Monday, December 16, 2013

Saint Francis de Sales' Advice to Expectant Moms

As I was reading St. Francis de Sales' Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World, I came across a couple of letters written to pregnant women who wrote to him for advice, troubled by their weakness and tiredness, and how their physical state was hindering their prayers.

His advice was very sweet, and applicable, I think, not just to expectant moms back then - or even just to expectant moms full stop - but to any of us suffering discouragement. He says:
My dearest daughter, we must not be unjust and require from ourselves what is not in ourselves. When troubled in body and health, we must not exact from our souls anything more than acts of submission and the acceptance of our suffering . . . as for exterior actions, we must manage and do them as well as we can, and be satisfied with doing them, even without heart, languidly, and heavily . . . Have patience then with yourself . . . often offer to the eternal glory of our Creator the little creature in whose formation He has willed to make you His fellow worker.
I love that last part. :)  The thought that God has willed to make us fellow workers in the formation of our fellow creatures - that is the true joy of motherhood: sweet, foundational, and undeserved!

He goes on along those lines later in the letter, saying:
My dear daughter, the child who is taking shape in your womb will be a living image of the divine majesty; but while your soul, your strength, and your natural vigor is occupied with this work of pregnancy, it must grow weary and tired, and you cannot at the same time perform your ordinary exercises so actively and so gaily. But suffer lovingly this lassitude and heaviness, in consideration of the honor that God will receive from your work. It is your image that will be placed in the eternal temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, and that will be eternally regarded with pleasure by God, by angels, and by men. The saints will praise God for it, and you also will praise Him when you see it there.
Wow! what thoughts! But it reminds me of Lewis' observation in The Weight of Glory, that you never talk with a mere mortal, that every human being you behold is an eternal creature, destined someday to be a hideous nightmare, or a glorious being you would be tempted to worship could you see it properly . . . there is nothing "mere" about the work of pregnancy, though it is at the same time so work-a-day, so ordinary, and the extraordinary part of it is none of our own doing . . .

In another letter to an expectant mom, St. Francis has this to say:
I beg you to put yourself in the presence of God, and to suffer your pains before Him. Do not keep yourself from complaining; but this should be to Him, in a filial spirit, as a little child to its mother. For if it is done lovingly, there is no danger in complaining, nor in begging cure, nor in changing place, nor in getting ourselves relieved. But do this with love, and with resignation into the arms of the good will of God.
That - now that seems advice for all of life. And this last, which I'm tempted to take as a life motto:
You can only give God what you have . . .
Yes, and should give Him what you have. But He doesn't expect anything else. What you have? that is enough. Because He was already enough anyway.

Enough, and more than enough.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Marcy said...

Currently waiting to miscarry (my baby's heart isn't beating, but my body seems not to have fully realized yet, and I still have some morning sickness), and this made me cry a little. In a good way. Thank you. I think I'm going to have to meditate on these passages some more.

Jessica Snell said...

Oh Marcy, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. I'm glad to hear these passages helped, however little.

Marcy said...

Thank you.