St Claude de La Colombière

S.J. (entered heaven this day in 1682)

Dear Colombo,

Sometimes I feel like a broken record.  (And you retort, “Yah, sometimes you ARE a broken record!”)  But with nephews like you, broken records can be helpful.

Remember, just because you have decided to follow your vocation to the priesthood at the end of the year, doesn’t mean that all the pleasures and attractions of the world (I’m not only thinking of the sinful ones, by the way) will magically not apply to you all of a sudden.  You are still you, a sensitive, fun-loving, and social kind of fellow, and the world is still a very comfortable and titillating place for such fellows.  But if you are faithful to your calling, God will use the gifts he has planted in your personality in fruitful ways beyond your imagining.  Take today’s saint, for example.

He was a lot like you in a lot of ways.  Good family upbringing (French nobility), healthy faith, and a deep love and appreciation for the pleasures of aristocratic living, from draughts to Danishes to reciting Dante.  But he, like you, felt the call.

At 17 he joined the Jesuit novitiate, and in his diary he wrote soon after: “I have a terrible aversion for the life embraced.”  Did you see that, a “terrible aversion” for life in the seminary, and yet that’s where God was calling him, and he knew it, so he forged ahead.  And God had a plan.  He became tutor to the children of King Louis XVI’s brilliant minister of finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert; he became a professor at the Jesuit college at Lyons; he was named preacher and moderator for several Marian congregations, where his flair for the humanities made his sermons of special attraction.

His tact, poise, social grace and sensitivity were so well tuned, that he was chosen for the most delicate of tasks.  When rumor spread that St Margaret Mary Alacoque was being visited by Our Lord with the revelations of his Sacred Heart, guess who was sent to be confessor of the Visitation community at Paray, where the young nun resided.  Claude, of course.  When the Duke of York took a Catholic wife, Mary Beatrice D’Este, and it seemed that there was a chance he would succeed to the Protestant throne of England, guess who was sent to be preacher to the York household.  Claude, of course.

In both cases, he succeeded with flying colors, helping St Margaret Mary fulfill her mission, and bringing a steady stream of English nobility back into the Catholic fold.  Unfortunately, he was falsely accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the King of England (remember the infamous “Titus Oates Plot”?).  So he was imprisoned for three weeks, in horrible conditions that aggravated an already grave health condition.  When King Louis XVI extracted him from harm, he returned to France a physically broken man, and died soon thereafter.

Such a remarkable career: always in the thick of the biggest religious and political issues of seventeenth century Europe, and yet he started out with a “terrible aversion” to his vocation.  There’s a lesson in that for you, my fickle nephew, and I hope and pray you learn it.

Your devoted uncle,


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