I have been given many little treasures throughout the decades of my life. One of these is a little leather-bound (falling apart) book, Talks With Our Daughters by Sister Eleanore from 1925, and published by Benziger Brothers, printers to the Holy Apostolic See. I thought I would share some of the words from this little treasure here with you. I have not seen it anywhere else. I’m not sure it has ever been reprinted. The context is that this book was written for young ladies. Sister Eleanore was an educated woman with a Ph.D. who taught Catholic girls in school. She wrote a series of talks for their benefit. The language in Sister’s writing is somewhat formal, very much in keeping with other similar books of the day, but the message she shares is beautiful and timeless.
This first installation (Part 1) deals with giving girls an appreciation for their value and worth as unique individuals made by God. Sister gently challenges each to be her best self, and in doing so she offers an unique and unrepeatable gift to the world.
The quality of any race or people is determined more by its women than by its men. Men dominate in the wold of external activities, but emotionally they are influenced by women for good or for evil. Though the relations between men and women are freighted with illusion, out of this illusion come great virtues: chivalry, the magic of the home, and the hope of the nation. The teacher and friend of girls, therefore enjoys a privilege which brings with it a fearful responsibility. Along with their secular education, girls must be taught those religious principles upon which character is founded . The whole meaning of Christian living is contained in the two great commandments enjoining the love of God and the love of neighbor. It is the purpose of this little book to set forth in a series of talks some ways of observing these commandments in such manner as to aid the …girl, and perhaps others, in the development of character.
…Beauty, is not, as so many think, a mere external; it must come primarily and chiefly from within. Yet, it is possible so to permeate oneself with the beautiful that it becomes part of oneself, just as sunlight permeates air. There is no real difference between the air of the day and that of the night; yet the former is filled with light. In like manner is charming personality permeated with beauty of soul. In these days when the subtle powers of darkness have been loosed upon earth as never before, it is very necessary that the young woman face the light of truth and idealism and make her soul so clear and free from evil that this sunlight of beauty may shine through her being…
The first commandment of all is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy
whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with they whole mind, and with thy whole strength.”
When the long twilight shadows creep from the west across the world and the children of day begin to drowse, perchance, sitting alone in your room, you fall into pensive mood. The gloaming hour, drifting slowly downward in its mantle of darkness to which the failing fingers of the day still cling, brings the brooding sky so near that you can almost look beyond it. Through your window you see the faint tracery of the leaves against the heavens and you watch the stars come one by one into the blue. Mayhap you reflect that among those millions of leaves and stars no two leaves and no two stars are exactly alike. Perhaps your soul travels on the swift wings of your imagination to the remotest corners of the world, passing over the millions of people who may be, as you are, dreaming in the solemn stillness of this sanctuary hour. Possible you are arrested by the thought that among all these people there are no two persons exactly alike. What then, of you?
Generation after generation has lived and died upon the earth; generation after generation will live and die upon the earth. but you have never before lived among men, and another you never will live among them in the years to come. How wonderful then, how important is this first and only YOU…
….You ask yourself, In what are you so wonderful and so important? Modest though you be you must answer that the reason is in your very self, because you are infinitely loveworthy. Long, long before the first star was set int he firmament, long before the earth brought forth its first green herb, you existed in the heart of your eternal Lover. Everlastingly He has seen you as you now dream in this twilight hour. Eternally, as a lover must, He has watched over you, has joyed in your happiness, has sorrowed in your sorrow, has rejoiced in your success, has lamented in your failure. ..What a Lover is He! …In human love there is always the danger of instability. If you love in a selfish manner, you fear that your dear one may prefer another before you, you fear lest at some time there be some lack of confidence between you, you face the possibility that your ideals may be disappointed by some weakness in the object you regard…If on the other hand you love unselfishly, you (may have) doubts of yourself…In your natural wish to fill the life of your loved one with sweetness, you (may) lament your impotence. But your divine Lover can do all these things for you.
At every dawning a throng of little joys…run out from under the throne of God to brighten your waking hours. Among them may be some little griefs, with rainbow wings, because they know that they shall be treasured for eternity when their sad work of the day is done. The joys would far outnumber the griefs even if you were the saddest of men…
…God made this only YOU, first for Himself, then for your own sake, and finally that you might be of service to others. Since he has made only one YOU, he has designed for you from eternity a special place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, there is a special human life on earth that you alone can live, and there is a particular work in the world which you alone can do…
…In this quiet hour of meditation…enter into yourself and study your strength, your weakness, your abilities, your incompetencies. ..
Your Beloved…wants others to share His bliss in you. He therefore gave you intelligence, beauty, charm, in a word., He made you lovable…Have you, perchance, spoiled God’s handiwork in you? Have you failed to keep your beauty of soul and mind and body? have you allowed selfishness to destroy your charm? Have you developed your mind at the expense of your heart…? Ask yourself these serious questions.
If happily you have kept and augmented your intelligence and beauty and charm, have you allowed others to share them with you? Do you spend yourself that others may have joy in you? there is in you hidden loveliness that no one else can ever possess. Are you going to your grave without letting others see it? If you do, you will have deprived them of something which none but you can supply. A leaf is only a little thing, and yet the first leaf to fall from the tree mars the summer beauty of the whole…If one heart fails to contribute its individual gift to the spiritual wealth of humanity, the loss is not only irreparable, but of everlasting consequence.
Will you occasion such a loss? You may do so if you fail to speak the little word of kindness that means so much, if you fail to do for others the little deeds of self-sacrifice. The only road to happiness is the road of self-sacrificing service. If you think of yourself, as you should, only in terms of eternity, what will the transient trials of a day mean to you? If you waste no time in brooding over your difficulties, you will have more time in which to overcome them. You will have also more time in which to help others in their troubles. As you look back over the day that has just gone, you will see that the truly happy moments have been those in which there was the least thought of self...Today has gone forever, but you can look forward to the morrow. Night unfolds the earth and your twilight hour is ended. you must go to your work or to your play or to your rest. May the spirit of this hour remain with you then and always!
-Sister M. Eleanore C.S.C.,, PhD
photo courtesy of APKDad