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- Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 4/23 -

It is the heart that governs and shapes the will, giving it that flexibility and at the same time that constancy so prevalent among the greater part of women, leading them, with unflinching stubbornness of determination to the accomplishment of the end proposed. All difficulties vanish that stand between them and the object of their heart. This disposition renders them potent for good or evil, hence the necessity of regulating the heart and of never losing control over its movements. When their soul is swayed by a pure and generous sentiment, and when the natural weakness of their sex gives place to an energy which few men are capable of displaying, their ardor in doing good is truly admirable. God alone knows all the treasures of virtue stored up within them daily, by charity, maternal love, filial piety, devotedness and compassion, but He alone also knows the malicious excess to which a sentiment, bad in its nature or in its source, may lead them.

Oh, if while standing between these two abysses of good and evil, you could sound their depth, and behold the ineffable joy and glory that women have secured by the practice of virtue, the sorrow, disgust, humiliation and shame that evil doings have brought upon them (faults which at first sight did not seem capable of entailing such fatal consequences) horror and admiration should dispute the possession of your soul; you would indeed tremble on beholding the consequences of neglecting your vocation, while you would be astonished at the sublime elevation that fidelity to grace would secure to you in heaven.

God desires to accomplish great things through your instrumentality, and in order to secure your services with greater certainty he has placed around you barriers which you cannot pass without an effort that does violence to nature, still necessity makes it a duty to break them down, and necessity has no law. When the first step is taken nothing can impede the will in the execution of your designs, be they good or bad. Hence the great importance of making your first step in the right direction, as it will be the prelude to countless others.

If you wish to possess your own heart and insure to yourself a life exempt from trouble and remorse, attach it firmly to God; accustom it to always prefer duty to pleasure and to propose to itself in all its movements an end worthy of your sublime destiny. Remember that God alone can satisfy it--no creature being able to give it that peace which it so ardently craves. O, my child, if you knew the gnawing desires, the vain hopes, the false joys, the troubles, the regrets and bitterness that fill the heart in which God does not dwell! If your eyes were not screened by the veil of candor and simplicity preventing you from foreseeing the torments to which that woman's life is exposed, who has not learned in early youth to regulate the desires and affections of her heart, you would better understand my words, and the necessity of laboring energetically and efficiently to direct your own, and to check all its irregular movements. Learn now, and profit by the experience of others. Hearken to the voice of God addressing you in these words: "The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come; the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, and come. Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines, for our vineyard hath flourished." (Cant. ch. ii. 12, 13, 15). The foxes of which the sacred writer speaks here are those defects which, although they appear small, still assail the soul with great virulence, and will leave no virtue intact unless you hasten to destroy them.

The time for pruning is the time of youth, age truly precious wherein you can still lop off useless branches which absorb a portion of the sap, depriving the others of that strength which they need in order to produce an abundance of savory fruit. You should attack not only those gross and manifest defects which disfigure the soul, but also those imperfections which are slight in appearance, but which, if left alone, will in time become pernicious inclinations. You should even watch over certain natural dispositions, which, though good in themselves, and even often esteemed above their true merit by the world, might easily, on that account, divert the thoughts of the mind and the efforts of the will from more important objects; dispositions very often dangerous for those who possess them, because it is easy to abuse them, and because they flatter and nourish self-love, or the other passions that flesh is heir to. You should imitate those intelligent gardeners who pay a daily visit to their garden, pruning knife in hand, and cut off branches that might exhaust or overcharge the tree--not sparing them for the beauty of their foliage or the brightness of their flowers.

If you wish to cultivate your heart and make it produce all the fruit and virtue that it is capable of producing, suffer nothing useless or superfluous to grow therein, choosing what is best, measuring your esteem of certain things, and your application of certain duties by the degree of importance that each merits, giving the preference, in your mind and heart, to the virtues which bring the soul nearest to God. Love those hidden virtues, so modest and humble, which are the ornament of your sex--those virtues of which God alone is witness, which the world ignores,--which it often, in fact, despises, because they secure no advantage in men's esteem, receiving their reward only in the future world. But this is just the reason why God loves them so dearly, and why you should prefer them. For if, in general, it is dangerous to please the world and useful to shun it, this truth is especially applicable to woman, who, being confined to a narrower sphere, and devoted to more intimate affections than man, is obliged to seek, at a tender age, isolation, tranquillity, repose, and that retirement which are truly a shield to her virtues. In this way you will do more for the real development and culture of your heart than by the acquisition of more agreeable and more brilliant qualities.

Moreover, the same thing will happen for you that always happens when efforts are made to acquire what is best; when that which is essential is secured, the accessories will infallibly follow, just as the effect follows the cause that produces it. By acquiring the virtues that are pleasing to God you will receive, in addition, those which men esteem; in becoming more and more agreeable to God you will become more and more pleasing to men, whose good sense and sound judgment almost invariably triumph over prejudice which an austere but modest virtue always removes. This is also what the Saviour of the world insinuates by these words of the Gospel in which He recommends us to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, promising that all other things shall be added thereto. But this addition should not be directly sought, nor should it be ardently desired; await the will of God who has promised it to us, provided that we first seek the things to which that is accessory. Very often, on the contrary, when, through want of due reflection, preference is given to secondary and inferior things, by neglecting solid and hidden virtues for brilliant qualities, neither are obtained. God permits this in order to punish this subversion of the moral order and of the laws that govern it.



POPE ST. LEO, in one of his homilies on the nativity of our Saviour, says, in addressing man: "O man, recognize thy dignity!" We might, with all due propriety, address these same words to woman, for her happiness and virtues depend in great measure on the elevated idea that she has of herself, and on the care with which she maintains this idea, both in her own mind and in that of others. Woe to the woman who, through false modesty, or something still worse, has lost self-respect, for she has deprived herself of her most powerful safeguard against instability of character and seductions of the world.

Woman has received from God the sublime mission of fostering in society the spirit of sacrifice and devotedness. Faithful, nay, sometimes perhaps over-zealous, in the discharge of these duties, she feels an imperative need of sacrificing herself to another who should constitute the complement of her life. As long as she has not made this surrender of herself to another she is a burden to herself, for she seems to find her liberty and happiness in this voluntary servitude of the heart, in this constant abnegation, in this perpetual sacrifice of her whole being.

This disposition of woman's heart, which has been given her for the good of society and for her own happiness, can be easily used to the detriment of both; such is necessarily the case the moment she sinks in her own estimation, so as to account herself a being of little value. It is a matter of vital importance to her to have a just idea of the value of the present she is making when she engages her heart and her fidelity. In fact, when a thing is lightly appreciated, we make little account of giving it away and less of choosing those to whom we give it. Now, if we consider the deplorable facility with which a vast number of women obey the caprice of their heart or of their imagination, we will be led to conclude that their valuation of them--selves is very low indeed. They seem to lose sight of the fact that in giving their heart they give the key to all the treasures that enrich their soul; they give their will, all their thoughts, their whole life. They sometimes give more than all this, they give their eternal salvation, their conscience, and God Himself, putting in His place, by a sort of idolatry, the object that claims their heart.

To prevent this deplorable prodigality of themselves, women should spare no pains to comprehend thoroughly their dignity, of which they can never have too high an appreciation or too great an esteem. It would be most prejudicial to them to lower in their own mind their just value by a false humility.

The most humble of all women is, at the same time, she who had the best knowledge of her dignity. And her humility, which was never equaled by that of any other woman, did not hinder her from seeing the great things that God had operated in her, as she herself proclaims in that sublime canticle which is the "Magna Charta" of the rights, the prerogatives and the greatness of woman.

The two most beautiful and most elevated things in all creation are the intelligence of man and, the heart of woman. They are the special objects of God's complacency. He seems to be absorbed in the work of their education; to this end he seems to have converged all the miracles wrought by His divine Son, all the mysteries of Jesus Christ.

To impart to man a knowledge of truth and a love of virtue was the end that God proposed to Himself in the creation of the world. But the order which he had established was iniquitously subverted, and this subversion has shaken society to its very foundation, leading man's intelligence to conceive a hatred for truth and to become the slave of error; turning away the heart of woman from what is truly good and great to pander to false and transitory goods, which sully without contenting it.

The heart of woman may be said to be the source from which flows all the good or evil that consoles or afflicts mankind. As the city and

Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 4/23

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