Dances and balls are things in themselves indifferent, but the
circumstances ordinarily surrounding them have so generally an
evil tendency, that they become full of temptation and danger.
The time of night at which they take place is in itself
conducive to harm, both as the season when people's nerves are
most excited and open to evil impressions; and because, after
being up the greater part of the night, they spend the mornings
afterwards in sleep, and lose the best part of the day for God's
It is a senseless thing to turn day into night, light into
darkness, and to exchange good works for mere trifling follies.
Moreover, those who frequent balls almost inevitably foster their
Vanity, and vanity is very conducive to unholy desires and
I am inclined to say about balls what doctors say of certain
articles of food, such as mushrooms and the like--the best are not
good for much; but if eat them you must, at least mind that they
are properly cooked. So, if circumstances over which you have no
control take you into such places, be watchful how you prepare to
enter them. Let the dish be seasoned with moderation, dignity and
good intentions. The doctors say (still referring to the
mushrooms), eat sparingly of them, and that but seldom, for,
however well dressed, an excess is harmful. So dance but little,
and that rarely, my daughter, lest you run the risk of growing
over fond of the amusement.
Pliny says that mushrooms, from their porous, spongy nature,
easily imbibe meretricious matter, so that if they are near a
serpent, they are infected by its poison. So balls and similar
gatherings are wont to attract all that is bad and vicious; all
the quarrels, envyings, slanders, and indiscreet tendencies of a
place will be found collected in the ballroom. While people's
bodily pores are opened by the exercise of dancing, the heart's
pores will be also opened by excitement, and if any serpent be at
hand to whisper foolish words of levity or impurity, to insinuate
unworthy thoughts and desires, the ears which listen are more than
prepared to receive the contagion.
Believe me, my daughter, these frivolous amusements are for the
most part dangerous; they dissipate the spirit of devotion,
enervate the mind, check true charity, and arouse a multitude of
evil inclinations in the soul, and therefore I would have you very
reticent in their use.
To return to the medical simile;--it is said that after eating
mushrooms you should drink some good wine. So after frequenting
balls you should frame pious thoughts which may counteract the
dangerous impressions made by such empty pleasures on your heart.
Bethink you, then--
- That while you were dancing, souls were groaning in hell by
reason of sins committed when similarly occupied, or in
- Remember how, at the selfsame time, many religious and other
devout persons were kneeling before God, praying or praising
Him. Was not their time better spent than yours?
- Again, while you were dancing, many a soul has passed away
amid sharp sufferings; thousands and tens of thousands were
lying all the while on beds of anguish, some perhaps untended,
unconsoled, in fevers, and all manner of painful diseases. Will
you not rouse yourself to a sense of pity for them? At all
events, remember that a day will come when you in your turn will
lie on your bed of sickness, while others dance and make merry.
- Bethink you that our Dear Lord, Our Lady, all the Angels and
Saints, saw all that was passing. Did they not look on with
sorrowful pity, while your heart, capable of better things, was
engrossed with such mere follies?
- And while you were dancing time passed by, and death drew
nearer. Trifle as you may, the awful dance of death (1) must
come, the real pastime of men, since therein they must, whether
they will or no, pass from time to an eternity of good or evil.
If you think of the matter quietly, and as in God's Sight, He
will suggest many a like thought, which will steady and
strengthen your heart.