When the eminent scholar Mary Eberstadt penned her recent book How the West Really Lost God most readers thought the answer would certainly be the unmistakable decline of religion since the time of the Enlightenment. But after 200 pages of scrupulous analysis supported by the citation of hundreds of academic studies, Dr. Eberstadt proves that God was lost in the West, not due to the withering of religion, but the collapse of the family. She compellingly demonstrates that the death throes of Western civilization is principally to be laid at the feet at the decreasing importance of the family. Of course, this has become conspicuous in the wake of the Sexual revolution of the sixties, but it was already visible in the run up to the French Revolution. For this data we are again indebted to the tireless research of Dr. Eberstadt
Family is not to be understood as the protean grouping of persons according to their homogeneous interests. This is an artificial reconfiguration invented by the Secular bien pensant. Rather, family is to be defined as it has since the earth cooled: The union of man and woman, and the children of their union.
At the heart of the family is the mother. Her exalted position is adumbrated by Pope Pius XI in his classic encyclical on marriage, Casti Connubii:
“God did not create Eve from Adam’s heel, because she is not his slave; neither did God create Eve from Adam’s head, because she is not his master; God created Eve from Adam’s rib, near his heart, because she is his equal, his support, the heart of his life.”
Motherhood teaches the human race eternal truths which guarantee the tranquility, order and happiness of all men and the societies in which they flourish. Indeed the flourishing itself cannot be realized without the comprehensive presence of mothers.
Mothers embody in their vocation, firstly, authority. God’s authority is manifested through his creation. He not only gives it existence, but he invests it with all that makes things be what they are, viz., their nature. Each and every time the tiniest particle of the cosmos moves, it is shouting the goodness and power of God. When a things acts as itself, it is radiating the authority of God Who made it. Having received its existence from God, each time it acts, it can only act according as God’s dictates. The whole universe is a symphony of God’s authority. Mothers attest to this Divine authority by their maternity, likely the most exquisite token of God’s governance in the natural order.
Closely allied to the authority of mothers’ maternity, is how they transmit the necessity of tradition. The word tradition is derived from the Latin verb which means to hand down. Tradition is the legacy of a fixed way of doing things fittingly and well. Mothers pass on to every generation the immutable designs that bring forth a man, but they also attest to the permanent ways in which children are formed to insure their fruitful growth in goodness. Mothers are the most potent bulwark against novelty, which is the enemy of tradition. Tradition is never to be confused with rigidity or an unwillingness to change. In fact, a fidelity to tradition demandschange, remedying any deviation from tradition. So it is that Edmund Burke writes: “It is absolutely necessary not to change, unless change is absolutely necessary.”
Few things are more coveted by modern man than power. Yet, the greatest wielders of authentic power are mothers. By word and example mothers shape the characters of their children. This is so profound and deeply imprinted that everything a child comes to know or experience for the rest of his life is prismed through the lenses of their mothers’ spoken and unspoken tutelage. At one of the receptions following the coronation of Pope St.Pius X, his mother approached the newly crowned Pope and in earshot of the assembled dignitaries, she remarked, “My son, you would not be wearing on your finger the Fisherman’s ring, unless I first wore on my finger this wedding ring.” That, my Catholic friends, is real power.
Above all mothers teach the world charity. The essence of charity is oblation: The generous giving of self without consideration of cost. Mothers vividly bespeak this charity from the first moment their child stirs in their womb. This maternal love possesses a certain wondrous extravagance. Look how any mother would sacrifice her life several times over for the sake of her little ones. When motherhood wanes, love becomes cold. Need we look further to understand the implosion of Western civilization?
There is that old saying, whoever rocks the cradle rules the world. God has designed our world so that our natural happiness lay in cradles and mothers. Our modern world has forgotten that truth. Even if it be only we Catholics who remember it, the human race is saved.