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- Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 3/23 -
Do not think that the river of life will always flow for you as it does at present, broad, deep, calm and limpid, between two flowery banks. Age will diminish those waters and deprive their banks of their charm and freshness. The flame of passion, like a burning wind, will rise, and more than once perhaps will bring to the surface the mud that rankles in the bottom, and thus destroy its limpidity.
A day will come, and before long, when, stripped of all those exterior advantages which please the senses, you will possess only those qualities, less striking, but more solid, which satisfy the mind and heart and attract the complaisant regard of God and the angels. Youth will quickly pass, more quickly than you think, and the subsequent period of life will last much longer, hence, in all justice to yourself, let its preparation absorb your attention.
If you had a long sojourn to make in a place close by, would it be reasonable on your part to pay less attention to the place of your destination than to the few fleeting moments it would require to go thither. Youth is not a stopping-place, it is a passage, a time of preparation; it is to the whole life what the florid period is to the gardener, or seed-time to the farmer.
Oh! if you did but fully comprehend the value of each hour during this most important period of life, the value of each thought of your mind, of each sentiment of your heart, with what extreme care you would watch over all the movements of your soul, nay, even the external movements of your body.
That fugitive thought which enters your mind, fanned by curiosity's wing, may seem quite trivial; to dwell on and delight in it may be to you something indifferent. That sentiment which, scarcely formed, commences to germinate in your heart, and to produce therein emotions so imperceptible that you are but imperfectly conscious of its presence, seems insignificant at first sight; that unguarded glance seemed to you a matter of no import, and which, at an earlier or later period of your life, would have but little consequence. At an earlier age the impression, it is true, would be lively but inconsistent, and the levity of childhood would soon have replaced it by another; later it would be found so superficial and trivial that it would be soon forgotten among the multiplicity of thoughts which absorb the mind at the age of maturity; but, during the youthful years, everything that comes under the notice of the senses sinks deeply into the soul, penetrating its very substance, the faculties still retain all the vivacity of youth, while already they participate in that firmness which is characteristic of the age of maturity.
That thought is, perhaps, the first link in a chain of thoughts and images which will be the torment of your conscience and the bane of your life. That sentiment to which you imprudently pandered is perhaps the source of countless fears, regrets, remorse and sorrows. That imprudent glance is perhaps the first spark of a conflagration which nothing can extinguish, and which will destroy your brightest hopes.
If, as yet, you are ignorant of all the evil of which an imprudent glance may be productive, recall to mind the example furnished us by the Sacred Scriptures in the person of David, who, for his imprudent glance at the wife of Urias, committed two crimes, the names of which you should ignore, and suffered a life of sorrow, repentance, bitterness and anguish: a life which even yet serves to express the sorrow and repentance of imprudent souls who have yielded to the allurements of the senses. And, nevertheless, David had attained the age of discretion when the mind is firm and the will is strong; David was the cherished one of God; he was just and virtuous, one on whom God had special designs of mercy. What a terrible example! What a severe, but at the same time instructive, lesson!
Young Christian soul, may it never be your sad experience to learn the effect of an imprudent glance which would exact from you the bitter wages of countless tears and regrets. Is there anything in the material world so beautiful, so beneficent as the light and heat that we receive from the sun; is there among material things a livelier image of the goodness of God towards us? And, nevertheless, let the sun shine upon the young and tender flower or vine immediately after a shower of rain, and it will cause them to droop and wither. The reason is quite obvious, for at no time is a being so frail and delicate as at the moment of its formation. There is a critical period for all beings, during which the greatest possible care is necessary. In this relation, what is said of the body may be said of the soul; character is formed and developed according to the same laws which regulate the development of the physical constitution.
Are you not aware of the extraordinary care that must be taken of those organs that are the chief motors of the body, while they are under process of development? Are you not aware that the fresh air which you inhale and which purifies and invigorates the blood contains for you the germ of death, which justifies in your good parents the anxious care they take of your health, but which you perhaps regard as entirely unnecessary?
Now, what the lungs are to the human body, that the heart is to the soul. It is by the heart that we breathe the spiritual and divine atmosphere that sustains our moral life. This atmosphere is composed of three elements,--truth, goodness and beauty, which envelop and penetrate the soul's substance; as it is the respiratory organ of the mind it follows that for the heart, as well as for the lungs, there is an epoch of development which is dangerous, and which, consequently, demands the greatest possible care; it is the epoch of your age at present. An emotion too vivid, an indiscreet thought, an imprudent glance, is quite sufficient to imperil the interesting and delicate process by which your moral constitution is formed, to accelerate the development of the heart, and thus give to this most important organ a pernicious precocity or a false direction.
Your mother, anxious and always trembling for your welfare, guards it with tender solicitude from all the dangers to which it might be exposed. But her vigilance cannot equal that of your guardian angel, nor the care with which he removes you from contact with all that might in any way tarnish the purity of your soul, or trouble its peace and harmony. It is to you that the Holy Ghost addresses these words of the Proverbs: With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it. [Footnote: Proverbs iv 23.]
The heart is, therefore, the seat of the moral life, and as the source is known by the waters that flow from it, so will the moral life partake of the character and bear the impress of the heart whence it proceeds. This is true of youth in general, but more particularly so of young ladies.
THE HEART OF WOMAN; THE NECESSITY OF REGULATING IT DURING YOUTH.
The most humble, most chaste, most holy of women, Blessed Mary ever Virgin, she who is the ornament and glory of her sex who, in consequence of her privilege of being the mother of God, merited to be elevated so high above all creatures, revealed to us the existence of a faculty in the soul, unknown to the philosophers, undiscovered by the saints, unspoken of by the prophets. This faculty is more conspicuous in woman than in man, for it exercises in her a decisive influence which extends over the entire period of her life. Hence, God, "who ordereth all things, sweetly," (Wisdom, viii. 1), desired that its existence should be made known to us by a woman, and that, too, while she was visiting another woman.
In answer to the salutation of her cousin St. Elizabeth, Mary, filled with the Holy Ghost, breaks forth into that sublime Canticle, called the "Magnificat:" "He hath scattered the proud," she sings, "_mente cordis sui;_" literally, "in the _mind_ of their heart." This is the faculty of which I speak; that _mind_, that _intellect of the heart_, if I may so term it, which is the hidden recess, the secret chamber of the soul, either blessed by the peaceful presence of humility, or cursed by the baneful restlessness of worldly ambition or pride.
It is not going too far to say that a woman's mind is in her heart; it is the source both of the thoughts which ennoble and elevate, and of those which are selfish and worldly; it is the key to all the powers of her soul, so that he who becomes the possessor of her heart is master of her whole being, and can exercise over her a power of fascination which has no parallel in nature.
God who disposes every being for the end which He proposed to Himself in creating it has established in woman's heart an abyss which no human affection can fill nor exhaust when once it has been filled, because He desired to submerge her whole being in love, and thus to render easy and necessary to her the noblest sentiments and the most heroic sacrifices. Such is the agent that He wished to employ for the culture of charity in society and in the family circle, as well as of the virtues of tenderness, compassion and devotedness. He desired that in the family the child should be borne, so to speak, on woman's heart and man's intelligence, as on the two arms of one and the same being; He desired that in society the mind of the one should furnish the light to guide in the way, and the love of the other should produce that vivifying principle which animates and quickens man's being: And, thus, that the moral life of humanity should be the result of these two factors. God endowed the heart of woman with treasures of tenderness and devotedness, desiring to be Himself the supreme object of its devotion. To Himself alone has He reserved the power of calming its fearful agitation and soothing its poignant grief, hence we see it turning to Him in its joys and sorrows, like the magnet to the pole that attracts it. He has made the heart of woman broad and deep, so that its devotedness may suffice for all the exigencies it is called upon to meet, whether in society or in the family, yet finding no created object able to exhaust it.
When, forgetting the sublime end for which she has been created, woman lives for the world and not for heaven, lavishing her love on creatures instead of giving it to God, her Creator, her soul becomes the prey of inexpressible anguish and despondency, which admonish her of her mistake and induce her to correct it.
You can easily judge from this of what great importance it is to you to keep a vigilant watch over your heart and its movements, since the heart is, so to speak, the citadel of your whole being, and hence when it is captured all the powers and faculties of your soul are forced to surrender. The heart is the agent that furnishes woman with the greater part of her ideas, and the object of its predilection inevitably becomes the only object of all her thoughts. This is the artist that furnishes the imagination with those images which remain substantially the same under forms constantly varying, but absorbing the soul to such a degree that a person is often tempted to look upon their action as the result of obsession.
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