Lest persons who are not of princely station or noble birth should fancy that the lessons of St. Margaret’s life do not concern them, we shall devote this section to showing how easy and necessary it is for the mistress of a poor and lowly home to imitate the sainted Scottish queen: women of wealth and rank will find practical instruction for themselves in the succeeding sections.
As it was to a poor and lowly home that the Son of God came, when he began the work of our redemption, as it was in the home of a poor mother that he lived so contentedly during thirty years, so, ever since, his followers have looked upon the dwellings of the poor with inexpressible love and tenderness. Ah! He is no true lover of Christ who is not drawn to the home of poverty and labor, and the spirit of Christ dwells not in the heart whose sympathies do not go forth to the trials and distresses of those who are, above all others, the friends of Jesus Christ.
But our concern is now with the wife, the daughter, the sister of the laboring man and the poor man, we wish them to understand what royalty of spirit can and ought to be theirs, in order to be the true imitators and true children of that great Mother, who knew how to make the poor home of Joseph so rich, so bright, so blissful, so lovely in the eyes of men and angels.
She too was of right royal blood who was the mistress of that little home where Joseph toiled and the Divine Child grew up in all grace and sweetness, like the lily of the valley on its humble stem beneath the shadow of the sheltering oak.
It was the lessons of Mary’s life at Nazareth that Margaret had learned from her royal kinsfolk at the court of Buda, and had practiced so industriously through girlhood and early womanhood, till she became mistress of a court and a kingdom. One lesson above all others she was trained to practice from childhood—to be forgetful of self, and mindful only of making every one around her happy.
Woman’s entire existence, in order to be a source of happiness to others as well as to herself, must be one of self-sacrifice. The first step in this royal pathway to all goodness and greatness, is to forget self with its miserable little cares and affections, it is the root of all the wretchedness we cause to others, and all the misery we endure ourselves. Every effort we make to forget self, to leave self behind us, and to devote ourselves to the labor of making every person with whom we are bound to live happy, is rewarded by interior satisfaction and joy. The supreme effort of goodness is, not alone to do good to others; that is its first and lower effect, but to make others good. So with unselfishness: the first step is to forget one’s own comfort in order to seek that of others; the next is to forget one’s own pains and suffering, in order to alleviate those of others, or even to discharge toward others the duties of sisterly or neighborly kindness.
We have known such great-souled women among the log-cabins of the forest settlements of Canada, in the crowded tenement houses and most favored quarters of London and Liverpool and New York, as well as in the hardworked manufacturing population of the New-England towns and the poor slaves of Maryland: women animated, enlightened, and moved in all their actions by the Spirit of God, the Spirit who filled Mary at Nazareth, Elizabeth in her mountain home, and Margaret of Scotland amid the many old cares and duties of a kingdom.
What our country, in deed, what every Christian country under the sun needs most, are these great-souled wives, mothers, and sisters in the dwellings of our over-burdened laborers; women for whom the roof above them and the four walls which inclose their dear ones are the only world they care to know, the little paradise which they set their hearts on making pleasant, sunny, and fragrant for the husband who is out in the hot sun or the bitter cold, beneath the pelting of the rain or the snow or the sleet, who, poorly clad and shod, with his scanty fare of hard bread and cold tea, is working away for the little home and the wife and babes, and who is singing in his heart as he bethinks him of the warm welcome that awaits him when the long day is over, of the bright smile and the loving words that will be sure to greet him when he crosses the threshold of his own little Eden, of the cheerful fire in winter and the humble meal made so delicious by the love that prepares it and the sweet words that season it, of the rest and the security and the peace which force the overflowing heart of the husband and father and brother to think and to say that there is no spot of earth so dear and so blessed as the little sanctuary built up and adorned and made full of song by a true woman’s heart.
0 woman, woman! if you only knew how much you have it in your power to do, with His assistance who can never fail us when we do our best, to make true men of the husband of your choice, of the sons whom God has given you as his most precious treasures; true women, in their turn, of the little girls who are growing up at your knee, to be, when you are gone to your reward, mothers blessed and praised by all who know them!
We have just spoken of the Divine assistance which never fails the soul striving earnestly to fulfill important duties and to do all the good she can. Think of the contract God entered into with you, when you entered into the married state and received at the hands of the Church the nuptial blessing. You were told that the matrimonial union had its model in the union of Christ with his Church, that his great love for her, which brought him to the Cross and binds him to be present on our altars to the end of time, is the type of the great and self-devoting love which husband and wife should ever have for each other. Did you ever reflect, that when you put your hand in your husband’s hand before the Church, giving him your heart and your life thenceforward, that God, who is ever by the side of those who believe and trust in him, promised you a mighty wealth of grace to be all your own till death, enabling you to love your husband more and more daily, with a deeper and a holier love, to make your own life like that of the Church toward her Crucified Love, one perpetual act of devotion and self-sacrifice, giving him in his every need your own strong love to sustain and comfort and strengthen him, taking up his cross courageously, and cheering him to labor and to suffer, because you both know, or ought to know, that God is ever with you.
Were your lot cast and your home built in a treeless plain amid a dry and barren country, how you would thank the man who would dig for you at your very door a well so deep and so unfailing that its cool and sweet waters would ever flow forth, winter and summer, for yourself and your dear ones! And yet the great graces attached by Christ to the worthy reception of the divine sacrament of matrimony, form within your home, wherever you chance to be, a well of water for the soul’s health and strength so divinely prepared, that no length of time can exhaust it. Why do you not drink of the waters of your own well?
We have just said how much the true woman has it in her power to do, no matter how poor her home or hard her husband’s lot, if she only knew both the extent of her power to cheer his lot and the sacredness of the obligation which binds her to do it.
We now appeal to the experience and generosity of the wife, mother, and sister of the laboring man. There was a rapid sketch above of the comforts and delights of the poor hard-working man’s home, when love and devotion were tolling to prepare a sweet rest for him when the day’s work was ended.