St Anthelm

Bishop of Belley, (in southwestern France) (entered heaven in 1178)

Dear Ann,

Don’t think like that; you’ll just tie yourself up in knots.  The way to decide whether to consecrate your life exclusively to God in the service of the Church or to sanctify the world by entering into it like a torch in the dark is not by mere calculation.  You can make as many diagrams as you want, as many lists as your lively imagination can come up with, and as many permutations as advanced calculus will permit, but it still won’t give you the clarity and assurance you’re looking for.  God has given you talents, and he has given you desires (of course, all your desires don’t necessarily come from God, and seemingly contradictory desires can easily reside in our heart together – that’s what makes loyalty and fidelity such beautiful qualities), but, ultimately, you get to choose how to use them.  He has made mighty saints out of kings and merchants and farmers and lawyers and chemists, but he has also made mighty saints out of people who could have been all those things but chose to invest their mind, skills, and strength in being monks and nuns and priests and missionaries. Just because you have a talent for architecture doesn’t automatically mean that God wants you to serve the Kingdom as an architect.  It could, but it doesn’t have to.

Take today’s saint, for example.  Anthelm came from noble stock and inherited (or learned) the traits of organization, economy, and prudence that had made his family prosperous and respectable.  He spent his first years as a priest putting those talents at the service of his own comfort and “career” (clergy often viewed their vocations as careers in the Middle Ages, when the Church still played a direct and important role in civil affairs).  A few visits to relatives in the Carthusian monastery nearby changed all that. He felt God calling him to give up his comfortable and self-indulgent ways, which he did, taking the monastic habit when he was 30. Soon the same talents that had won him success in mundane affairs yielded extraordinary fecundity in ecclesiastical affairs.  He served as prior of two monasteries, restoring and rejuvenating one and positively reforming another, founded a third, took a central role in resolving rival claims to the papacy, and thoroughly revived the derelict Diocese of Belley. Of course, all the while he longed for the silent austerity of an obscure monastic cell (he fervently, even tearfully, beseeched the Pope not to appoint him bishop, to no avail), but Providence saw fit to make ample use of this man’s earthly talents precisely through the mediation of his consecrated status.

So you see, my dear sister’s daughter, it’s no use trying to figure out where your abilities will get the most mileage – let God take care of that.  You just get down on your knees and tell him that you’re ready to do whatever he wants (even though it will be scary to say it), then peacefully and confidently follow wherever he leads, at whatever pace he chooses.  

Ciao, Uncle Eddy

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