Not too long ago, I read a quote in the front of a book. Although I cannot remember which book, I do remember the quote. It really struck me when I first read it because it seemed so severe. But I think about it quite often.
Every Sunday at Mass, I kneel in prayer and my eyes will often gaze upon the beautiful paintings above the Altar. One of the portraits is of Saint Louis IX, King of France. Each time my eyes fall on his portrait I am reminded of the quote, which seemed so harsh at the time, but has curiously become rooted in my heart. The quote was spoken to Saint Louis by his mother when he was a child.
"I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a single mortal sin."
So many things come to mind now when I think of the profound meaning of these words of a mother to her child. I think first of the most important thing that I, as a mother, want for my child. For my child to know God, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be with Him forever in Heaven. What I want most of all, above all things, is for my Little One to be with Jesus forever in Heaven. To never be separated from Him. To be wholly His for all eternity. Indeed, a mortal sin separates us painfully, terribly from God. And yes, death would be better than this separation. I must wholeheartedly agree.
I think also of how we live in a culture that wants to minimize sin. But temptations are real, sin is real. the spiritual battle is real. What we do matters. And if we are not talking to our children about these things, then they will be unprepared not only for the world, but also for the spiritual journey. Our children need to be raised with a clear and deep understanding of sin, of Heaven and hell, of what it means to love God and do His will. Especially in an age where anything goes and sins are often celebrated.
But isn’t this quote still a bit too radical? I have come to believe that we need to be challenged to greatness. We are all capable of it. The road is not easy, but our children are worthy of this great and noble call. Wanting anything less than Sainthood for our children simply wont’t do. I believe that we can all rise to the challenge, but we must be given heroic and eternal purpose, we must be pushed with boldness and daring to the heights of sanctity, we must have grand and epic expectations.
True, we love our children exactly as they are in all their brokenness, in all their sins and failures. And when they fall, we will be the first to rush to them, to be with them in the hurt, and to help them stand up and try again. We encourage them to repentance and healing, to seek forgiveness and to sin no more. We nurture them with tenderness and mercy. But we also love them too much to want anything less for them than an eternity in Heaven with our Lord. The true definition of love is to will the eternal good of the other. And what is good for a soul is nothing less than Heaven. The road to Heaven is narrow. And all the Saints have lived lives of radical fidelity until the very end.
So we must courageously say the same words to our own children as Saint Louis’ mother spoke to him. And we must do so while loving them as much as a mother can love her child. Let us pray that our children become Saints. Let us do everything we can to help them to get there.
Saint Louis IX, King of France, ora pro nobis, pray for us.