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- Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 5/23 -

state receive their form and character from the family, so the family is modelled after the type of the mother's heart, since upon her devolves the culture of the infant mind, that all-important education upon which depends man's weal or woe, both for time and eternity. Hence it is that, while writing this little work, and considering that many to whom it is addressed will read its pages, namely those who are destined to be one day heads of families, charged with the education of several children, who in turn will found numerous families to act a more or less important part in the great movement by which the plan of divine Providence is executed throughout ages, I feel a kind of profound respect, bordering on reverential awe, that engages me to pray God to inspire me with thoughts equal to the sublimity of my subject.

Whoever you may be that read and meditate this little book, I honor and venerate the dignity of your vocation; I regard you as an august and sacred being. I admire the great designs that God has over you; I pray Him to have you participate in the sovereign esteem and respect with which your condition inspires me. You are as yet free from all engagements, in the bloom of youth, adorned with the treasures of innocence and candor, standing like a queen upon the threshold of the future which opens before you like a spacious temple. The past is immaculate and free from the sting of remorse; with a vigorous mind and will you behold the future's perspective without anxiety or dismay,--rich in pious souvenirs, saintly hopes, heavenly thoughts and merits acquired by prayer and the practice of virtue, ignorant of vice and its bitter consequences, save by the pictures that have been painted in order to inspire you with horror for it; your liberty is such that every Christian soul envies your happy state. You possess a power--I would almost say, a majesty--that no one can help admiring and revering. As there is no one freer than he who has never been the slave of sin, so there is no man stronger than he who has never succumbed to the allurements of pleasure. The woof of your life is there spread out before you intact and flexible, you can dispose and weave it as you please; you will now find none of those knotty or broken threads which, in after life, must sometimes be met with.

You are now at the period of life at which all the roads of life meet. You can choose the one that pleases you most, and enter on the good way with all that generous ardor so natural to youth. But, whatever you do, whatever the choice you may make, you will occasion the future weal or woe of many, perhaps for many generations. Whether spouse of Jesus Christ or of man, whether mother of a family or of the poor, whether a cloistered nun or a celibate in the world, you will neither save nor lose your soul alone; the effects of your virtues or vices shall be reproduced, long after your departure from the scene of life, in the lives of beings yet unborn, in favor of whom divine Providence implores your compassion. What a solemn moment! What sublime power! Have you given it serious thought?

Transport yourself, in thought, to the house of Nazareth, recall to mind the day on which Gabriel proposed to your Queen to become the mother of God, asking her consent to the Incarnation, by which was to be accomplished the salvation of the world. The angel's words astonished Mary's humility so far as to make her recoil before such a prodigious elevation, and, to obtain her consent, it was necessary to assure her that the Holy Ghost Himself would accomplish in her this prodigy. Indeed, it was a most memorable moment in the world's history,--a moment wherein the salvation of the entire human race hung upon the word of a virgin's lips.

Now, in your present condition, at this period of your life, you bear a certain resemblance to the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth, on the day of the Annunciation. A glorious destiny is also announced to you; to you also is promised a saintly posterity, if you give your consent and concurrence to the Holy Ghost, with docility to the operation of His grace. Be not astonished at so great an honor. The choice that you are going to make, the course that you are going to adopt, will determine and fix the fate of a family, of a generation,--of many generations perhaps, for God alone can tell how far the influence of your virtues or the result of your faults may extend.

If you have no regard for your own salvation or glory, oh, at least have pity for those whom the hand of God will place under your care, to be modeled by your instructions and example. Have compassion on them and on those who, succeeding them, must inherit your virtues or vices. Oh! how pleasing to God and respected of men is the young lady who, piously impressed with the greatness of her vocation, prepares for the future in a Christian manner, and resolves courageously to embrace and faithfully to discharge all its duties.

Like Mary, the model and glory of your sex, you also, but in a spiritual manner, are carrying Jesus Christ within you; and He, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, is leaving the impress of His virtues in your soul, that one day you may give Him birth spiritually, producing Him externally by a pure and Christian life. Like her you should be ready to accomplish the will of God in your own regard, saying, as she did, with sentiments of obedience and profound humility: "_Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word;_" abandoning your soul with perfect docility to the operation of the Holy Ghost, following Him wherever He desires to lead you. Let your soul glorify God, and rejoice in Him on account of the great things He has done in you, remembering that His mercy extends from generation to generation, in favor of those who fear him, and that holy families, fearing God, are formed by the lessons and examples of virtuous, God-fearing women. He reduces to naught those who confide in their own power and strength, while He sustains and exalts the humble. He freely shares His treasures with those who desire them, and reduces to indigence those who glory in their own abundance.

Let this beautiful canticle dwell in your heart and be the prayer of your lips; in this canticle, composed by the Mother of God, the honor and glory of your sex, or rather by the Holy Ghost Himself, who inspired her, He has inscribed all the rights and glories of women, by celebrating in it the power of her feebleness, the greatness of her humility and of all those modest virtues which so well become your condition.

A Christian woman who would never lose sight of what she is, of her worth, of her moral capabilities and of her sacred duties, will find in the frequent meditation of this sublime canticle considerations suggestive of thoughts and sentiments corresponding to God's designs over her. She should nourish her soul with the vivifying substance of the words it contains, and look therein for light to dispel her doubts, and for consolation in her troubles. In them she will also find a cheering hope in her languor, a powerful prayer in temptation, an acceptable act of thanksgiving, and a hymn of joy and triumph in her victories.



PILATE, on presenting to the Jews, Jesus crowned with thorns, and clothed in a purple garment, said: "_Behold the Man!_" Jesus frequently calls Himself the Son of man in the Gospel, that is, the Man _par excellence_, the Man who is the model and type of all others. To women, we can also say of Mary: "_Behold the woman!_" the honor, glory, joy, crown, type and model of your sex. Such is the manner in which Jesus presented her from the cross on Calvary, when He said to her, a few moments before expiring: "_Woman, behold thy Son!_"

It is, indeed, remarkable that the Saviour of the world, when addressing Mary in public, did not call her mother, but woman, as if, by that, He would declare to us that she is the model of all other women. It is as if He said to us: Behold THE woman; and, although she was His mother--principal title of her glory--nevertheless she is woman before all. She merited to become the most glorious of all mothers only because she had been the purest and holiest of all women. You should therefore have your eyes constantly fixed upon Mary, as a servant who watches her mistress in order to observe and obey her commands. If you can see yourself in Mary, you will entertain an exalted idea of the dignity of your sex; for it is in her and by her that you are great; it is to her you owe the honor and respect that the world pays the woman who knows how to respect and appreciate herself according to her just value. If you would understand all that you owe to Mary in this regard you need but consider what was the social condition of woman in society before the birth of Christ, and what her condition is to-day among people on whom the light of the Gospel has not yet shone. You are now too young to appeal to your own experience, but, according as you advance in life, observing closely what passes around you, you will learn--and God grant that it may not be at your own expense--what an immense difference there is with regard to the esteem in which woman is held between those who adore God as the Son of Mary, and those who regard her as common with other women.

Among men of social standing, whose habits, condition and character are so different, you can easily discern those whose faith discloses to them a reflection of the glory of Mary in you, from those who behold in you simply a daughter of Eve. Their conversation, deportment and looks, everything in them, will serve you as an index to this discernment. It is very difficult for man to disguise his real sentiments--dissimulation costs nature too dearly--but there are two circumstances wherein his moral character betrays itself in a striking manner, namely, in the presence of God, and in the presence of woman. It is neither permitted nor possible to a man truly religious and chaste to be bold or trivial in presence of either.

The woman illuminated by the sweet reflections of the glories of Mary, and imitating her virtues according to her state of life, enjoys the singular privilege of commanding the deferential respect of men of the most decided character. In her presence vice is silent, audacity is confounded, virtue, innocence and candor are at ease. The holy emanations of her heart purify the moral atmosphere around her, imparting to it a sweet and charming serenity, converting the place in which she appears into a kind of sanctuary.

By a contrary effect, resulting from a want of self-respect, woman becomes an easy prey to men of vain hearts and frivolous minds, who, not thinking themselves more obliged to respect her than she respects herself, without any reserve, give expression to the vanity of their hearts and thoughts. Everywhere and always ignorance or contempt of the Christian religion has begot contempt for woman, or disregard for her sacred rights and exalted dignity. Every where and always, irreligion has produced libertinism, the immediate and necessary effect of which is a depreciation of woman; and in those countries where the habits and institutions of the people have been deprived of the precious culture of Christianity, woman's condition is so abject that it differs in nothing from that of the brute, save that in _her_ the sacred rights established by divine Providence are most shamefully violated.

That woman is worthy of glory or ignominy is the logical consequence

Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 5/23

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