Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIX, No. 1
Trustees for Posterity
by Donald DeMarco
In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, a mother offers farewell advice to her son: “Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none.” Her words imply that she is one of those few who can be trusted. And why not? After all, she is a mother to whom the life of her son had been entrusted from the moment she conceived him.
A government official might not have inspired such trust. “There is danger from all men,” warned John Adams. “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” America’s second president was not being cynical, but merely alluding to the notion that those who are not blood relatives, let alone mothers, may not be among that select few whom we can trust.
Nor should we be eager to trust fair weather friends. “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most,” wrote Ulysses S. Grant. “I can better trust those who helped to relive the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” A mother is a friend to her child when it is frail, weak, and just starting out on the voyage of life. He child displays no glow of prosperity in which she can bask.
The Annunciation signifies that God was willing to entrust His Son to a woman. This entrusting on the part of God is a great compliment. But it is more than that; it is a complementary compliment, for it brings into completion or fulfillment, a womanly aptitude with a motherly activity. Mary, as a woman, had the aptitude to involve herself in truly motherly activities in accepting, nurturing, and raising her Son. Mary was deemed worthy of being trusted to carry out the most privileged role that God ever assigned to a human being. Christianity’s impact of posterity is palpable and inestimable.
In Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on the dignity of woman (Mulieris Dignitatem), he states of the woman in general that “God entrusted the human being to her in a special way” (Sect. VIII). The “special way” the Holy Father had in mind is the woman’s femininity that beautifully equips her with the aptitude and the readiness to care for human life in a distinctively loving way.
The former pope went on to say that a woman’s “awareness” of her privileged state of being specially entrusted with human life reveals to her the moral and spiritual strength she has precisely as a woman. A woman’s strength even her “genius,” as John Paul remarks, is associated with her worthiness of being entrusted with life and her confidence that God has good reasons for extending His trust to her.
“The Youth of a nation,” Benjamin Disraeli once remarked, “are the trustees of Posterity.” The youth, however, are involuntary recipients of this trusteeship. It is imposed upon them without their consent. Mothers accept their appointed trusteeship with love. They are the trustworthy recipients of God’s trust. We could modify Disraeli’s comment by saying that “The Mothers of a nation are the trustees of Posterity.” Even further, we could say that “The Mothers of a nation are the trustees of Prosperity.” Surely, mothers have a stronger bond with the future through their children than young people have whose ties are unformed and uncertain. Disraeli’s youth inherit a responsibility without having given it their fiat.
The great strength of a woman lies in the special way that she is able to care for others. Motherhood is a convincing testimony of this special care. Her strength is not in her power to choose independently and for her own private interest. Rather it is in her capacity to affirm who she is as a woman by putting into practice her vocation to care for the life that has been entrusted to her.
Blessed John Paul II refers to “trust” no fewer than six times within a span of less than half a page. Obviously, he believes that this notion of trust is important. God honors a woman initially by creating her in such a way that she possesses a special aptitude for caring for human beings. He honors her a second time by entrusting her with life, a trust that is demonstrably evident in the fulfillment of motherhood. The woman’s strength, her “empowerment,” to use a popular term that is commonly misused, is in the synthesis of her aptitude for care and her loving manifestation of that care.
Mothers are the trustees, par excellence, of posterity because their bond with life is personal, intimate, strong, loving, and unparalleled among human beings.
Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow at Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.
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