On being ladylike...

In her excellent book,How to Raise Good Catholic Children, Mary Reed Newland writes,

We can teach our littlest children to pray to Mary about purity in their earliest prayers, and we can teach our older children, when they're old enough to understand, that one day it may become more difficult to be pure and that they should pray, "Please, Blessed Mother, help me to love purity."

And then for girls, there are all the special Mary virtues that have to do with being ladylike.  I often wonder if the word ladylike had its beginning in the imitation of our Lady. If it did, it has long since lost this meaning.  Now it means proper and well mannered and a lot of things nice girls do, not for the sake of pleasing God--which is why our Lady did them--but usually to impress the company.

This was written in 1954!  I wonder what Mrs. Newland would think of girls today, when not many are proper and well mannered, even for the wrong reasons?  There has been much conversation lately at the 4Real Forums regarding modesty and beauty and even loveliness in our homes.  There is so much food for thought and so much wisdom and good example there. I'm pondering it all, but the quote above really echos in my head today as I go about my daily round.

Saturday is set aside in the Church as the day to pay special attention to the Blessed Mother. And today, thoughts of her fill my head. If we frame the "loveliness" discussion--whether it pertains to our homes or our bodies or our clothes--as a "ladylike" discussion, it takes on a new dimension.  Do we look like a lady and do our homes reflect that a lady lives there because that is what is pleasing to God?

As women, we are called to be ladylike in the truest sense of the word.  We are called to imitate the virtues of Our Lady. I remind my girls all the time to "be ladylike." I tell them to sit like a lady, to speak like a lady, to walk like a lady. After reading Mrs. Newland's advice though, I began to expand a bit on the simple command.  I reminded them that Mary is the best example of being ladylike and that we (I included) are called to be pleasing to God in our femininity just as she was.  The conversation has just begun, but my three-year-old definitely understands.  And she is embracing it! I ask her to sit like a lady and she replies, "Just like Jesus' mommy?"

I wonder if our culture has so lost the femininity of its female teenagers because they were never taught as little girls how wonderful it is to be a lady. Mothers must tell their daughters that true happiness is found in answering God's uniquely feminine call.  Yes, I'm absolutely saying that they cannot continue to dress and/or act in an impure, immodest way and truly be happy.  Nothing good can possibly come of unladylike behavior.  Nothing. We can't shrink from talking about Mary when our daughters are little.  And we can't be afraid to hold her up as an example when they are fourteen.  She was a brave, holy, entirely feminine fourteen-year-old when she said, "Yes!" and so set in motion the salvation of mankind. If she can be so courageous, why do mothers cower in the face of a rebellious child who cares far too much what her foolish peers think and considers far too little what God wants? That mother needs to beg the Blessed Mother to help her be courageous.  The soul of her daughter depends on a conversion to virtue.

It's time to take back feminine glory; it's time to be ladylike. What we want most for our daughters is for them to be happy with Jesus and His Mother forever in heaven. First, we have to set a good example.  Mothers must live ladylike virtue. And if we truly, truly want our daughters to be happy, we have to begin when they are very little to remind them that they are little ladies, who will grow in virtue and loveliness just as the Blessed Mother did.  If they do not, they will fail to answer God's call.  And they will be miserable. They cannot be what He wants of them if they cannot live ladylike loveliness. They can't be happy living outside His will. It's really very simple.