“Be brave then, dearest daughter,” the saintly mother of four wrote ...
Often the words of the saints seem to reach across time and space to speak directly to our hearts. That’s how I felt when I read a letter St. Jane Frances de Chantal wrote to her daughter.
St. Jane was in her 50s and the superior of a religious order when she wrote the letter. But she had not forgotten what it was like to be a mother of little ones.
In this letter, she spoke directly to her daughter’s state in life, and through her, to all anxious parents. (You can find the full text of the letter free online: It’s Letter 60, To the Countess de Toulonjon.)
1Be at peace about your children’s safety and future
St. Jane begins by addressing her daughter’s anxieties about the future of her children:
“You are too much attached to the things of this life and take them too much to heart. What have you to fear? Is it that the fact of having so many children deprives you of the means of providing for and educating them according to their birth and your ambition? Have no such apprehensions, I beg of you, for in this you wrong the Providence of Him who gives them to you, and who is good enough and rich enough to nourish them and provide for them as is expedient to His glory and their salvation. That is all that we should desire for our children …”
When we feel worried about our children and their future, St. Jane reminds us to turn our hearts toward trust in God instead. He loves our children more than we do and will take care of them.
2Dedicate your energy to mothering well
Instead of worrying needlessly about the future, St. Jane says, put all that thought into being the best parent you can be. Spend your energy on your children right now instead of worrying about things that may or may not happen down the road.
“Now my dearest daughter, lovingly look upon all these little creatures as entrusted to you by God, who has given them to you; care for them, cherish them tenderly, and bring them up not in vanity, but faithfully in the fear of God. So doing, and trustfully leaving all these anxieties of yours to divine Providence, you will see how sweetly and tenderly it will provide for all, so that you will have good reason to bless and rely wholly upon it.”
3Work alongside your spouse to build a happy home
Finally, St. Jane encourages her daughter to use her time and energy on managing her home well alongside her husband. Indeed, our time is better spent working diligently on what we ought to do today than on worrying about the future.
“Take my advice, dearest daughter, and cast yourself into these safe arms: serve God, cast aside vanity, live in perfect harmony with [your husband] whom God has given you, interest yourself in the good government of your household, be active and diligent in applying yourself to that work, and begin from this time forth to live after the manners and customs of a true mother …
Be brave then, dearest daughter; employ your time and your mind not in worrying and being anxious about the future, but in serving God and your household, for such is the divine will. Act thus, and you will see how blessings will attend your undertakings.”
St. Jane’s words, “Be brave then, dearest daughter,” reveal how well she understood the hard realities of motherhood. My book club recently read a selection of St. Jane’s writings, and this letter stood out to many of us as especially relevant to our vocations.
“Reading St. Jane’s letter to her married daughter was inspiring and refreshing to me as a mom of 3 young children,” said one book club member, Elizabeth. “I have rarely encountered a saint’s advice geared specifically towards motivating me in my vocation as a wife, mother and homemaker.”
For her, the letter has become a rallying cry for her work in the home. “I read her letter every morning because it reminds me that our calling as mothers is ordained by God and He will provide for us as we do His work.” To that we say, Amen!