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St Anthony Gianelli
Bishop, Founder (entered heaven this day in 1846)
I was truly sorry to hear that things didn’t work out as well as you were hoping this year. But you shouldn’t let yourself be discouraged. If the Catholic Student Union shrank instead of growing, well, there could be a lot of explanations. Maybe God is just purifying you. Maybe it’s the darkness before the light. Or maybe you need to speak with the Leadership Team about coming up with some better tactics for evangelization. In any case, the last thing the Holy Spirit wants is for you to get discouraged (which is the first thing the devil wants, by the way).
As discouragement repellant, I suggest you start brainstorming about what you can improve, and I also suggest you start by reflecting on the example of today’s saint.
Anthony grew up in a poor, farming family in northern Italy. His parents were models of Christian virtue (for instance, his father was once stabbed while trying to reconcile two men intent on doing away with each other – instead of taking the stabber to court, he asked to be godfather to one his children, converting the violent fellow and winning a lifelong friend in one fell swoop). Their example didn’t go to waste.
As a boy, Anthony showed a prodigious intellect and a lively spirit as he studied his Catechism and joined his parents in their hard labor and their generous care for the poor. His mother saw signs of a priestly vocation in his piety and advanced Christian virtue (when some envious classmates started mocking him and throwing stones at him as he walked past them one day, he simply kept walking, telling the attackers that he forgave them and was willing to befriend them as soon as they liked), but his father wanted him to keep working on the farm. Soon, however, his extraordinary gifts and calling were undeniable, and with the financial backing of the farm’s owner (they were tenant farmers), Anthony was able to go seminary in Genoa.
There his unusual gifts were once again made evident, and he began officially preaching even before he was a deacon – drawing large crowds to his talks. His pastoral and intellectual talents continued to shine, and his interior life overflowed with the fruits of the Spirit, so much so that he received a special dispensation to be ordained years before the minimum age limit.
As a young priest he founded three Congregations, two of which were disbanded soon after his death, the third, “Sisters of Our Lady of the Garden”, continues to serve the ignorant and sick today on three continents. And that’s one reason not to be discouraged – if God allows even canonized saints to experience failures in this earthly Valley of Tears (i.e. his first two Congregations evaporated into the mists of history), why would a budding saint like yourself complain about difficulties?
Soon Anthony was made bishop of Bobbio, a small city in northern Italy. He was a model pastor there, winning hundreds, if not thousands of souls to Christ in just nine years. He died young, worn out by his work and by some mistaken medical treatments, but in that short span of time he accomplished a remarkable amount of good for the Church. In his first eight years he organized two diocesan synods and visited every parish in the diocese at least three times.
And that, I think, is where you can find a new tactical approach to your evangelizing work on campus. Big events and exciting activities are necessary and useful, but when it comes to winning souls over to Christ, nothing beats the good, old-fashioned, one-on-one, person-to-person approach. If everyone in the Catholic Student Union merely set out to win over one or two students a year, through personal contact and testimony, through building up model Christian friendships and taking the initiative to speak about the faith, the Union would be growing by leaps and bounds.
Something to think about, anyway. And why not ask St Anthony to give you hand – if he kept so busy while still on earth, I’m sure he’s eager to keep working from heaven.
Your loving uncle,