Midnight strikes, and still the bells ring on. Why do they not cease with the Old Year ? No, they may not cease yet; they have done but half their task. Ring out a joyous peal ; the New Year is coming, a gift fresh from the hand of God, like a parchment rolled, unsullied, unmarked by good or bad. The bells promise this New Year to me my tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, sixtieth mark the "my" word. But how much will be mine? I am living now, and have seen the Old Year out, but shall I be here at the close of the New? Shall I see the whole parchment unrolled and make my marks upon it as I did last year good, bad, indifferent, poor, like a careless child's copy? I can get no certain answer to this question. No one on earth can tell me how much of the New Year is to be mine. The doctor may say my heart is sound and my constitution good, but these will not keep me from fever, contagion, or accident. What must I do, then ? Bring home to myself this truth of uncertainty, and let it teach me to be wary in my doings and heedful of my steps.
The midnight hour with the merry bells ringing is a time for reflection. I see myself standing and listening to the sound, reaching out my hand to my Creator and taking from Him time in drops, as it were; lifting up my face to Heaven and expecting the hours and the days as they become due. What a hold God has on me ! What if I should reach out my hand in vain ? What if I lift up my face and receive no light? He is Lord and Master, and the moments are His. Blessed be His Name for ever.
But the bells ring hope into my soul, and joy in the present, and trust in the future. What is best is given always what is best for me. And He Who did not fail me in the past will not fail me in the future. I will take, therefore, from His hand a long life or a short one; joy or sorrow, ease or pain. And I will welcome each as a gift from One Who loves and Who knows. And I will stand up firm and brave to meet the unknown New Year, for I know He will not try me beyond my strength ; He will not give me a "stone when I ask for bread" nor a "serpent when I ask for fish."
Now I want all you children to make one resolution at the beginning of this year. But first of all I will tell you a story. Perhaps you know it. Never mind; read it again. One day, when St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, was a boy, he was walking alone in a meadow thinking of God and holy things. He loved to go about alone and to think. As he strolled along the fresh green grass, he met a Child of most wonderful beauty. The Child called him by his name, and He spoke as if He was one of his familiar companions. Edmund was astonished. He had never seen the Boy before, or certainly he would not have forgotten such a face. "Do you know Me?" said the Child. "Why, I am with you all day long, always by your side. Look at My forehead, and read what is written there." Edmund read : "JESUS or NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS." "That is My Name," the Divine Boy continued. "And because I love you so dearly, I would have you write upon your forehead every night before you go to sleep these letters I.N.R.I. I will protect you, and keep you from a sudden and unprovided death. And I will protect not only you, but all those who do in like manner." Ever afterwards Edmund signed his forehead with the holy letters, and hundreds of children have followed his example. I would like you to have that practice for your own and never forget it, no matter how tired you may be. It only takes a second or two.
"I.N.R.I." as you say, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, preserve me from a sudden and unprovided death." I know some one who traces the letters three times over for her three brothers, for fear they should forget the act of devotion they used to do together in the nursery. I don t think Our Lord could disown a child who always wrote those words upon his forehead every night before going to sleep.
This is my one resolution. It isn't asking very much, but it will test your faith and your love and your perseverance. Try it ; be faithful, and I promise you that it will make a difference in your lives.
Saints and Festivals - A Cycle of the Year for Young People, Imprimatur 1913