The most important period of life is that in which we are the better able, in making good use of the present, to repair the past and prepare for the future; that period holds the intermediate place between the age of infancy and the age of maturity, embracing the advantages of both, presenting at the same time the flowers of the one with the fruits of the other. In order to prepare for the future we need a certain assistance from the past, for this preparation demands a certain maturity of judgment and a force of will that experience alone can give.
The child, devoid as it is of personal experience, can, by turning that of others to good account, make up for the deficiencies of its youth, and prepare for the future without having to learn in the severe school of self-experience. But, through an unfortunate occurrence of circumstances, and very often without any fault of theirs, the greater part of children attain the age of manhood and womanhood without having reaped the precious advantages offered them by the first stage of life, when the soul is most susceptible of receiving the impress of grace and virtue. A vitiated or inadequate primitive education, bad example, pernicious instruction? perchance, or at least personal levity of character, combined with that of childhood, deprive this age of many advantages, and call for a total reparation of the past, at a period of life that should be the living figure of hope.
Happy, indeed, are those who have only the levity and negligences of childhood to repair, and who have never felt the crushing weight of a humiliating and grievous fault! Alas! that purity, that innocence so common formerly among children, is every day disappearing from their midst, many among them have become the victims of sin ere the passions of the heart manifested their presence; and their hearts have quivered from the sting of remorse ere they felt the perfidious lurings of pleasure. Many have received from sin that doleful experience, that premature craftiness, which, far from enlightening the mind, obscures and blinds it, -- which, far from fortifying the will, enfeebles and enervates it.
Such is the light by which we can truly see the importance that should be attached to the time of youth. At this period of life sin has not yet taken deep root in the heart, -- it has not at least assumed the frightful magnitude of one of those inveterate habits, justly called habits of second nature, which invade and pollute the sacred sanctuary of both body and soul, forming in the earliest instincts, inclinations and desires so violent, so obstinate, that superhuman efforts with a life-long struggle are the consequences entailed upon the unfortunate victims, who desire to hold them in subjection.
However, it is invariably true that, if the passions peculiar to youth virulently assail virtue and expose the heart to the seductions of pleasure, they also give a great facility of doing good, by inflaming youthful zeal which age never fails to cool. The ardor aroused by them for the commission of evil can be easily employed for the practice of virtue; they are young and fiery steeds which God has placed at your disposal, ready to obey your orders. Attach them to the chariot of your will, they will not fail to draw you in the direction that you may open to their impetuosity. It matters not to them whether they run upon the way of vice or virtue, -- all that they require is to go, to run and not to be constrained to inaction, which kills them. They must be managed by a resolute will which holds the reins with a firm grip, and by a calm intelligence, skilled to direct them.
Trees, while young, can be easily plied into any direction that man may wish to give them. The same may be said of hearts in which the frost of age has not cooled the ardor and impetuosity of desire. Their energy and vivacity, whether for good or evil, never forsake them. They are like those spirited racers which are no sooner down than up again, for, swift as a flash, they will turn you to God by repentance and love, the moment you have the misfortune of losing Him by sin. Be then full of confidence and hope, young soul, to whom God has opened with a liberal hand the spring-time of life; be grateful to Him for so signal a favor, and, like a wise economist, profit by the resources that He places at your disposal. But, should the past recall some doleful memories, be not dismayed; be hopeful and, re- animating your courage, prepare for the future by sowing at present the germs of those beautiful virtues which grace irrigates, and whose fruits will rejoice your old age and atone for the sterility of your earlier years.
Your future happiness is insured if you fully comprehend the importance of the epoch which you now begin, and the greatness of its results for the rest of your life. Let past delinquencies become an incentive, stimulating your will to energetic action. Let the need of repairing the past, and the importance of preparing for the future inspire you with generous resolutions and an ardent desire of acquiring all the virtues necessary to a person of your sex and position, in order that you may discharge in a worthy manner all the duties which may be required of you. Regard the future with a calm and firm eye, without exaggerating the difficulties, but also without dissembling the dangers. The first condition required to avoid a danger is to know it, for the ignorance that conceals from us the snares which we should avoid is -- after the evil inclination that leads us into them -- man's greatest misfortune, and the most disastrous of the effects of original sin.
Women, even in the most humble walks of life, can scarcely hope now-a-days to enjoy that sweet, calm and peaceful life which was formerly insured by the purest morals and the most pious customs.
If the world, spite of that inordinate desire for reform and innovation which consumes it, has not yet seriously endeavored to withdraw woman from the circle to which Providence would have her devote the activity of her mind and life; if it has consented till now to have her shun the theatre and the whirlpool of political commotions, it will be extremely difficult for her to escape its counter-shock, and preserve her self-composure and serenity of soul in the midst of those turbulent events which absorb her husband's life, that of her children, of her father and brothers. If it was easy for her to preserve her heart at a tender age from the seductions of the world and the dangerous snares of vanity or pleasure, through the sweet influence of those more modest, and at the same time more rigid customs which identified her thoughts and affections with the family circle; such is not the case at present, for an unfortunate necessity, invested with the vain title of propriety, compels her to seek in a more fashionable, a more numerous, and consequently an unsuitable society, distractions or pastimes for which she is not made, and which recreate neither body, nor mind, nor heart.
The feverish agitation and insatiable thirst for enjoyment which seem to prevail among all ages and classes of the present day is enigmatical. Life now-a-days must be passed in a state of constant excitement. The peaceful calm productive of a modest and pure life appear to the imagination like a monotonous and disdainful sleep. The young girl herself has scarcely left the paternal home in which she passed her youthful days when she dreams of the pleasing emotions and incomparable joys promised her by a flashy and fashionable life. The examples which come under her notice wherever she goes or wherever she turns her eyes, -- the language which she hears, and the very air which she breathes, -- all give her, as it were, a foretaste of the false pleasures which now fascinate her imagination.
This is, most assuredly, one of the worst signs of our time. Up to the present day women, for the most part, faithful to their vocation and to the duties of their station in life, have carefully preserved in the family circle that sacred fire of Christian virtue which forms magnanimous souls, and that piety which produces saints. Their hearts, like the Ark of the Covenant, have preserved intact those tables of the divine law which admonish men of their duties, and inspire them with a firm hope. They have not fixed their hearts on the vain and frivolous joys of earth; no, heaven was their aim. Preserved from the contagion of worldly interests and desires, their thoughts feasted on elevated and heavenly objects. What will become of society if, deprived of the resources it found in their virtues, it meets with no other barrier on the steep declivity down which it is being impelled by cupidity and the love of pleasure? What will be the fate of future generations if they are not sanctified in the sanctuary of the family by the benevolent influence of woman, and fortified against the seductions of vice by that odor of grace and sanctity which the heart of a Christian mother exhales?
Be not discouraged at the sight of difficulties that hover over the horizon of the future; on the contrary, they should inspire you with greater courage and energy. The less help you will obtain from trusted sources of reliance, the more earnestly should you seek in God and yourself what you look for in vain elsewhere. You may expect to see diminish, from day to day, the number of those saintly souls from whom you could obtain advice, support or light.
For you, perhaps, like many others, life will be a desert which you must traverse almost alone, without meeting a single soul to reach you a helping hand in your necessities and trials. Being about to set out on this pilgrimage of life, which will perhaps be long, fatiguing and painful, be supplied with an ample provision of strength, patience, virtue and energy. And, if happily deceived in your fears, you find the road which leads to eternity smooth under your feet, you will at least have the merit of having been wise in your conduct, for not less moral strength is required to bear the happiness of prosperity than the misfortune of adversity. Happiness here below is something so extremely perilous to man's eternal welfare that few can taste it without injury to their souls. Hence, in order to guard against its fatal influence, not less preparation, nor less time, nor less efforts, are required than to suffer the privations imposed by adversity, for experience proves that the former is more destructive than the latter to the work of eternal salvation.