St Chad

Bishop of Lichfield (in west-central England) (entered heaven in 672)

Dear Cheryl,

Don’t let yourself be seduced by self-named Catholic theologians who berate Catholic dogma.  This is an old trick, and it has poisoned many souls; don’t let it poison yours. Remember that theologians too are inside the community of faith, and their research, reflection, and teaching is meant to help all of us understand more clearly and appreciate more deeply God’s revelation.  When they step outside of the community of faith, creating an alternative or parallel communion, they are betraying their life’s mission. You should keep this in mind for yourself as well.  Your natural intellectual capacity is above average, and you will certainly face the temptation to trust your own wits more than the Church’s official teaching. The only way to avoid falling into this temptation is to do what today’s saint did: keep your feet planted on the solid ground of Church authority.

St Chad did so literally.  After training as a youth under the famed English monk St Aidan, he retreated to a monastery in Ireland, where he hoped to pursue his dream of a life spent in silence, prayer, and sacrifice.  God had different plans for him, though, and his brother, St Cedd, called him back to their homeland in order to take charge of a newly founded English monastery. Less than a year later he was consecrated Bishop of York.  The great historian of the Church in England, St Bede, describes Chad’s episcopal ministry as follows: “As soon as Chad had been consecrated bishop, he began most strenuously to devote himself to ecclesiastical truth and purity of doctrine and to give attention to the practice of humility, self-denial, and study: to travel about, not on horseback, but on foot, after the manner of the Apostles, preaching the gospel in the towns and the open country, in cottages, villages, and castles…” It is the portrait of an exemplary pastor.  Nevertheless, some controversy later arose about the legitimacy of Chadd’s episcopal consecration. The archbishop of Canterbury (St Theodore) determined that he had been improperly ordained. Chadd simply responded, “If you consider that I have not been properly consecrated, I willingly resign this charge of which I never thought myself worthy. I undertook it, though unworthy, under obedience.” Theodore was so impressed that he made a valid consecration then and there and assigned St Chad to the bishopric of Lichfield, where the humble prelate continued his zealous ministry.

If our theologians had St Chadd’s sense of service to and reverence for the Church’s authority, divinely established, guided, and guaranteed, young apostles like yourself wouldn’t have to pursue their studies suspecting heterodoxy around every corner.  Let’s keep them in our prayers.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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