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Martyr (entered heaven around the year 267)
I detect a tinge of unhealthy hesitancy in your latest emails. Reading between the lines, it seems that you are using comfort and ease as the criteria for setting personal goals for sophomore year. I don’t think it’s due to laziness (unlike most of your cousins, you have never suffered from adolescent lethargy or poisonous procrastination). Rather, I think you are unnecessarily afraid of striving for the kind of excellence that God is dreaming of for you. I’m not speaking about academic brilliance (your goals in this area are challenging but realistic), nor I am referring to extracurricular glory (here as well you seem to be putting your talents to good work – though I don’t see why you can’t fit in more time for apostolic endeavors if you are able to fit in so much time for horseback riding). The thing is, and I will be blunt here, from what you have written, you don’t seem to have made holiness your first priority. You don’t seem to think that sainthood is attainable for you, there, this year. You need a mentality shift, my dear nephew, and today’s saint can give it to you.
Agapitus was just a kid, no more than 15 years old. He lived in a small town about 25 miles west of Rome, in the third century, during the years just after the emperor Decius had instituted the first systematic persecution of Christians since the time of Nero. (He was trying to restore moral fiber to an increasingly decadent civilization, and he thought a return to the strictures of ancient Roman religion would help, and Christians refused to comply…)
A wave of persecution swept through Palestrina (the modern name of his town, where a couple of churches dedicated to God in Agapitus’s name are still in action), and the young man was arrested and arraigned. He professed an unflinching adherence to Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, and refused to plop any incense onto the coals in honor of the false pagan non-gods. And so he was condemned to death: they threw him to ravenous wild beasts in the arena (kind of a pre-game show – ancient Romans loved violent entertainment). Funnily enough, the beasts (which had been purposely left unfed for a good period of time) wouldn’t touch him. They simply left him alone, as if he wasn’t even there. As much as the officials egged them on, Agapitus simply stood praying, as if he were at home in his yard. They had to take him back into prison, miraculously foiled in their malicious attempts at brutality.
The crowd was so amazed that a slew of conversions followed. At this, the governor became even more alarmed, and sent an executioner to chop of Agapitus’s head.
And remember, he was only 15 years old. You’ve got four years on him. You see, holiness isn’t primarily about our efforts – we can never make ourselves like Christ all by our own puny exertions – it’s about God at work in us. And he wants us to live life to the full, “more abundantly” as Jesus put it (John 10:10). So if we give him the reins, keeping prayer, the sacraments, obedience to his will, and authentic Christian charity as our primary activities, his grace will soon sweep us into the realm of a truly meaningful, supernatural life, just as he did with this fifteen-year-old farm boy.
With that in mind, maybe you should take another look over your personal goals for the year. Don’t be stingy, be holy.
Your loving uncle, Eddy