Don’t Be a Brocklehurst, Be a Teresa

“Madam, allow me an instant.  You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying.  Should any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation.  A brief address on those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; to His divine consolations, “If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye.”  Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children’s mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!”

Mr. Brocklehurst again paused—perhaps overcome by his feelings.  Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required a sculptor’s chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into petrified severity.

  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Mr. Brocklehurst is certainly cringe-worthy. Every time I get to this passage, I can’t help but grimace. Not just because he is a hypocritical jerk, but it brings to mind the times when I’ve been a Brocklehurst. There was a point, after I decided to stay Catholic, that I became Psycho Catholic. A Psycho Catholic is a puritanical breed, where life becomes a black and white affair of rules and ego. As you might imagine, this makes you and the Church quite attractive. Thinking back on some of my finer moments, I can just see the person on the receiving end reacting much like Miss Temple. There is only one sane reaction to a Brocklehurst, and it is certainly not welcoming the preaching with open arms.

Today, Mother Teresa was declared a saint. She was anything but a Brocklehurst. First and foremost, she loved. She loved each and every person she encountered. She never faltered in teaching the truth, but she did it out of love. She fed the body and the soul. I doubt there were very many people who responded to her with petrified severity upon encountering her.

It’s easier to be a Brocklehurst, but that’s the last thing people need. However, we could use quite a few additional St. Teresas!


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