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- Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 6/23 -


of her being regarded as a daughter either of Eve or of Mary. In the one she is the poisoned source whence sin with all the evils that attend it flowed into the world, in the other she is the blessed source whence the Salvation of the world has issued forth. And, what she has been once for the entire human race in the garden of Eden and at Nazareth, she is yet every day for a people, a city, a family, or for each man in particular, according to the elevation of her position in society, and the extent of her influence.

The greater part of Christian nations owe to the prayers and examples of some holy woman, some pious queen, for instance, the gifts of Christianity and civilization--in this regard France has been, among all nations, singularly fortunate, and the name of Clotilda shall forever be revered in the pages of its history; while on the other hand, woman has often been instrumental in depriving the church of a kingdom, and in plunging into darkness and error a long succession of generations. For instances of this we have only to recall the names of Anne Boleyn and her cruel daughter, queen Elizabeth.

Countless numbers are indebted to woman for a knowledge of the truth, or the misfortune of forsaking it. Is there one who, in recalling the memories of the past, does not either bless or curse a woman, seeing in her an instrument of God's mercy, or of the seduction of Satan? Is there one who has not realized in that woman either a daughter of Eve or of the Blessed, Virgin--an Eden or a Nazareth? Behold the two poles between which the history of peoples and the life of each man in particular continually oscillate. Eve and Mary these are two guiding stars, either of which man must follow; the light of the one is deceitful and treacherous, while that of the other is true and beneficent; the one leads humanity along the paths of righteousness, while the other lures to the commission of sin. Hence it is that the church has given Mary those beautiful names, so significantly true: "Morning Star!" "Star of the Sea!"

This world is, indeed, like a stormy sea, in which are rocks and shoals, upon which man runs the risk of being wrecked unless he keeps his eyes steadfastly fixed upon this star whose brightness no storm can dim, and which, at the most perilous moment, shines with greater brilliancy, as the cheering sign of grace, hope and happiness. It is by turning our eyes toward Mary with her divine Son in her arms, presenting Him to us as our Saviour, that our troubled souls find the polar star which will quiet all their movements, and tranquilize the fluttering beatings of our troubled hearts. But, woe to us if, instead of fixing our attention upon Mary, virgin mother of God, we turn to Eve, infected with the contagion of the serpent, and offering to our hearts the doleful fruit of temptation and sin!

At the entrance to every path that leads to heaven or to the abyss of hell you will find a woman--the image of Mary, at the former, the image of Eve at the latter. It almost invariably happens that it is woman who deals out to mankind sin and death like Eve, or life, redemption and salvation like Mary. If you meet with one of these privileged men, chosen by God to be an instrument of His mercy, intimately associated with Jesus in the work of the salvation of His people, you may rest assured that this man owes to a woman, to a mother or a sister, the development of the great qualities which distinguish him. While, on the contrary, if you see one of those men tainted by the curse of some hereditary vice, very often more pernicious than original sin in its effects, you will discover that its source is the lesson or examples of a woman, whose poisoned influence shall oppress generations, just as that of Eve has oppressed the human race. Once again, I repeat it, that, as the corrupt and incredulous generation is the offspring of mothers modeled after Eve, so the holy and faithful generation traces its origin to mothers modeled after Mary.

You must choose between these two models, and on your choice will depend not only your own happiness and salvation, but also that of many yet unborn, whom God will confide to your care, and who will be dear to your heart. There remains no alternative; you will be either a cause of temptation and sin, or an instrument of grace and benediction for those who will live with you. You will either offer them the forbidden fruit like your mother Eve, or you will give spiritual birth to the Word of Life for them. As one of the greatest torments of the reprobate woman in hell will be to see the woeful misery into which she has brought those whom she had loved so dearly upon earth, and to hear the maledictions and reproaches which they shall hurl against her, so, also, one of the greatest joys of the faithful woman in heaven, will be to see those whom she sanctified by word and example now grouped around her, crowning her with a diadem of glory as a mark of everlasting gratitude.

Would you deprive your soul of this saintly joy, and condemn it to suffer the punishment reserved for those women who will be the cause of the ruin and eternal perdition of many? Divine justice shall vindicate itself, even in this life, by making your heart a most cruel torment to itself, that you may expiate, in agonizing torture your infidelity to grace. The cause of your sin shall be the very means of your punishment. God will employ, to avenge His outraged honor and His violated laws, those whom you have turned away from Him, and who, recognizing in you the cause of their evils, will end, perhaps, by hating you, or, what is still worse, by despising you. Oh, may it never be your sad fate to feel the withering contempt of those who have been led away from God by your bad or undue influence, that is, by loving them for _yourself_ and not for _God and themselves_! Do not, I pray you, store up such bitterness for your old age, such anguish for your death-bed, since, instead of bitter regrets, you can experience a sweet joy, which is a foretaste of never-ending happiness, a special consolation for God's faithful friends at that last and dreadful moment when the soul stands trembling on the threshold of eternity; may it be your envied privilege to leave after you upon earth souls edified by your example, and grateful for the good you have done them.

CHAPTER VI.

EVE AND MARY CONTINUED.

The history of the fall of man, caused by Eve, and of his restoration, brought about by Mary, is a subject of grave consideration for women of serious minds, for women who have at heart the preservation of the dignity and vocation of their sex. By a close consideration of these two models, which furnish the solution to so many enigmas, explaining so many truths and throwing so much light upon the most obscure and the most profound questions, they will learn by a short and easy method what they should do, and what they should avoid; they will learn how sin has been propagated, the reason why it still exists; they will learn how justice and virtue flourish upon earth, how men turn away from God, and how they return to Him. It was with reason that God allowed sin and justice to attain us through the agency of woman, and that her free consent was a necessary condition for both the ruin and the restoration of the human race.

It is therefore an interesting and useful study to consider in their detail and most minute circumstances the acts (so extremely opposed) of these two women, for one of them, according to the beautiful expression of the Church, has restored to us by her divine Son what the other had deprived us of by her disobedience. There is in these two facts, so different in their nature and results, a wonderful gradation which points out to us the fatal declivity by which the human heart insensibly sinks to the lowest abyss of evil, or rises to the highest degree of virtue and glory. In the sin of Eve the first degree was a certain intemperance of language, which led her to reply to the insidious questions of the devil; in appearance this forgetfulness was very slight. To answer a question, give an explanation requested of you, clear up a doubt, render an account of a precept of the Lord, seem at first sight something natural and permitted. It is quite easy to be deceived in this matter. We readily convince ourselves that we are actuated by laudable motives in such like conversations--motives for gloryfying God and justifying His providence; but we should be extremely cautious: language is something august and sacred, for it is the tie that unites the soul to God, and man to his fellow-men,--it is the mysterious knot of all societies, divine and human.

Language establishes between those who speak a more intimate relation than they are generally aware of. Few persons realize the prodigious transfusion of thoughts, sentiments, influence and life that arise from conversation. Have you clearly understood this truth in its full force? Language establishes between souls a very close and mysterious union, and this is why discretion, prudence and reserve are so necessary in regulating its use. This is why Jesus Christ warns us in the Gospel, that we shall render an account of _every idle word_, if indeed we may call idle a thing that entails such frightful consequences or fatal results.

If this reserve is necessary for all it is more especially so for woman, who, being more communicative than man, experiences a greater necessity to speak--to express herself more freely, and in terms more explicit. If women were sincere and impartial judges of themselves they for the most part would not fail to recognize that nearly all their faults spring from a useless word--an imprudent answer, or an indiscreet question.

The word why is indeed very short, but in its insidious brevity it comprises a multitude of things which are all the more dangerous because they are unforeseen, being concealed in a perfidious and cloudy vagueness. Why? This word is the beginning of the greater part of those temptations against frailty. The enemy, seeking our destruction, almost invariably announces his presence by this captious question, either by the mouth of another or by our own mind, in order to fill the heart with doubt and trouble. Why take such and such precautions? Why avoid such a place, such a person, such company? Why renounce such and such amusements? Why neglect or cast off that ornament? Why suffer this or that privation? Why abstain from this action, which is not bad in itself? Why turn away the ear from those praises, those compliments, dictated by usage or etiquette, to keep up that intercourse without which society would be impossible? Why not read this book, this novel? Why not assist at this play which the most rigorous moralist would not condemn; and which has for its object to inspire horror for vice, by placing before our eyes its doleful consequences true to reality? Why restrain to inaction the finest faculties of the soul, and refuse them the aliment they so ardently crave? Why deprive our heart and imagination of the pleasures which the beautiful inspires? Why not form at an early age a taste for worldly beauty, and be possessed of all the resources and advantages that it affords us during life? Why be mistrustful of the mind and heart, at an age when they still possess all their simplicity and freshness, through vain fear which renders after-life almost intolerable? Why not be more confiding in the heart's fidelity and in the goodness of God, who has not condemned man to constant privations?--Such is the language that the enemy of our eternal salvation and happiness addresses us every day with such perfidious adroitness; and who, spite of the experience of


Serious Hours of a Young Lady - 6/23

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