AS I begin this talk there rises up before me a beautiful picture. I see the Blessed Virgin Mary as a little girl, sitting at the side of her mother, St. Anna, and listening attentively to her instructions. How well instructed Our Lady was! And when we think of her we think of all virtues, surely; but there is especially one that shines forth in her with unequalled splendor. Of this, the pearl of virtues, I am going to speak now.
A good child, as everybody knows, must be obedient, kind and gentle, devout and pious. And now I am going to tell you what else a good child must be-- something without which a child simply cannot be a model of obedience, gentleness, and piety. That something is the lily-like virtue of holy purity—a jewel among the virtues. Yes, a good child must be modest, chaste, and pure. Be sure of this, my little people, for you and for everyone else purity is the most important and most necessary virtue for happiness in this life and in the eternal life to come. Without it you will make no progress in goodness and will never amount to much of anything in any way. Words cannot tell how priceless this virtue is. It is more precious than mountains of gold and silver; all the diamonds and gems of the world are as nothing when compared with this pearl of great price-- holy purity.
We can best understand what purity is telling what impurity is. And what is impurity? You have seen lovely, snow-white lilies on the altar, haven't you? How beautiful, how fragrant they are! Now, take such a lily and throw it into the gutter, into the mud of the street, and trample on it. Then pick it up and look at it. That is a picture of impurity! How ugly! Rather than soil in the least the lily of holy purity you must avoid everything that would endanger it: companions, places, movies, books, pictures. As soon as you feel that a thing is not nice, have nothing to do with it. Be willing to lose everything, even life itself, rather than your pearl of great price. Remember that you are a temple of God and that the Holy Ghost dwells within you. Remember that your body is holy, that it was consecrated to God in Baptism, that it is sanctified in Holy Communion. You are like a church, like an altar. How dreadful it is to desecrate such holy places!
Now, if you would not keep certain parts of your body covered you would blush for shame; and others would cry, "Shame on you!" and turn their faces away. People cover such parts even when they go in bathing. And one who purposely and without necessity or for the sake of impure pleasure uncovers these parts on oneself or others or looks at them or touches them or lets others do this, commits a sin against holy purity. I t can quickly and easily become a big sin, too. Indeed, impurity is so hateful to God that it can even be a big sin only to think willingly and with pleasure of such forbidden things, or willingly to talk about or listen to such things when bad, wicked persons make fun of them or tell stories about them or sing immodest songs. Whenever you are tempted to do anything that is not modest, think of God and say, " I can't and I won't! God is watching me." You cannot go to any place where God and your Guardian Angel do not see you.
But suppose you have lost your pearl of great price already—then what? Ah, then you must not be discouraged and give up and let yourself go. No, never! You can get it back—the pearl of virtue regained. And while you are still young it is all the easier. The chains of bad habit are not yet so strong. You can break them now, with the help of Jesus and Mary. Just make a sincere and sorrowful confession. Your sins will be forgiven and he will help you, so that you never throw that lily into the gutter again.
But maybe you never soiled the lily yet. Maybe you can say—as so many can: "With God's grace I have always been chaste and modest and pure." Oh, how happy you are! You don't know how happy! You cannot imagine from how many sufferings and temptations you are free because of your purity. You have no idea of how lovingly the Lord of heaven and earth looks down upon you, and the Blessed Virgin, and all the angels and saints. Why, you could never even dream of the wonderful reward you'll get for your holy purity in heaven! But you will always have to be careful, always on your guard, especially in our day and country. The devil has traps set everywhere. He wants to catch souls in the net of impurity. So I'll tell you what to do in order to avoid his snares and those of his allies, the world and the flesh.
You must be watchful and keep strict guard over your senses and your imagination. In this you must be resolute and constant. You must carefully observe exterior modesty, especially when dressing or undressing, and also in toilet rooms. But remember that what is necessary for cleanliness or such like reasons is not sinful. Indeed, great cleanliness in this regard is a real help to holy purity. Fight at once all thoughts against this pearl of virtues by turning your mind away and having recourse to prayer; by saying little ejaculatory prayers for help; by pronouncing over and over again the powerful names of Jesus and Mary; by thinking especially of the eternal truths: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
And remember this well: it is no sin when these thoughts come, no sin to have them. They are temptations, and temptation is no sin, but an incentive to sin. As long as you do not really want them, as long as you do not entertain them, as long as your will does not consent to the temptation, you commit no sin. On the contrary, by bravely fighting the temptation you show your love for God in very deed and merit to receive from Him a hundredfold reward in heaven. If you happen to see or hear anything that is dangerous or immodest, turn away from it at once with disgust and refuse to think of it at all. Do not let yourself be led astray by curiosity. Do not keep thinking of such things. What you need to know will be told you in due time; and if there is something that you think you should know, ask it privately of a person who is able to inform you in a nice, helpful way—like Mother, for instance.
Never read a book that is not modest and that causes you temptations against the pearl of virtues; and do not even look at pictures in papers and magazines if they are not decent. Look out especially for bad companions, wicked and nasty persons, who show at once by their conduct and words that they are impure. If you see that they are a danger to others, report them at once to teacher or pastor or parents. Do not let yourself be fooled when children of the devil laugh at you or tell you with scorn that this or that is not a sin, and you know that it really is a shameful and immodest thing. Such persons are liars and deceivers!
Above all, pray every day for the grace of holy purity. Receive Holy Communion often. It is the very best means of remaining pure. And the next best means is devotion to Mary. It is a beautiful and well worthwhile practice to say the rosary every day just for the grace that your soul may ever be lily-like in its purity and your body ever be the unsullied temple of the Holy Ghost. If you cannot say the whole rosary each day you can at least practice the devotion of the three Hail Marys. Every morning, with your morning prayer, say three Hail Marys in honor of Mary's spotless virginity and for the grace of purity during the day. Then add the prayer: "O Mary, my good Mother, keep me this day from mortal sin." And every evening, with your evening prayer, say three Hail Marys for the same intention and add the words: "O Mary, my good Mother, keep me this night from mortal sin."
Heart of Mary, bless the way,
Keep us all by night and day.
Heart of Mary, Mystic Rose,
Send us all a sweet repose.
Heart of Mary, Morning Star,
Ward off danger near or far!
Heart of Mary, by thy sorrow,
Keep us upright through the morrow.
Heart of Mary, by thy grace,
Give us with the saints a place.
Source: "Talks for Boys and Girls," imprimatur 1931