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Bl Columba Marmion
Benedictine Abbot of Maredsous, Belgium (entered heaven January 30th, 1923)
Not having heard from you in a while, I can’t help wondering how your transition to college life is going. Let me guess. You are amazed at the freedom, overwhelmed by the beautiful coeds (that’s what you get for spending the last four years at a boys prep school), and swamped with work. I don’t think you have stopped going to Mass yet, but I bet it’s getting harder and harder to get out of bed on Sunday morning. If it is, take it as a sign, kind of a yellow light: something is off track. Christ comes all the way from heaven to give himself to you each Sunday Mass; if you can’t make it across campus to receive him and renew your friendship with him, you’re losing balance. Today’s saint was a marvelous balancer; perhaps he can inspire you to get back on track.
Blessed Columba (originally named Joseph) hailed from Ireland (though his mother was French). He lived a normal childhood, and dreamt of becoming a missionary from his early years. He entered the seminary in Dublin, and was subsequently sent to study in the missionary seminary in Rome. Once he was ordained, he desperately wanted to be sent off to the missions, but his bishop had plenty of work for him to do in Dublin and the surrounding areas, where he served as chaplain to convents and prisons, professor in the seminary, and curate of a parish. He was fast climbing the ecclesiastical ladder – an episcopal appointment was only a matter of time. But that’s when things got thorny. He began to discern God calling him to a more austere life. At first he didn’t know what to do with these monastic inklings; they fit in neither with his missionary ideal nor with his ecclesiastical career. But it was clear God was calling him to a more complete self-surrender. So he renounced his promising career and presented himself to the Benedictine abbey of Maredsous, Belgium. He was thirty-years old (much older than your average novice), but his conviction was firm, and he persevered, taking his vows five years later. After eighteen more years, during which he successfully balanced his monastic commitment with responsibilities as chaplain to Carmelite monasteries, professor and spiritual director to younger monks, and retreat director in Belgium and Britain, he was named Prior of Maredsous, a position he held for the next fourteen years. During those years he added extensive writing and editing to his many other works of evangelization, and arranged the preservation of his community in spite of the damage (physical and moral) caused by World War I, although this entailed sending the younger monks to other, safer monasteries while he and the older monks shouldered more of the burden at Maredsous.
You can tell by his life that he was a master at balancing apparently contradictory duties, but you can tell even better if you read some of his writings (a favorite of mine happens to be “Christ in His Mysteries”), which are so clear, so powerful, so simply limpid that they open up, as it were, a shaft between heaven and earth, where God’s light illuminates and puts in order the dark confusion of terrestrial meanderings. It’s just the kind of thing you need to keep you from being swept away by the not-so-healthy cultural tides drowning college campuses these days. I hope you can find some copies of Bl Columba’s prolific work, and if you can’t, you can at least ask him to intercede on your behalf – that’ll give you two prayer warriors keeping your guardian angel armed and ready.
Your devoted uncle, Eddy
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