My dear young people, you all love peace and are looking for it. Where is it likely to be found? You look for it in most unlikely places; you find strife, deception, and sorrow. Sometimes you look for peace in the enjoyment of pleasures, in the diversions of the world; you deck yourselves with roses; you say,
"Let not this opportune time pass by; let us crown ourselves with roses before they fade."
But you find no peace; there is always a great vacuum which cannot be filled. The pleasures you have enjoyed have passed too quickly; they have often left a bitter remembrance, and the riches of the world give no contentment. Consider the great and wise Solomon, king of the Jews; according to his own admission, he sought and enjoyed every pleasure; he had a grand throne, great riches, his table was laden with costly food, and he had innumerable servants. There was no kingdom equal to his in splendor and wealth. Of all men Solomon should have been the happiest and yet he was not happy; the more he possessed, the more he was disgusted with the insignificance of these things; he saw in it nothing but vanity and affliction of spirit. Why was Solomon obliged to confess, that amid all his riches, his honors, and his power, he met with no satisfaction, no peace, but felt disappointed?
It was this: our hearts are made for God and to enjoy the pleasures of heaven; for that reason the enjoyments of this world can never satisfy us, or give us peace.
My dear young people, try to realize this in the beginning of your days. The things of this world look very attractive and promising in our youth, but years will open our eyes to the true state of things. Be not deceived, but begin by giving everything its proper value; love God alone, and that will give you peace, contentment, and happiness. It is certainly a lamentable fact that sin becomes the great source of enjoyment to many of our young people. So blind and wayward are they, that although they know that sin begets nothing hut misery and disgust, they still live on in that sad state. They eat the bread of iniquity and drink the wine of sin. Stronger and stronger grows the fierce fever of passion the more it is indulged, until it can be compared to nothing but a tempestuous, angry sea, threatening with destruction everything that is found in its way.
Oh, blessed days of innocence, when you had not tasted the seductive poison of sin! When a little lie, or a disobedience to your parents, gave you terrible disquiet of conscience. In those happy days you sat content at the frugal table, you loved your home and passed the evening in the bosom of your family. Then you had no idea what bitterness of heart or a disquiet mind meant; but there came a time when for the first time
you said, "Jesus, I will serve Thee no more." From that moment you felt the stings of conscience. You were like the fratricide Cain, who restlessly wandered about, afraid that every man was his mortal enemy. The rivers threatened to drown him, the hills to fall on him, the valleys to bury him alive. He 'had the dreadful thought in his mind that those who found him would kill him.
Would that we could realize the fact that to know God and to love Him is the only source of peace! Thomas a Kempis says, "That God, the eternal and infinite, who fills all things, is the real comfort of the soul and the real joy of the heart." Give testimony to that which you have experienced during these days of the paschal feast. You have made your peace with God by means of a good confession tell me, did you not feel a heavenly joy in your soul when the priest raised his hands to give you absolution? Did you not feel as if new life had been infused into your body and soul? And you, my dear young people, who have had the
grace of partaking for the first time of the Bread of angels: did you ever experience such happiness; did you ever feel greater consolation? What a difference there is between serving the good God and serving that cruel monster, the devil! If you have as yet never felt the consolation of serving God, now is the time to make a small effort, and God will reward you with a peace the world cannot give. When the first Napoleon was congratulated on a certain great victory he had gained, and his friends told him it was the most glorious day of his life, he said, "No, the most happy day of my life was the day of my first communion."
After Out Lord had twice saluted the Apostles with "Peace be with you,'^ He breathed on them saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." Impress these words on your memory, for they are the proof of the divine institution of confession. God gave His disciples and their successors the power of forgiving sins. What a great benefit did Our Lord bestow on mankind by this act! He saw that many who had been regenerated by the waters of Baptism would again fall into sin. He gave us this sacrament as a plank thrown to us after shipwreck. You cannot deny, however, that this divine gift is often abused. Some have the temerity to say, "We will commit this sin, and then confess it and it will be forgiven." Never load your souls with such a sin of presumption. Use that great grace for your salvation and not for your damnation.
When Our Lord visited the Apostles on this occasion, Thomas was not with them. When he came in they gathered about him, relating the occurrence, "We have seen the Lord," spoken to Him, and touched Him. Thomas answered, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." What an exhibition of human weakness! What incredulity, what obstinacy in following out his own views and despising the united testimony of the other ten! What presumption to lay down the law of evidence to Our Lord! Well it was that he had a master so full of love. Eight days afterwards Our Lord appeared again. the doors being shut, and this time Thomas was with them. The Lord had come especially to convince Thomas. Calling him He said, "Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing." So struck was Thomas by the goodness of the Master, so overcome with sorrow for his fault, that he fell down before Our Lord and cried out, "My Lord and my God." The Lord then said, "Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen and have believed."
There are many Thomases among us Christians, and even more incredulous than Thomas, who say, "Unless I see I will not believe." For example they do not understand certain doctrines of the Church; they deny them and are half infidels. A day will come, and perhaps it is not far distant, when they will have to acknowledge the truth of those doctrines; and severe punishments will be dealt out to them for their wickedness and impiety; they are so unbelieving, that if Christ were to appear again before them, they would maintain that it was not He.
My dear young people, do not choose such as these for your companions; avoid the conversation of those who do not respect religion; be careful of the books you read. The writings of out present day are full of infidelity. The best Protestant and infidel writers make most ridiculous charges against the holy faith. Doubts are raised concerning fasts; modem scientific discoveries are so distorted that they must needs throw discredit on religion. The young are especially entrapped by this apparent show of reason. Avoid such books, that you may not be affected by their teachings. You must not say that you ought to know the objections to our religion. If you study enough, and can refute them, well and good; but if your knowledge is insufficient you will lose your faith.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, when a child, had a certain book and tried to find out what it was. He could decipher enough to see that it was against religion, so he threw it into the fire and ran to wash his hands, because they had touched such a blasphemous work.
In matters of faith, drive away with great care every temptation; renew every day your promises of fidelity; tell God that with His grace you will be His constant follower and ask Him to enlighten and strengthen your faith. You may be sure that there is a great foundation of truth in your religion; that good and wise men have taught and believed it, such as St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and many others who have been the glory of the Catholic Church.
Blessed is he that shall have preserved his faith, for it is a precious gift. One day you will see the truths plainly revealed, though now some things may strike you as not in accordance with what the world believes. You will be glad at the hour of your death, when you will have the consolation to be comforted by that religion which you have professed in your lifetime.
"Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed."
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900