One Lucifer sufficed to transform millions of good and holy angels into devils, one immoral child is able to infect a whole school, and to poison the hearts of all the children.I cannot, my dear children, impress upon you too strongly the necessity of avoiding all evil companions. Alas, how many are now in hell who owe their eternal damnation to the bad advice or wicked example of some false friend, whom they now curse as the author of their ruin. Our Blessed Lord, to show us the absolute necessity of avoiding all bad company and, indeed, every occasion of sin, however near and dear it may be to us, says: "If thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."
Learn from these words of our Lord to make any sacrifice, however much it may cost you, to keep out of bad company and the occasion of sin. If you have a friend or a companion, who is as dear to you as your eye, or your foot, or your hand, but who is, or who is likely to be, an occasion of sin to you, shun him as you would the devil himself. It is better for you to go without him to eternal life, than to be condemned along with him to everlasting torments.
My dear boys and girls, as you value your eternal salvation meditate on this example, for what happened to this young man might also happen to you. In a certain town in France there lived not long ago a young man who was an example and a model of piety to everyone. One day in the neighborhood there was held a public demonstration, on account of some local festival. This young man was anxious, like those of his age, to go and join the rejoicings. On ordinary occasions he was accompanied by a companion of his own age, pious and innocent as himself, but on this day this companion remained at home, probably on account of his fear of being led into occasions of sins. So the youth went thither alone.
On the way he was overtaken by another young man, who was notorious for his depravity. Our young man's duty was to avoid this new comrade, lest he might be led by him into temptation, but this he neglected to do. At first their conversation was about matters of little importance, but little by little his new companion began to utter unbecoming words, and to speak in contempt of religious things. The young man neglected to pray to God for
help, and to turn away from the path of evil, and in a short time lost the grace of God.
Not long afterwards he who had been so innocent and so pure was killed by an accident. Thus by a sudden and unprovided death, he was called before the dread tribunal of Jesus Christ, to be judged and condemned. The young man who had been the occasion of his fall was so overcome with this sudden end that he at once went to the neighboring monastery, and, casting himself at the feet of the Abbot, besought him to receive him, that he might do penance for his great sin.
"O my Father," he said, "I beseech thee to have pity on one who has just been the cause of casting into hell a soul created by God for heaven. Permit me to do penance under your guidance for the rest of my life." He became a fervent religious, but was thereafter never seen to smile; in his humility and sorrow he would cast himself on the ground before the religious as they entered the church.
Evil example is as catching as fever or small-pox; and a sin committed in the presence of others, especially of children and young people, is but too often the occasion of their falling into a like offense at some future temptation. Hence, it follows that the greater the number of those who hear or see us do wrong, the more grievous does our sin become, as by one sin we may be the cause of the ruin of many souls. For this reason, when we go to confession we ought to mention, as nearly as we can, the number of those to whom we have given bad example.
An Arab, living alone in his tent, one day was surprised to hear footsteps coming straight for the door of his tent. He was soon more surprised than ever to see the folds of the tent door open and the nose of a camel come through. "Out with you," said the Arab, but the camel didn't move, but said : "It's so cold out here. Please let me put only my nose through the door so that I may be warmed just a little." "Well, see that you come in no farther," said the Arab, and having said that he went about his work. When he turned to look again, the camel's entire head was in at the door, and it was looking all over the tent. "Didn't I tell you to come no farther?" said the Arab. "My head was cold," said the camel, "and I thought if you would let my nose in you would not mind about my head." "Well, see that you come no farther," said the Arab, and again went about his work. When he looked again, the camel had put its front foot and shoulder through the door and was reaching farther into the tent. The man turned quickly and was angry and told the camel to move back and go away, and was about to reach down and lift up a stick to strike it, when the camel walked boldly into the tent and drove the man forth from his own home.
I think you know now what it means when people say, "Beware of the camel's nose." There is only one way to keep the camel out, and that is not to let even its nose in, and there is only one way to keep evil out of our thoughts and minds and hearts and that is not to allow it to have the least entrance.
As to wicked company, I must again remind you that there is no danger against which we ought to be more constantly on our guard. There would be very few sins committed in this world, very few souls lost eternally, if it were not for the bad advice and evil example of wicked companions. The devil is not permitted to come to tempt you in visible form as he came to Adam and Eve, so he does what is far more likely to succeed, he sends bad companions to draw you into sin by means of their example.
Children, in choosing our friends we should select those from whom we can learn something good, and whose virtue and piety may be a bright example before our eyes to encourage us to overcome our faults, and advance daily in the way of perfection.