St Bertinus

Abbot (entered heaven on this day in 709)

Dear Bertha,

Your enthusiasm is contagious.  I just read your most recent note, and I was delighted to see how conscientiously and energetically you are beginning your college career.  You’ve chosen your classes carefully, signed up for the right amount of extracurriculars, made yourself a demanding but flexible weekly schedule, and identified the different Catholic communities (and Mass times) in the area.  And you’re already making some friends with some people who share your priorities. I think you’re off to a good start. But I want to make sure you don’t forget one important thing: you need to find someone to keep you accountable, someone like your youth minister back home, whom you met with regularly to go over how your life of Christian discipleship was doing.  Don’t think it’s just a luxury to have a spiritual guide or mentor; as today’s saint shows, it’s the very way of the Church.

St Bertinus was born in Switzerland and received his education in a monastery (that was common practice back then for children of aristocratic families).  A yearning for holiness and spiritual adventure took root in his soul, and he followed in the footsteps of a relative of his named Omer by consecrating his life to God in a monastic community in Luxeuil, in northern France.  A couple of friends, Mammolin and Ebertran, joined him.

Under the guidance of the abbot at Luxeuil, St Waldebert, he learned the monastic ropes, as did his companions.  Soon Omer was made into a bishop, and he invited Bertinus, Mammolin, and Ebertran to join him in evangelizing the idolatrous villages and cities on the French side of the English Channel.  They eagerly accepted the invitation.

Facing the wrath of half-Christian idolaters is always risky business, but they had learned well from St Waldebert.  Inch by inch they conquered souls and territory for Christ. Soon they established new monasteries, and attracted throngs of vocations.  Mammolin was made abbot of the first, Bertinus of the second. Bertinus’s monastery grew faster, so fast, in fact, that it spawned other monasteries, among which was one whose first abbot was Winoc, a faithful disciple of Bertinus.  Bertinus lived fruitfully, prayerfully, and ascetically, until he died at extraordinary age of 105.

Now here’s the missing link, the detail that will make all of this relevant to your start-of-college-to-do-list.  St Waldebert had inherited his monastery from St Eustachius, who had succeeded St Columba. And of the other characters in the story, the following became saints in addition to St Bertinus: St Omer, St Mammolin, and St Winoc.  Get the point? Nobody achieves the fullness of their Christian vocation all by themselves; we need spiritual mentors, someone to guide us and keep us accountable, to pass on the torch of eternal wisdom. Christianity is not individualistic; it’s a family thing; it’s a relay race.  So start looking for someone who can hand you the baton.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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