Italian historians are taking interest in the role mothers in transmitting faith to their sons. Referring to the examples of St. Jean Vianney, Popes Pius X and Paul VI, the Vatican newspaper suggests that this relationship is fundamental to religious vocations.
According to an article published in the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), historians at a recent conference in Modena, Italy commented on the need to study the relationship that ties the man of faith to his mother. In studying biographies, they asserted that faith is almost always transmitted to a man by his mother.
LOR indicates that while research into this relationship can be useful in "reconstructing biographical events of public personalities, it assumes a deeper and almost essential significance" if one looks at the emergence and maturation of a religious vocation.
St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars and patron of priests, spoke of this relationship often, telling his parishioners "virtue passes from the heart of the mother to the heart of the children," the Vatican newspaper noted.
In the book Mothers of Saints, by Albina Henrion, the prayerfulness of the Cure of Ars is attributed to the influence of St. Jean's mother who created an atmosphere of prayer that "he almost breathed in his family life."
The saint said about his gift of prayer, "After God, it is the work of my mother," and added that children "voluntarily do what they see done."
In the book, the story of his mother's great charity throughout her life is told as well as her encouragement of young Jean's vocation and how she convinced the boy's father to allow him receive religious instruction. Although she did not live to see him ordained, he carried her example on through the "inexhaustible and charitable exercise of his ministry," reported LOR.
Another example offered by the Vatican newspaper was Saint Pius X, whose mother, Margherita Sanson, raised him and numerous brothers and sisters. She taught them to pray first thing in the morning, communicate with God throughout the day in Mass and Scripture reading, and to end each day with prayer, bringing the family together for an open examination of conscience. After describing this tradition, a friend of the family said, "is it any wonder that a holy soul came out of there?"
Following her son's episcopal ordination and placement in Mantova, the future Pope Pius X visited his mother to thank her. After kissing his episcopal ring, she showed him her wedding ring and said, "Your ring is very beautiful, Giuseppe, but you wouldn't have it if I didn't have this."
Margherita lived to see her son become the Patriarch (Archbishop) of Venice.
The final example presented by LOR was that of Pope Paul VI, who talked of an "unpayable debt of gratitude to his mother." To her, he said, "I owe my sense of concentration, of interior life, of the meditation which is prayer, the prayer that is meditation. Her entire life was a gift."
After the deaths of his parents, he said, "To the love of my father and of my mother, to their union I owe my love of God and love of man."
Paul VI, indicates LOR, offered a further insight, saying, "We, they tell us, all live more or less from that which a woman has taught us in the sublime dimension. And boys feel it more than girls, because of nature... priest-sons even more strongly, because they are consecrated to solitude."