wives

Tomato Stakes – II

Tomato Stakes – II posted in Eleison Comments on November 12, 2011

When “Eleison Comments” quoted (Sept. 10, 217) the Russian proverb likening woman and man to a tomato-plant and the stake around which that plant clings and climbs to bear fruit, it used the comparison to expound on the nature and role of woman. A woman reader then asked how it applies to men. Alas, our crazy age is trying to wipe out all these basics of human nature.

On God’s design for man and woman, profoundly different but sublimely complementary, there is of course much more to be said than a mere comparison from the garden can say. At every Catholic wedding Mass, the Epistle compares the relations between husband and wife to those between Christ and his Church. Worthy of note in this passage (Ephesians V, 22–33) is how St Paul lays out at length the consequent duties of the husband, briefly those of the wife. Already we may suspect that today’s men are greatly responsible for the loss of sanity between contemporary man and woman, but let us leave the supernatural mystery for another occasion and return to the garden, because it is above all the natural basics that are being attacked today by the enemies of God and man.

For a tomato-stake to serve a tomato-plant it needs two things: it must stand tall and it must stand firm. If it does not stand tall, the plant cannot climb, and if it does not stand firm the plant cannot cling, or wrap itself around the stake. The firmness, one might say, depends on a man’s wrapping himself around his work, while the tallness depends upon his reaching for God, no less.

As for the firmness, in all times and places where human nature has not been twisted out of all recognition, the man’s life revolves around his work while the woman’s life revolves around her family, starting with her man. If the man makes the woman the centre of his life, it is as though two tomato plants were clinging together – both will finish in the mud, unless the woman takes on the part of the man, which she was never meant to do, and which she should at least never wish to do. A wise woman chooses for husband precisely a man who has found his work and loves it, so that while he is firmly wrapped around it, she can wrap herself around him.

As for the tallness, just as the stake must point to the sky, so a man must reach for Heaven. Leaders need a vision with which to inspire and lead. Archbishop Lefebvre had a vision of the restoration of the true Church. Similarly when the faith of Cardinal Pie (1815–1880) saw unmanliness in the men of the 19th century all around him, he attributed it to their lack of faith. Where there is no faith, he said, there are no convictions. No convictions, no firmness of character. No firmness of character, no men. St Paul was thinking along the same lines when he said, “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor.XI, 3). Therefore to recover his manliness, let a man turn to God, put himself in order beneath him, and it will be that much easier for a wife to put herself in order beneath her man, and the children beneath both of them.

But “beneath” is not to be understood as any kind of tyranny, either of husband over wife, or of parents over children. The stake is there for the tomato. It was a wise Jesuit who said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. Men do not run on love as women do, so they can easily fail to understand how women need to love and to be loved. In fact, a teaspoonful of affection, and she is good for another hundred miles. The Holy Ghost says it rather more elegantly: “Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them” (Col.III, 19).

Kyrie eleison.

Tomato Stakes – I

Tomato Stakes – I posted in Eleison Comments on September 10, 2011

A little while back a family wife and mother told me she was having a hard time communicating with her husband. They could hardly talk to one another about what was going wrong without ending up mad at each other. Rightly or wrongly, I sensed that her problem was this universal, deliberate and diabolical denial of the marvellously complementary role designed by God for man and woman in marriage. Here is what I wrote for her. She said it helped her. May it help others. By the way, ladies, I do NOT think all the problem is on your side!

I am sorry to hear of a rough passage in your marriage. Rule number One: never argue with your husband in front of, or within earshot of, the children. They come first. You cannot help the family by pulling down your husband, or arguing with him in front of them. On the contrary.

Rule number Two: RESPECT your husband, even if he may not always deserve it. Women run on love, men on ego, a huge difference. That is why St Paul – WORD OF GOD – says, “Wives, obey your husbands, husbands, cherish your wives.” Huge difference! In any marriage where the husband shows love for his wife and where the wife respects her husband, normally the essence of a contented marriage is there. And if he does not show love for you, at least make yourself lovable, which you will never do by fighting with him.

Let it cost you what it may, respect your husband. He needs your respect more than he needs your love. You need his love more than you need his respect. Obey him. Never show that you are telling him what to do. Get him to decide to do what you want him to do. And for the wife to work outside the home is not a good thing, especially if she earns more than he does. If you have to earn, and do earn more, NEVER let it show. Disguise the fact. A man needs to see himself as the breadwinner, as the head of the house. You are the heart, just as necessary as the head for the family, maybe more so, but you are not the head. And if you are sometimes forced to act as the head, do not let it show, BUT DISGUISE IT.

I would be surprised if you could not make the marriage work. It usually depends on the woman to adapt herself to the man, and not the other way round. Russian proverb –“As the tomato plant is to the stake (around which it climbs),so the woman is to the man.” If he is not a stake, do all you can to make him into one. And if you cannot, then once more disguise the fact. God makes women more adaptable than men, so that they will adapt to their men.

You once said that the family needed money to educate the children. Has it occurred to you that the best and most important education of your girls is in their mother’s kitchen? Assuming that the mother is at home. You have much more to give your girls by your example than any school outside the home can give them. And give them the precious example of a wife and mother that obeys and respects her husband despite everything. Children are very observant. Your example is of crucial importance for the happiness of their future marriages and homes.

Argue with your husband if you like, but quietly, respectfully, and away from the children. And do not say, “I too have been out working all day long, I too need understanding at home.” For mothers to work outside the home is not normal, and the men sense it, even if it is their own fault. Men are what they are. This is the man that God appointed for you to marry. Give your children the example of respecting him. That is a precious gift, especially to your girls. All families today need a lot of prayer. Mother of God, help!

Kyrie eleison.

Restoring Fatherhood

Restoring Fatherhood posted in Eleison Comments on May 22, 2010

It is easy to blame parents today for not knowing how to raise their children. It will be more useful to help all of them wishing to be helped to see where the problem of their estranged children is coming from. The problem is, in a way, as majestic as God, because it comes from the modern world’s wholesale refusal and denial of God.

The human family is a small society, consisting basically of father, mother and children. Now common sense tells us that every human society needs a head to be able to function. If no head directs or commands, the society loses its direction and falls apart. A football team needs a captain, a corporation needs a chief executive officer, a country needs a king or president, a town needs a mayor, a fire brigade needs a chief, an army needs a general, a university needs a rector, a court needs a judge, and so on, and so on.

Above all, a family needs a father, because the human family is not only a human society, it is the most basic and natural of human societies, in fact it is the basic model for all other societies. This is because in no other society can the bonds which tie the members together be so deep or natural as the bonds which tie husband to wife and parents to children. Also in no other society is it so clear how the head must both command and care for the members. If a father commands without caring, the family suffers from his harshness. If he cares without commanding – rather more often the case today – it suffers from his softness. Thus family fatherhood is the model for all human authority. That is why (cf. EC 145) the Fourth Commandment to honour father and mother stands at the head of the seven Commandments governing relations in human society.

Now family fatherhood, like all fatherhood or authority, derives from God the Father. St Paul says, “I bow my knees to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all fatherhood is named” (Eph. III, 14,15). In other words, says the Word of God, from the fatherhood of God the Father all fatherhood in the human family, all headship in any human society, derives its nature, because the “name,” or word, signifies the nature or thing. Then it stands to reason that in any world which kicks out God the Father, as our world is now doing, the name and nature of fatherhood will be drained out of our minds, and all fatherhood and all authority will be emptied out of our lives.

Family fathers, lead your families to God! Put yourselves under him, and your wives and children will put themselves that much more easily under you. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God,” says St Paul (I Cor. XI, 3). Give to wife and children the example of a manly piety, as natural as it is “supernatural,” and whatever our mad world may get up to for its part, you at least will be doing the best you can for the family that God has entrusted to you.

Specifics for boys will follow in another “Eleison Comments,” if God wills.

Kyrie eleison.

Christmas Cheer

Christmas Cheer posted in Eleison Comments on December 19, 2009

Here is some good news for Christmas, drawn from England’s “Catholic Herald” of Dec. 11: a report from the United States tells that the present economic recession is helping marriages. The recession began towards the end of 2007. In that year the divorce rate in the USA was 17.5 for every thousand married women. In the following year it was 16.9. Lessons at what Americans call “The School of Hard Knocks” are costly, but they sure teach!

“Marriage in America: The State of Our Unions 2009” is the title of the Report published jointly at the Institute for American Values, University of Virginia, by the Center for Marriage and Families and the National Marriage Project, whose director, Brian Wilcox, wrote the Report. He says that millions of Americans have adopted a “homegrown bailout strategy,” and “are relying on their own marriages and families to weather this storm.” As our new-fangled world collapses, so the old proverbs come back into their own: “Every cloud has a silver lining”; “Blood is thick and water is thin”; “There’s no place like home.”

Another piece of evidence quoted by Wilcox to prove that the economic crisis is helping marriages is the decision of many married couples to get rid of credit card debt. As reported by the Federal Reserve Board, Americans have reduced their collective revolving debt by 90 billion over the past year. Wilcox says the recession has revived the “home economy” as more and more Americans are growing their own food, making and mending their own clothes, and dining out less often: “Many couples appear to be developing a new appreciation for the economic and social support that marriage can provide in tough times.”

Husbands, behave like men, and turn to your wives for support. Wives, glory in your womanly gifts which men do not have in anything like the same measure, and lean on your husbands for strength. A man without a woman is normally a zero (yes, zero!). A woman without a man is normally even less, an incomplete zero, or an open U. But put the U as support beneath the zero, and you suddenly have 8! On the Miraculous Medal, is not the Cross of Our Lord shown resting on the M of Mary? To go through with his Passion Our Lord chose to renounce all his divine Strength. But could his humanity alone have performed our Redemption without the human support of his Mother? Never!

Not many economists have any common sense, but the few that are not living in la-la-land all see this recession getting much worse yet. Mothers, re-learn domestic skills. Fathers, re-learn vegetable gardening. All lovers of truth and reality, strengthen not only family ties, but also neighbourhood ties. It is going to be a question of survival, and our governments and media are not going to help, on the contrary, unless they seriously change direction. “Our help is in the name of the Lord,” figuring at this time of year as a powerless human baby. Yet this baby is the Almighty!

Kyrie eleison.