St Crispin of Viterbo

OFMCap (entered heaven on May 14, 1750)

Dear Chris,

All right, maybe you don’t have the mind of Aristotle, the body of Hercules, or the voice of the Muses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything for Christ’s Kingdom.  I am constantly amazed at the lack of imagination shown by my nieces and nephews these days.  It must be the pernicious influence of television.  In any case, I will take the liberty of reminding you that you have a particular gift of placidity.  You are a peaceful, easy-going guy.  Now that is a gift of nature and of grace, and if you invest it well, you will yield impressive returns.  How to invest it?  I think you can find some good clues from today’s saint.

Crispin (his original name was Peter) was born into a devout Catholic family in central Italy back in the seventeenth century.  He determined to enter the Capuchin monastery, but his frail health made the novice master nervous.  After overcoming all resistance he entered that community, however, and he ended up living as a faithful religious for the next 57 years.

He held many unglamorous posts during his years as a friar – cook, gardener, handy-man…  For the majority of his life, however, he was “questor” of the friary in Orvieto (a small town not too far north of Rome).  Being questor entailed going on daily begging trips around the town in order to gather necessities for the monks, as well as for the poor and sick who were under the Capuchin community’s care.

He prefaced his daily tours with assiduous prayer, and accompanied it with a constant interior conversation with the Virgin Mary, with whom he had a close relationship.

This duty put him in contact with everyone in the town.  He got to know all the families, all the feuds, all the needs, all the talents – everything.  And he took advantage of this unique position to work full-time as a peacemaker.  He was always helping people solve their problems, mediating disputes, and ironing out antipathies.  He didn’t shun the tough encounters either: chiding merchants for their selfishness and magistrates for their injustice and aristocrats for their lack of generosity.  And such conquests only increased the goodness that flowed throughout the city from his efforts.  The humble beggar, for all practical purposes, was the town mayor and police chief and pastor and lawyer, all rolled into one.  His begging filled the mouths and clothed the backs of the friars and the poor and the orphans, and his peacemaking filled with peace the hearts of all.

Couldn’t you do something similar on campus, in your dorm?  All Christians ought to be peacemakers, even those with naturally abrasive temperaments.  How much more should you who are gifted with gentleness and a pleasing manner be spreading the sweet aroma of Christ into the foul hearts of sinners.

Your devoted uncle,


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