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St Clement I
Pope and Martyr (entered heaven in the year 101)
You are doing it again. Can’t you tell? You’re letting yourself get turned upside down, so that your Christian identity seems less and less important than your college identity – Frat guy, top student, ladies’ man… I really can’t blame you. It ain’t easy to keep Christ in first place when everything and almost everyone around you is living for self-indulgent and self-glorification. But even so, with God’s help (help that is never lacking to those who WANT to make use of it), you can do it. All the saints did it. The key is to keep focused on Christ – what he wants, what he is asking, what he is like… It’s lesson today’s saint learned better than most.
Clement was a native Roman, but he came from a Jewish family. He met both St Peter and St Paul, and shared in their evangelizing missions, traveling and suffering with them to spread the Kingdom of Christ. He outlived them both, and he survived the first two waves of persecution – though the third, under Trajan, took his life (we don’t know the details). After the second, he was made the bishop of Rome, a post he filled with burning zeal and the sweetest charity, as is evidenced by his famous letters to the Church in Corinth. Those letters, especially the first, were so highly thought of by the early Christians that they were read during Mass, just like the letters of St Paul. I would like to share with you a passage from them. It will re-energize you, reminding you of what a Christian’s true priorities are:
“Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy, suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith. He taught justice to all the world and when he had reached the limits of the western world, he gave his witness before those in authority; then he left this world and was taken up into the holy place, a superb example of endurance.
“Around these men with their holy lives there gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures.
“We are writing this, beloved, not only for your admonition but also as a reminder to ourselves; for we are placed in the same arena, and the same contest lies before us. Hence we ought to put aside vain and useless concerns and should consider what is good, pleasing and acceptable in the sight of him who made us. Let us fix our gaze on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.”
That’s the kind of spirit you and I need to live and breathe and spread wherever we go. Nothing else is worth living for – only Christ, only his Kingdom, only his Friendship.
Your loving uncle, Eddy