The period of youth is a precious time, during which a boy ought to be growing in the knowledge, love, and practice of every virtue. It is a time which bears the same relation to his spiritual life as childhood does to his bodily life; and therefore, just in the same way as the tender years of his childhood needed the loving care of a mother to protect from harm, and to develop the strength of his bodily frame, so does the time of his boyhood need the watchful care of a gentle mother, to bring to maturity, and to preserve from premature harm, those seeds of virtue, sown in his heart during the happy days of his innocent childhood.
There is in this idea reason enough to show us why our Blessed Lady should be the protectress of our youth. But there is another reason, and that is, the intense love which Jesus ever manifested for children. His eyes always looked upon them with loving kindness, and His face wore an expression of unspeakable tenderness, whenever He turned towards them. Hence it was, that in the crowds which surrounded Him, children ever contrived to be near Him. There was nothing in Him that terrified or overawed them; and they evidently perceived, with that natural instinct which they possess in so remarkable a degree for discovering those who love them, that His heart was full of tenderness for them.
He proved that such were His sentiments by the gentle rebuke He administered to the Apostles, who tried to thrust back both the children and those who strove to bring them to Him: 'Suffer little children,' said He, 'to come unto Me, and forbid them not.' Also, by the fact, that when the disciples were disputing among themselves about pre-eminence and dignity, He took a child by the hand, and setting him in the midst of them, proposed him to them as a model: 'Unless you become as this little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.' Now, if Jesus ever manifested so tender an affection for children, it was a reason for Our Lady to imitate Him in this respect also. They were dear to His Sacred Heart, and as her heart ever beat in unison with His, they must be dear to her also: the Mother cannot help loving and caring for what was so dear to such a Son.
When we begin to examine further into the reasons which could thus attract the love of Jesus, and of His holy Mother to little ones, we find that the Sacred Heart was moved to love them for another motive, besides that of being their Father and their God. He loves them because they are so innocent, and so much exposed to lose that innocence. Their innocence and their helplessness likewise attract the love of our dear Mother Mary.
What do her eyes behold in a young boy. She sees a soul which is radiant with divine grace, fresh, bright, and beautiful,--unconscious of evil, unsullied as the lily, and fragrant as a golden casket filled with aromatic spices. That soul is to her as a polished mirror, into which God is looking with wondrous complacency. She sees there, an exact reflection of His Divine perfections. His sanctity, His peace, His calm, are mirrored there as the heavens are reflected in the unruffled bosom of some inland lake. That soul is to her, what that little boy Tarcisius was, of whom we read in the history of the persecutions. The body of Our Lord, in the most Holy Sacrament, was put into his bosom to be carried to the suffering confessors in prison. What wonder is it, then, that she should love, and wish to protect and to save from profanation so precious a treasure, especially when she sees how easily that beauty, and that heavenly fragrance may be swept away. A word may do it,--a glance of the eye, a passing thought! And then, what would that youthful soul be before her eyes, and before the sorrowful eyes of Jesus Christ? As a fair garden, over which the desolating blast of a whirlwind has swept in all its fury. Its beauty, its fragrance, its fair and goodly show of fruit and flowers are all gone! And so with the soul. Instead of the God who dwelt there, there comes a tiger spirit of desire, which will never say, 'Enough.' That evil spirit will drag the child through the mire of sin, till his white robe be utterly spoiled, till the bloom, and the fragrance, and the glory of sanctity have departed, and left not a vestige of their presence behind.
Bear in mind, then, what a thing of beauty the soul must be, when it is innocent and pure. Ever look upon the Holy Mother of God, as the protectress of that priceless treasure, during the days of your helpless youth, when your very inexperience and ignorance of evil expose you to the cunning devices of the devil. Be determined to keep your heart in the state of grace, for it is grace which makes it so pleasing to God. Let the happiness of such a blessed state encourage you to guard it carefully. You bear Jesus in your heart, you have the image of the Blessed Trinity mirrored in your soul, you are an object upon which the Great God of Heaven looks down with loving complacency, from the height of His awful throne. But because you carry this treasure in an earthen vessel,--beware! You are clad in a white robe, and have to walk through muddy ways, and yet keep it from all spot and stain.
How shall you be able to do this? By looking upon the Mother of Jesus as your protectress, and by ever trying to deserve her loving care. Cling to her in temptation. Cry to her for aid. Beg of her to shelter you from the heat of the battle, and to be close at hand when your enemies rise up against you. But if, unfortunately, you have already lost that treasure, and have fallen upon the muddy way, do not be discouraged. Rise with great confidence, and do not, like a craven coward, lose heart at the first reverse. Stubborn resistance will at length carry the day. Therefore, pray fervently, shun occasions; be humble, and God will give you grace, by the aid of Mary's powerful intercession, to withstand the enemy. Your stains will be purged away, your robe will be made white in the blood of the Lamb, the treasure will be restored to your heart, and God will once more look upon you with love.
Oh, ever look upon your sweet and loving Mother as your Protectress! Ask her to guard your treasure with and for you, and you will be protected under her covering from the heat, and will rest in her glory!