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Heroin and well-behaved women

The big headline in last week’s Farmington Press read, “District Addressing Drug Use Concerns.” The article discussed the measures being taken by the Farmington School District and the Farmington Police Department to combat local teenage drug use, an issue which has risen to the fore because of a recent spate of heroin overdoses in Farmington.

As the Observer read the article, two things came to mind. The first is the aphorism that you’ll see from time to time now, mostly on bumper stickers or maybe on the walls of co-ed college dormatories. It says, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” This saying is attributed to some feminist named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

The second thing that came to mind was actually a person, a woman named Monica who lived in the Roman Empire in the late fourth century. Early in life, Monica overcame alcoholism, only to be faced with one of life’s other all-to-common problems: a rebellious son. As a young man, her son fathered a child out-of-wedlock, rejected his mother’s Christianity, and otherwise indulged himself freely of wine, women, and song. (If heroin had been available in the fourth century Mediterranean world, Monica’s son would have partaken of it).

Monica followed her son doggedly around the Roman Empire, wherever he went, constantly imploring him to convert and give up his wicked dissipation. She prayed relentlessly for her son and sought the advice of others, asking what she could do to deliver him from evil. One bishop famously told her not to worry, “Surely, the son of so many tears will not perish.”

And her son did not perish. Instead, he converted, amended his life, and went on to become the great Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine, if you’re Catholic). Augustine’s writings, influence, and titanic genius safely transitioned Christianity through the intellectual chaos and physical violence of the fall of the Roman Empire. Together with Thomas of Aquinas, who lived 800 years later, Augustine must be counted one of the two greatest thinkers in the history of Christendom.

By any standard, Monica was a well-behaved woman. And it’s true that Monica did not “make history” in the sense that she is not well-known today. But she did change history, immensely for the better. Monica was a dedicated mother. Her contribution was made through motherhood.

Mothers today love their children, and their children love them. But motherhood as a vocation – as a calling – no longer holds the esteem and importance it once did. This is a hard tide to swim against. Decades of feminists have convinced many women, especially young women, that home life is fraught with subjugation and limitation while the workplace brings independence and self-fulfillment.

This is why, when news of a heroin outbreak comes forth, we turn to the school district and the police department for solutions. Because parenting is no longer understood to be the most important thing parents do.

The Spanish have a proverb: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of priests.” An ounce of mother or father is also worth a pound of teachers or policemen.

The Settlement Observer is a resident of Farmington.

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