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Blessed Noel Pinot
(entered heaven this day in 1747)
Your latest news upset me, but it didn’t surprise me. One of the signs of authentic Christian apostolate is opposition, difficulty, hardship. So having your evangelizing efforts resisted so vehemently can be taken as a sign that you’re on the right track (though I agree that it seems the vehemence is irrational – an even surer sign that it is being inspired, at least indirectly, by someone beyond the realm of rationality, that most ferocious of intellectual spirits, Satan). In fact, I would go so far as to say that if everything were coming up roses (as they say), you would be giving me reasons to worry. So, how to respond to this kind of adversity? I think one of today’s saints has the answer.
He was a simple diocesan priest who had just been made pastor of a small parish in Brittany (northwestern France) when the French Revolution exploded. Once the revolutionaries took over, they began (among other projects) the dismantling of the Catholic Church. They required all clergy to make an oath of allegiance to the revolutionary government, and then they passed a decree by which the government usurped all authority for assigning priests and bishops – in other words, they created a schismatic Church in order to further their revolutionary goals. Many bishops and priests refused to take the oath, and resisted the usurpation. Among these was Blessed Noel Pinot. Not only did he refuse to take the oath, but he even convinced some of the priests in his diocese who had taken the oath to renege.
Such fidelity, of course, had its consequences. The revolutionary government exiled him from his parish and forbade him from coming within eight miles of it for any reason whatsoever. So off he went… But not for long. Unjust laws are not laws at all, and Fr Noel returned to his flock in disguise, ministering to the faithful secretly for almost two years.
At that point, a peasant rebellion against the revolutionary government gained some notable victories, which made Fr Noel bold enough to begin serving his parish publicly. Soon thereafter, however, the tide of battle was reversed, and when the rebellion was put down Fr Noel was arrested – just as he was vesting for Mass, in fact. He was imprisoned for three weeks and sentenced to execution for his disloyalty to the government. As he made his way to the guillotine – still vested to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice – he repeated the first words of the Mass “I will go up to the altar of God”. And indeed, the executioner’s stage became his last altar, though he offered his own body and blood as his final sacrifice, and not Christ’s.
The lesson is clear. In the face of opposition, obstacles, difficulties, or what have you, the Christian has only one option: find a creative solution. Fr Noel returned to his shepherdless flock under cover; he found a way to continue fulfilling his mission. Likewise, nothing should keep us from the work we must do, the work our baptism demands of us, the ineffable and everlasting work of building up the Kingdom of Christ. Creative solutions, my boy, creative solutions.
Your imaginative uncle,