St Anthony of Padua

(in Italy) Doctor of the Church (entered heaven 1231)

Dear Toni,

Don’t waste your commutes.  Think about it. You have to take the train into the city and then back home every weekday for the next two months.  That’s 20 minutes twice a day. That’s 40 minutes every day for 40 days. That’s 1600 minutes. That’s almost 30 hours of free time.  You can either squander it in chitter-chatter, waste it in dozing and daydreaming (getting yourself into trouble with the kind of daydreams you tend to have, no doubt), dissipate it with trivial reading, or invest it in your great adventure of becoming a postmodern saint.  It’s your choice. You are totally free to determine how you will utilize these precious hours. Just keep in mind that you will never get another chance to use them. Once you’re back on campus in August, these hours will never return. Never. I bet you could read through the whole Catechism, or the documents of Vatican II, or the entire Bible during these commutes (get one of those “Daily Bible Reading” Bibles if you like that idea; they give you a variety of readings for each day of the year, breaking it up and keeping you interested).  Or you could become an expert on your favorite saint, or your favorite era of history, or your favorite artist… The possibilities are myriad; you just have to decide to invest this “talent” (these thirty hours) for the good of your soul and all the souls who will someday be entrusted to your care.

Today’s saint is an interesting case in this regard.  Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and entered religious life when he was only 15.  For nine years he prayed and studied and grew in the love of God, especially through spending time with the Holy Scriptures.  Then he met some Franciscans and felt called to join up so he could become a martyr while trying to convert the Muslims in North Africa.  He set sail, but a storm drove them off course and he ended up disembarking on the shores of Italy. Soon he had met St Francis of Assisi and was assigned to a hermitage in northeastern Italy.  One day, during the feast that followed a large ordination ceremony, he was serendipitously invited to give the traditional speech (he hadn’t been scheduled to do so, but miscommunication had produced an embarrassing situation in which neither the Dominicans nor the Franciscans present had prepared the required talk).  His eloquence and learning acquired so humbly during his years back in Portugal and his long commute to Italy, so shocked the assembly that he was immediately sent out to preach among all the towns and cities of northern Italy. His fame erupted overnight, as did a sweeping moral reform and widespread return of heretics.  His holiness was so palpable that often just the sight of him brought sinners to their knees. People used to spend the night inside churches in order to assure a good seat for the morning’s sermon. Once he converted a heretic mule driver when he inspired the mule to genuflect in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Soon he added a professorship in theology to his list of responsibilities, and when he died at the young age of 34, he had sufficiently impressed the Pope and the people of Italy with his fervent and contagious love for God and the Holy Scriptures that he was canonized in less than a year.

I don’t mean to scare you by saying that you might die young (although you might), but I do mean to remind you that if we spend our time well, we are more likely to successfully fulfill whatever mission God has in store for us.  So, take advantage not only of those commutes but also of all the other moments of your days… You won’t regret using them well (even though it takes self-discipline to do so), but you will regret wasting them.

Love, Uncle Eddy

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