By VERY REV. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O.S.M. Consultor of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, etc.CHAPTER XXVI. HOW JESUS CHRIST MUST REIGN OVER THE HOUSEHOLD
WE have already considered how Jesus should reign over each individual of the great human society, commanding men's minds and hearts, their souls and their strength. Let us now see how He should reign over the household according to the ardent wish He expressed when He promised to bless those families in which the image of His Most Sacred Heart would be made the object of especial veneration.
But, first of all, let us turn to those wretched households over which Jesus is not allowed to reign. These are made up of those people who lower and obscure the holiness of married life, making it neither more nor less than a simple contract. In such households Jesus will not and cannot reign. And as He cannot reign, who else will command there save His enemy, Satan?
God's object in instituting the marriage bond was to furnish citizens for the kingdom of heaven. Thus married people cooperate with Him in fulfilling the number of the elect. It is evident, then, that the matrimonial union can be ruled by none but Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has purchased our eternal happiness. The moment married people withdraw from the dominion of this King of love, what can they expect but dissensions, ill-feeling and misfortunes which not infrequently make life for them an insupportable burden?
On the other hand, fortunate indeed is the truly Christian household, whose heads do not act except moved from the holiest motives and propose to themselves, as the rule of their lives, not the pleasures of the senses but the law of God. This upright intention will surely lead them and their offspring on the road to eternal happiness. To such couples Our Lord gives, with His blessing, abundant graces, so that they may live in perfect concord, and rear up in a Christian way the children who come to bring joy to the household.
It is not enough that married people should take Jesus Christ as their King at the beginning of their wedded life. This loving Sovereign also wishes to continue reigning over them through a mutual and sincere charity founded on His holy love. For He is the King of charity and Prince of peace, and therefore He flees from those households where strife, evil speech and bad behavior are the rule, where the husband ill-treats the wife and the wife does not respect the husband; where children influenced by the bad example of their parents go so far as to insult them.
Jesus cannot and will not reign over such families as do not persevere in His holy love. He wishes that charity should unite with her sweet bond the hearts of parents and children; that she should govern the speech of all; that she should suggest loving accents to the parents and reverential replies to the children; that she should direct the work of each member of the household under the wise influence of its head; that she should take her place by the fireside so that every stranger crossing the threshold of such a household as this, would say what was said of the first Christians in the Acts of the Apostles that they had but one heart and one soul." (Acts IV, 32.)
How happy are those households in which the father teaches the way of virtue by his example, and the mother, full of Christian wisdom, educates the children at the school of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This King of love, from His heavenly throne, will pour down streams of grace and blessing over the members of such a household. If, by some mischance, any of the children, carried away by the deceitful current of life, should go astray from the right path, it will not be difficult for him to come back if only he bring back his thoughts to the sweet nest of his childhood, as to the place where he learned to know the unspeakable goodness of Jesus. Such a recollection as this, aided by divine grace, will no doubt lead him back again to God; marking as it were the first stage of his complete reformation.
Now, then, if married people wish Jesus to reign over their households, it is necessary that they should have a right and Christian idea of the holiness of marriage and that their hearts should be made one by the presence of divine charity. This godly virtue will level, so to speak, those differences of character and opinion which might otherwise become sources of perpetual bitterness.
But what will be the outward sign by which such a happy family will be distinguished from those unhappy households which are so luckless as to shrink from the sweet dominion of our King, Jesus Christ? What, if not that sign pointed out by Himself when he said: "l will bless those households in which the image of My Heart is exposed and honored?" Let, then, the image of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord be erected in the most honorable and conspicuous place of each Christian dwelling, so that from the Divine Heart of Jesus the heavenly blessing may irradiate over the whole house.
Around this image of Our Lord the whole family should gather at the hour of prayer. To Him should be raised the grave voice of the father and the sweet tones of the mother, re echoed by the silvery notes of the children, all praying God to bless the opening day or to drive away temptations and misfortunes from the somber night. Jesus will look down with a smile of complacency on these earnest and loyal subjects of His; He will generously recompense the reverent and loving homage of a household which thus consecrates itself to Him. Such a household cannot but be fortunate, if not in the good things of the world, at least in Charity and peace which are incomparable possessions more precious than gold or silver.
But Christian parents who wish to please Our Lord in all things must add work to their prayers; work such as was sanctified in the humble workshop at Nazareth. The law of work is after all a divine law, and the King of the Christian household wishes it to be graven on the minds and hearts of parents: "Ora et labora" As a bird is born to fly, so man is born to labor. (Job, V, 7.) Noblest of all is the work of the intellect; but not without praise and value is material work also, when to it is added that uplifting of mind and heart which not only brings delight among our wearinesses, but is also like a ray of sunshine to dissipate the clouds and cheer our hearts. Sweet indeed and noble is work done for the love and under the eyes of our gentle Sovereign, Jesus, who has sanctified our toils with His sweat, and raised them to the dignity of meriting life eternal!
See how the Sacred Heart of Jesus should reign over the household, and how from it, as from the purest of fountains, Christian parents should draw that peace and contentment which neither the riches nor the pleasures of this world can bestow.