SummaryDrawing from letters of spiritual master St. Francis de Sales, Father Bergida has woven a tapestry of timeless advice for homeschooling mothers.
St. Francis de Sales wrote letters prodigiously. Approximately 2,100 of his letters are extant. It is estimated these make up only about ten percent of those he penned. In these, we find spiritual gems for those seeking perfection. A number of his correspondents were mothers.
While none could perhaps be called homeschooling moms, his advice is still apropos.
The following “letter from Saint Francis to a homeschooling mom” is drawn from his letters to women; it is permeated with his sentiments and turns of phrase.
Direct quotes are italicized for a smoother flow rather than using quotation marks.
I was so delighted that Father Bergida chose to weave St. Francis de Sales’ beautiful words with his own in this letter to homeschooling moms. In this letter, St. Francis and Father Bergida point out that we are called upon to take diligent care of our children, homes, and husbands.
He wisely adds that we should be gentle with ourselves while making the necessary changes in this most important work.
I want those who read this article to prayerfully consider the ideas presented and realize that God loves us all in whatever season of life we are in. He blesses even our most minor efforts to draw closer to Him. None of us are called to be superwomen but to do our best each day humbly.
Dearly Beloved Daughter,
You are wondering how to run a home, educate children, prepare for the birth of your next child, and tend to your husband, all the while not losing your peace of soul. Allotted time allows me only the briefest response. Yet, this may be more advantageous to you, given your duties.
You express concerns for the welfare of your family and your desire to see your dear ones make progress in the service of God. I praise this desire of yours. Yet often, a trace of self-love and self-will presents itself in our longings for others. By what you say and do you must sow seeds which might sway them to your views. Gradually plant holy inspirations and reflections in their minds.2
In teaching virtues and life lessons to your children, similes from the realm of nature, literature, and even culinary art season and make more palpable what you seek to communicate.
For example, in my treatise, I used the pomegranate to describe our love for God.3 With young minds, the things they enjoy or are attracted to are often good ways to illustrate spiritual principles.
Be Gentle Towards Everyone
Be gentle towards everyone, including yourself. Don’t rely on your own efforts to succeed in your various undertakings, but only on God’s help. Then rest in His care for you provided that you, for your part, work diligently but gently. A tense diligence is harmful both to our heart and to our task and is not diligence but rather overeagerness and anxiety.4
You mention how a particular child tries your patience dearly. All the better! Patience is exercised and grows through being stretched, much like a leg or arm, which recovers vigor by being strengthened with resistance bands.
Know that patience is the one virtue which gives the greatest assurance of our reaching perfection, and while we must have patience with others, we must also have it with ourselves.
So, if you lose patience with a son or daughter, pick yourself up and begin again. Those who aspire to the love of God need to be more patient with themselves than with others. We have to endure our own imperfections in order to attain perfection; I say ‘endure patiently’ not ‘love’ or ‘embrace’: humility is nurtured through such endurance.5
Dear imperfections, they force us to acknowledge our misery, give us practice in humility, selflessness, patience, and watchfulness; yet, not withstanding, God looks at the preparation of our heart and sees that it is perfect.6
You opine that if only you had a spiritual director, you would know where to put your energies and how to balance the love of God with the love of neighbor, as though the two were opposed. Remember, good books also make good guides.
Where it is not possible to have a living director, one from the past may more than suffice. Consider consulting my Philothea7 or read some of my letters to directees.
My dearest daughter, since your pregnancy prevents you from making your usual long mental prayer, make your prayer short and fervent.
Make up for the loss by frequently lifting your heart to God; often read from some good spiritual book, but only a little at a time; when you go for a walk, often turn your thoughts to God; pray often and briefly; offer your listlessness and weariness to our crucified Lord.8
Take care to bring contentment to your husband. Do not sour him to the things of God by trying to control his actions or neglecting your household responsibilities.
Lessons from the Bee
Like a bee make not only the honey of devotion but also the wax of your household affairs. If honey is sweet to the taste of our Lord, wax also honors Him since it is used to make the candles that give light to those around us.9 This goes for your children as well.
You must not only be devout and love devotion, but you must render it lovable to everyone. Now, you will make it lovable if you render it useful and pleasing.10
May God dwell in the center of your heart, my dear daughter, and may he set it aflame with his love.11
+Francis de Sales
Onetime Bishop of Geneva, Saint of the Heavenly Court