St Benildus, Religious

(entered heaven this day in 1862)

Dear Ben,

I was glad to hear that you are struggling against tedium.  A summer working nine-to-five fixing screws at the factory, and just about to start a school year that looks like it’s going to be spent in the laboratory and the library… You are on a path that can lead you to holiness, if you only know how to take advantage of it.  And I will help you as much as I can, because holiness is the same thing as happiness: true, lasting, deep, meaningful happiness. You may think that both holiness and happiness are connected with extraordinary things – like miracles, or winning the lottery. Not so. It’s actually all about doing the ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Your namesake (happy saint’s day, by the way) learned this lesson well.  The only thing unusual about this hero of God was his height: Benildus was extremely short.  So short that people ridiculed him about it till the day he died. By all other external standards, he was a totally normal guy.  He grew up in France during the aftermath of the French Revolution. While still in school, he felt called to become a religious and dedicate himself to the teaching apostolate.  But he had to overcome steady and deep opposition from his dad to do it. When he finally joined the Brothers of the Christian Schools, his dad visited the novitiate only to once again try to deter him.  To no avail. With tears in his eyes (it always hurts when your parents don’t accept your vocation), he told his dad, “If I had to live here on nothing but potato skins, I would not leave this house.” As the father walked sadly away, the young novice raced into the chapel to lay his sadness at the foot of the Eucharist.  

St Benildus had a natural gift for teaching, and his superiors took full advantage of it.  For 41 years he worked in schools, teaching, disciplining, encouraging, and changing hearts, little by little, day by day.  He excelled in patience and creativity, instituting all kinds of “modern” pedagogical methods decades before their time (just goes to show you that the Holy Spirit can do wonders with docile souls).  He even began inspiring the parents, because they saw their rude and uncontrollable boys transformed into virtuous and self-disciplined young men. All this time no one considered him a spiritual giant.  Only after his death, when his crucifix, which had been given to the carpenter who made St Benildus’ coffin, started performing miraculous cures, did devotion to the saint and an awareness of his holiness spread.

At his beatification, Pope Pius XI called this humble religious brother “the Saint of the Daily Grind”, which is why I recommend his example and intercession to you.  If you follow his footsteps, your daily grind can surely turn into the daily journey of grace that God wants it to be.

Your devoted Uncle, Eddy

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