual respect, - respect
both for ourselves and for others. We talk a good deal as though love
were always alike; as though the fact that a man and a woman love each
other were always the same sort of fact. It does not require much
knowledge of human nature or much reflection to convince us that that is
not the case. Love is not a purely physical fact; and outside its
physical implications there are many factors which may enter, whose
existence constitute the _differentia_ from case to case. It is upon
these varying elements that the happiness of the family life depends.
One of the most important is that character on either side shall be such
as to inspire respect. Many a marriage goes to pieces on this rock; it
is found that the person who exercised a certain kind of fascination
shows in the intimacy of married life a character and qualities which
are repulsive; a shallowness which inspires contempt, an egotism which
is intolerable, a laxity in the treatment of obligations which destroys
any sense of the stability of life. A marriage which does not grow into
a relation of mutual honour and respect must always be in a state of
unstable equilibrium, constantly subject to storms of passion, to
suspicion and distrust.

And therefore such a marriage will afford no safe basis on which to
build a family life. But without a stable family life a stable social
and religious life is impossible. It is therefore no surprise to those
who believe that the powers of evil are active in the world to find that
the family is the very centre of their attack at the present time. The
crass egotism lying back of so much modern teaching is nowhere more
clearly visible than in the assertion of the right of self-determination
so blatantly made in popular writings. By self-determination is
ultimately meant the right of the individual to seek his own happiness
in his own way, and to make pleasure the rule of his life. "The right to
happiness" is claimed in utter disregard of the fact that the claim
often involves the unhappiness of others. "The supremacy of love,"
meaning the supremacy of animalism, is the excuse for undermining the
very foundations of family life. No obligation, it appears, can have a
binding force longer than the parties to it find gratification in it.
Personal inclination and gratification is held sufficient ground for
action whose consequences are far from being personal, which, in fact,
affect the sane and healthy state of society as a whole.

The decline of a civilisation has always shown itself more markedly in
the decline of the family life than elsewhere. The family, not the
individual, is the basis of the social state, and no amount of
theorising can make the fact different. Whatever assails the integrity
of the family assails the life of the state, and no single family can be
destroyed without society as a whole feeling the effect. "What," it is
asked, "is to be done? If two people find that they have blundered, are
they to go on indefinitely suffering from the result of their blunder?
If an immature boy or girl in a moment of passion make a mistake as to
their suitability to live together, are they to be compelled to do so at
the expense of constant unhappiness?"

It would seem obvious to say that justice requires that those who make
blunders should take the consequences of them; that those who create a
situation involving suffering should do the suffering themselves and not
attempt to pass it on to others. It is not as though the consequences of
the act can be avoided; they cannot. What happens is that the incidence
of them is shifted. It is a part of the brutal egotism of divorce that
it is quite willing to shift the incidence of the suffering that it has
created on to the lives of wholly innocent people; in many cases upon
children, in all cases upon society at large. For it is necessary to
emphasize the fact that society is a closely compact body: so interwoven
is life with life that if one member suffer the other members suffer
with it. Breaches of moral order are not individual matters but social.
This truth is implied in society's constantly asserted right to regulate
family relations in the general interest even after it has ceased to
think of such relations as having any spiritual significance. We need
to-day a more vivid sense of the _community_ lest we shall see all sense
of a common life engulfed in the rising tide of individual anarchism. We
need the assertion in energetic form of the right of the community as
supreme over the right of the individual. We must deny the right of the
individual to pursue his own way and his own pleasure at the expense of
the rights of others. And to his insolent question, "Why should I suffer
in an intolerable situation?" we must plainly answer: "Because you are
responsible for the situation, and it is intolerable that you should be
permitted to throw off the results of your wickedness or your stupidity
upon other and innocent people."

And it is quite clear that should society assert its pre-eminent right
in unmistakable form and make it evident that it does not propose to
tolerate the results of the egotistic nonsense of self-determination and
the right of every one to live his own life, the evils of divorce and of
shattered families would presently shrink to relatively small
proportions. The present facility of divorce encourages thoughtless and
unsuitable marriages in the first place; and in the second place,
encourages the resort to divorce in circumstances of family disturbance
which would speedily right themselves in the present as they have done
in the past if those concerned knew that their happiness and comfort
for years compelled an adjustment of life. When as at present any one
who loses his temper can rush off to a court and get a marriage
dissolved for some quite trivial reason, there is small encouragement to
practice self-control. If a man and woman know that the consequences of
conduct must be faced by them, and cannot be avoided by thrusting them
upon others, they will no doubt in the course of time learn to exercise
a little self-control.

The family is the foundation of the state because, among other things,
it is the natural training place of citizens: no public training in
schools and camps can for a moment safely be looked to as a substitute
or an equivalent of wholesome family influence. If the family does not
make good citizens we cannot have good citizens. The family too is at
the basis of organised religious life; if the family does not make good
Christians we shall not have good Christians. The Sunday School and the
Church societies are poor substitutes for the religious influence of the
family, as the school and the camp are for its social interests.

One is inclined to stress the obvious failure of the family to fulfil
its alloted functions in the teaching of religion as the root difficulty
that the Christian religion has to encounter and the most comprehensive
cause of its relative failure in modern life. The responsibility for the
religious and moral training of children rests squarely upon those who
have assumed the responsibility of bringing them into the world, and it
cannot be rightly pushed off on to some one else. To the protest of
parents that they are incompetent to conduct such training, the only
possible reply is a blunt, "Whose fault is that?" If you have been so
careless of the fundamental responsibilities of life, you are
incompetent to assume a relation which of necessity carries such
responsibility with it. It is no light matter to have committed to you
the care of an immortal soul whose eternal future may quite well be
conditioned on the way in which you fulfil your trust. It would be well
as a preliminary to marriage to take a little of the time ordinarily
given to its frivolous accompaniments and seriously meditate upon the
words of our Lord which seem wholly appropriate to the circumstance:
"Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones which believe in
me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." It is the careless
and incompetent training of children which in fact "causes them to
stumble" when the presence of word and example would have held them
straight. It has been (to speak personally) the greatest trial of my
priesthood that out of the thousands of children I have dealt with, in
only rare cases have I had the entire support of the family; and I have
always considered that I was fortunate when I met with no interference
and was given an indifferent tolerance. It is heart-breaking to see
years of careful work brought to naught (so far as the human eye can
see: the divine eye can see deeper) by the brutal materialism of a
father and the silly worldliness of a mother.

The interplay of lives in a family should be consciously directed by
those who control them to the cultivation, to the bringing out of the
best that is in them. Education means the drawing out of the innate
powers of the personality and the training of them for the highest
purposes. It is the deliberate direction of personal powers to the
highest ends, the discipline of them for the performance of those ends.
The life of a child should be shaped with reference to its final destiny
from the moment of its birth. It should be surrounded with an atmosphere
of prayer and charity which would be the natural atmosphere in which it
would expand as it grows, and in terms of which it would learn to
express itself as soon as it reaches sufficient maturity to express
itself at all. It should become familiar with spiritual language and
modes of action, and meet nothing that is inharmonious with these. But
we know that the education of the Christian child is commonly the
opposite of all this. It learns little that is spiritual. When it comes
to learn religion it is obviously a matter of small importance in the
family life; if there is any expression of it at all, it is one that is
crowded into corners and constantly swamped by other interests which are
obviously felt to be of more importance. Too often the spiritual state
of the family may be summed up in the words of the small boy who
condensed his observation of life into the axiom: "Men and dogs do not
go to Church." In such an atmosphere the child finds religion and morals
reduced to a system of repression. God becomes a man with a club
constantly saying, Don't! He grows to think that he is a fairly virtuous
person so long as he skilfully avoids the system of taboos wherewith he
feels that life is surrounded, and fulfils the one positive family law
of a religious nature, that he shall go to Sunday School until he is
judged sufficiently mature to join the vast company of men and dogs.

Nothing very much can come of negatives. Religion calls for positive
expression; and it is not enough that the child shall find positive
expression once a week in the church; he must find it every day in the
week in the intimacy of the family. He must find that the principles of
life which are inculcated in the church are practiced by his father and
his mother, his brother and his sister, or he will not take them
seriously. If he is conscious of virtue and religious practice as
repression, a sort of tyranny practiced on a child by his elders, his
notion of the liberty of adult life will quite naturally be freedom to
break away from what is now forced upon him into the life of
self-determination and indifference to things spiritual that
characterises the adult circle with which he is familiar.

But consider, by contrast, those rare families where the opposite of all
this is true; where there is the peace of a recollected life of which
the foundations are laid in constant devotion to our Lord. There you
will find the nearest possible reproduction of the life of the Holy
Family in Nazareth. Because the life of the family is a life of prayer,
there will you find Jesus in the midst of it. There you will find Mary
and Joseph associated with its life of intercession. In such a family
the expression of a religious thought will never be felt as a discord.
The talk may quite naturally at any moment turn on spiritual things.
There are families in which one feels that one must make a careful
preparation for the introduction of a spiritual allusion: one does it
with a sense of danger, much as one might sail through a channel strewn
with mines. There are other families in which one has no hesitation in
speaking of prayer, of sacraments, of spiritual actions, as things with
which all are familiar in practice, and are as natural as food and
drink. In this atmosphere it produces no smile to say, "I am going to
slip into the Church and make my meditation"; or, "I shall be a little
late to-night as I am making my confession on my way home." Religion in
such a circle has not incurred contempt through familiarity: it still
remains a great adventure, the very greatest of all indeed; but it is an
adventure in the open, full of joy and gladness.

The Holy Family was a family that worked hard. It is no doubt true that
our Lord learned his foster-father's trade, so that those who knew him
later on, or heard His preaching, asked, "Is not this the carpenter?"
But the Holy Family was a radiant centre of joy and peace because Jesus
was in the midst of it. Where Jesus dwells there is the effect of his
indwelling in the spiritual gladness that results. Mary was never too
busy for her religious duties nor Joseph too tired with his week's work
to get up on the Sabbath for whatever services in honour of God the
Synagogue offered. They were perhaps conscious as the Child "increased
in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" of a spiritual
influence that flowed from Him, and sweetened and lightened the life of
the home. They were not conscious that in His Person God was in the
midst of them; but that is what we can (if we will) be conscious of. We
are heirs of the Incarnation, and God is in the midst of us; and
especially does Jesus wish to dwell, as He dwelt in Nazareth, in the
midst of the family. He wishes to make every household a Holy Family. He
is in the midst of it in uninterrupted communion with the soul of the
baptised child; and the father and mother, understanding that their
highest duty and greatest privilege is to watch and foster the spiritual
unfolding of the child's life in such wise that Jesus may never depart
from union with it, become as Joseph and Mary in their ministry to it.
There is nothing more heavenly than such a charge; there is nothing more
beautiful than such a family life.

There is often a pause in God's work between times of great activity - a
time of retreat, as it seems, which is a rest from what has preceded and
a preparation for what is to come. Such a pause were these years at
Nazareth in the life of Blessed Mary. The time from the Annunciation to
the return from Egypt was a time of deep emotion, of spirit-shaking
events. Later on there were the trials of the years of the ministry,
culminating in Calvary. But these years while Jesus was growing to
manhood in the quietness of the home were years of unspeakable privilege
and peace. The daily association with the perfect Child, the privilege
of watching and guarding and ministering to Him, these days of deepening
spiritual union with Him, although much that was happening to the mother
was happening unconsciously, - were strengthening her grasp on ultimate
reality, so that she issued with perfect strength to meet the supreme
tragedy of her life. How wonderful God must have seemed to her in those
thirty years of peace! To all of us God is thus wonderful in quiet
hours; and the quiet hours are much the more numerous in most of our
lives. But have we all learned to use these hours so that we may be
ready to meet the hours of testing which shall surely come? No matter
how quiet the valley of our life, some day the pleasant path will lift,
and we must climb the hilltop where rises the Cross. It will not be
intolerable, if the quiet years have been spent in Nazareth with Jesus
and Mary and Joseph.

Most holy, and pure Virgin, Blessed Mayd,
Sweet Tree of Life, King David's Strength and Tower,
The House of Gold, the Gate of Heaven's power,
The Morning-Star whose light our fall hath stay'd.

Great Queen of Queens, most mild, most meek, most wise,
Most venerable, Cause of all our joy,
Whose cheerful look our sadnesse doth destroy,
And art the spotlesse Mirror to man's eyes.

The Seat of Sapience, the most lovely Mother,
And most to be admired of thy sexe,
Who mad'st us happy all, in thy reflexe,
By bringing forth God's Onely Son, no other.

Thou Throne of Glory, beauteous as the moone,
The rosie morning, or the rising sun,
Who like a giant hastes his course to run,
Till he hath reached his two-fold point of noone.

How are thy gifts and graces blazed abro'd,
Through all the lines of this circumference,
T'imprint in all purged hearts this Virgin sence
Of being Daughter, Mother, Spouse of God?

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Online LibraryJ.G. H. BarryOur Lady Saint Mary → online text (page 12 of 28)