I. THOUGH Our Lord, in His boyhood and His infancy, was just as much God as He was in His mature age, and as He is now, seated in glory at the right hand of the Eternal Father, yet He chose to seem unto men like any other child. The shepherds who hung over Him as He lay in the manger saw but a helpless, wailing infant. The Magi, who bent their knees before Him, and presented their typical gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, perceived no look of intelligence in the eyes which gazed so wonderingly upon them. Like other children, he grew up and became strong; like other children, His reason seemed to develop with His years. Yet all this time the plenitude of Divine wisdom and grace dwelt in Him. There can be no doubt that God ordained this apparently slow and gradual advance in reason and in virtue, on the part of His Son, to teach boys that they too must advance in virtue and in intelligence as they advance in age. He wills them to keep the boy Jesus before their eyes as their model. Imagine, then, to yourselves a boy whose soul is without spot or stain; who is obedient and submissive ; who ever thinks of others before himself; who is open, truthful, humble, sweet tempered, affable, and mild. Picture to yourself one adorned with all these virtues, and yet in a way not to attract an extraordinary amount of attention looked upon, indeed, with a feeling of veneration and love, but yet exciting no more of these sentiments than an upright and holy boy always excites in the hearts of those who know how to appreciate and cherish so priceless a treasure. Such a one was Our Lord Jesus Christ in His boyhood.
II. Such also ought each of you to be. Your progress in virtue and in favour with God, ought to correspond with your growth in years and in wisdom. But this is not always the case. Too many boys, alas ! decrease in virtue in proportion as they advance in age. By their sins they lose the favour of God, while by their sharpness and their wit they gain the applause of men. Their early years give promise of a youth rich in virtues. We watch them expanding before our eyes like beautiful flowers, increasing every day in fragrance and in loveliness; but, unhappily, the cankerworm of vice sometimes creeps into those childish hearts, and eats away the very substance of their virtue, leaving behind nothing but the fair exterior. All that made them lovable and beautiful is withered and dead; and while in the eyes of men they appear worthy of praise and commendation, they are unto God and His Angels objects of detestation and of loathing. They grow and wax strong, and, it may be, display a brilliancy of parts which dazzles and astonishes their friends and their professors ; but they are as weak as infants before an assault of the devil, and, like cowards, throw down their arms, and open wide their gates, when he first summons them to surrender. Alas ! when that evil spirit enters their hearts, he not unfrequently enters them to take up there his permanent abode. Hence it is that boys whom we have known to be pure and innocent of all evil become, as they grow older, prodigies of vice. Instead of being open and frank, submissive and humble, mild and unselfish, they become cunning and deceitful, rebellious and proud, vain and jealous, passionate and selfish. There is in them no thought about God, or about the purpose for which He sent them into the world. They begin to loathe virtue and the practice of piety; they shun the society of the good ; they neglect the Sacraments ; and thus their hearts, which were once the tabernacles of God, are changed into the abodes of the devil.
III. This must not be your case. It need not be the case of any boy, how weak soever he may be. For the devil is like the bully of a School he masters only those who are afraid to show fight. From those who face him like men, and who are prepared to strike out in self-defense, he flees
away with all speed. Besides, if you feel afraid, you have always near you the boy Jesus. He is your friend nay, He wishes you ever to look upon Him as your brother. When, therefore, the devil comes to attack you, if you fear your own weakness, run at once to your loving brother. His arm is strong. His blow will make your enemy and tormentor reel and stagger, like a man who has been stunned ; and then your arm, feeble though it be, will easily prostrate and defeat him. But you must go to Jesus not only when the devil attacks you, but when anything troubles you. You wish to make progress both in virtue and in learning, and you find that there are many obstacles in the way, many difficulties to be overcome. Jesus, your brother, is ever at hand. Go to the silent chapel, where the lamp burns so softly before His altar-throne, and there speak to Him, and lay open the sorrows of your heart before Him your weaknesses, your fears, your defects. Tell Him of your difficulties in study, and ask His help. Do this not once or twice, but regularly every day. What, think you, will be the result ? You will, like the child Jesus, advance both in heavenly and in earthly wisdom, and the grace of God will be in you.
Source: Lectures for Boys, Imprimatur 1896