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Role In Family Essay

An article about Cate Edwards, the daughter of former Senator John Edwards, who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004 and ran for the Democratic nomination for president (and whose political career ended in a scandal), characterizes her as the “glue” that holds her family together. How would you characterize your role in your family?

In the article For Edwards’s Adult Daughter, a Recurring Role: Family Glue,” Katharine Q. Seelye and Kim Severson explain that Cate Edwards, age 29, provides both private and public support for her father, John Edwards, who they describe as “the former senator and presidential candidate who had cheated on her mother and shattered his career and their family.” According to the article, personal hardship has helped to shape the way Ms. Edwards approaches life:

Fifteen years ago, when she was barely a teenager, her 16-year-old brother, Wade, was thrown from a car and killed on his way to the family beach house. For two years, her mother later wrote, Cate slept on two chairs pushed together in her parents’ room, but she emerged as the glue that would hold the family together.

That experience laid the foundation for her to face the cascade of crises that would follow: her father’s political losses, the revelations that he had an affair and a child with his campaign videographer while he was running for president in 2008, her mother’s public and prolonged battle with breast cancer, and then in December, her mother’s death.

“It’s very, very hard to imagine how you would cope when you haven’t faced tragedy,” Ms. Edwards told Harper’s Bazaar in 2007, after her mother’s cancer recurred. “But the strength exists, and you do get through it,” she said. “Having been through Wade’s death is the only way I know I can move on from this kind of emotional hardship.”

Students: Tell us about your role in your family. How would you describe or characterize it? How do you think that came about? What life experiences have helped to shape your relationship with your family?


Students 13 and older are invited to comment below. Please use only your first name. For privacy policy reasons, we will not publish student comments that include a last name.

Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

First published in The Reign of Mary, Issue #123

The Role of the Mother in the Family

From The Teachings of Pius XII on Marriage and the Family by Sister Paulette Huber, Ad.PP.S.

Complete, successful family living requires the cooperation of both husband and wife. Both have their specific roles; both, consequently, have their quota to contribute to the supply of family tranquility, order, and harmony. Still, it is clear, from the very nature of her role, that the wife and mother can contribute more to the felicity of the home than can her husband. Wherefore, Pius XII would dub her the “sun” of the family.

She is the “sun” because her self-sacrificing generosity is ever operative in diffusing love. Her affectionate and provident attentions are consistently and delicately attuned to bring cheer to her husband and children. In this way, she diffuses “light and warmth about herself. And if then it is said that a marriage is successful, when each of the spouses upon contracting it, contemplates not his own happiness but that of the other party, this noble feeling and intention, even though the concern of both, is nevertheless mainly that of the woman, born as she is with the instinct of a mother and the wisdom of the heart; that wisdom which, if pained, desires to return only joy and if humiliated, wants to return only dignity and respect, like the sun that cheers the cloudy morning with its light and gilds the clouds with rays at its settings” (Address to Spouses, 1942).

Prayer to Be Recited by Catholic Mothers

O Mary, “full of grace and blessed among women,” stretch out the hand of thy motherly protection, we beseech thee, upon us who gather round thy queenly throne as thy handmaidens, obedient to thy command and resolved with thy help to bring to realization in ourselves and our sisters the ideals of truth and Christian perfection.

Our eyes are fixed on thee in admiration, Immaculate Virgin; thou who art loved by the Heavenly Father above all others! O Virgin Spouse of the Holy Ghost! Tender Mother of Jesus! Obtain for us from thy Divine Son the grace to reflect thy sublime virtues in our conduct, according to our age and condition of life. Grant that we may be spotless and pure in our thoughts and in our behavior; gentle, affectionate, and sympathetic companions to our husbands; to our children solicitous, vigilant and wise mothers; prudent administrators of our homes; exemplary citizens of our dear country; faithful daughters of the Church, ever ready to allow ourselves to be guided by her in thought and deed.

Help us, loving Mother, to be truly devoted to the duties of our state of life; help us make our homes true centers of spiritual life and active charity, schools where consciences will be rightly formed, gardens where every virtue will flourish. Give us thy help that in social and political life we may be patterns of deep faith, of consistent and gracious practice, of incorruptible integrity, and of well-balanced judgment based upon the solid principles of religion.

Bless these resolutions which thou hast inspired us to make and the trials thou hast helped us to bear; may we with thine aid come to see their abundant fruits in time and in eternity. Amen.

— Composed by Pope Pius XII, May 26, 1957


She is the “sun” of the family, in the second place, because she possesses the superior though delicate power of softening the tumult of the passions. The limpidity of her glance and the fire of her words, the Holy Father comments with keen psychological insight, “penetrate gently into the soul, bend it, soften and raise it beyond the tumult of the passions, and attract the husband to the enjoyment of the good and of family conversation, after a long day of continued, and perhaps painful, professional and agricultural work, or of important commercial or industrial business. Her eyes shed a light and her voice gives forth a melody that have a thousand flashes in a single glance and a thousand affections in a single sound. They are flashes and the sounds that spring from the heart of a mother, that create and vivify the paradise of childhood and always radiate goodness and gentleness even when they admonish or reprove. For the youthful minds that feel more strongly, receive more intimately and more deeply the dictates and teachings of love” (Ibid.).

Finally, the wife is the “sun” of the family because by her candid naturalness and dignified simplicity she reflects solid virtue, the spectral rays of the Divine Sun of Justice. Her truly Christian decorum is mirrored in the recollection and in the rectitude of her spirit, in the subtle nobility of her poise, and in the delicate reserve of her general bearing. Thus, her “slight suggestions, hints, graceful expressions of the face, prudent silences and smiles, a condescending inclination of the head, give her the grace of a chosen yet simple flower, that opens its corolla to receive and reflect the color of the sun” (Ibid.).

Tremendous, then, is the mother’s power to determine the tenor of the home. Tremendous, too, is the dignity and nobility that has its enhancement in this power. For, the high mystical character of motherhood is inextricably interwoven with the mother’s ability to sublimate the domestic peace and tranquility which she, more than anyone else, has the gift to fabricate. Her tender, maternal love-instinct, upon which the supernatural is built, is the all-pervading transforming power. It strengthens and fortifies, refines and elevates the natural blessedness of the family circle. This truth is strikingly pointed out by Pius XII. “When,” he says, “to the bride the Lord in His bounty will have granted the dignity of motherhood to the side of the cradle, the crying of the infant will neither lessen nor destroy the felicity of the home; but rather it will increase and elevate it into that divine circle, where the heavenly angels shine and whence descends a ray of life that conquers nature and regenerates the sons of men into sons of God” (Ibid.).

But a mother’s dignity further arises from her utility in structuring the supernatural fabric of the home and of the society. For, precisely in her maternal mission of childbearing lies the secret to the mother’s salvation and sanctification, if she but remain true to faith and love and holy living. Thus, her holiness becomes profitable and all-availing, since it promises life both for the present and for the future. Accordingly, with St. Ambrose, Pius XII considers a good mother the foundation of all virtues. A cradle, he asserts “consecrates the mother; and more cradles will sanctify her and glorify her in the eyes of the husband and of the children, in the eyes of the Church and of the country” (Ibid.).

It is at once apparent that such a quality of life shares the sublime consecration of the cross. Down to its deepest roots her life is a life of sacrifice. Yet, though the maternal sacrifices be painful, the powerful graces of the Sacrament temper it, or as the Holy Pontiff asserts, “The love of God, that raises her in her sacrifice beyond herself, opens the heart to all piety and sanctifies her.” This supernatural love is the beginning of all the finer instincts of the children. Its delicacy and tenderness exercise the strongest influence. Of it are born to the children piety, modesty, purity, and fear of the Lord — all learned immediately from the mother.

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