St Cyril and St Methodius

Co-patrons of Europe (entered heaven on this day in 869 [St Cyril] and in 884)

Dear Cy,

I completely agree with you; “competition” between Catholic groups is wholly out of place.  We are all engaged in the same great work – that of building up the Kingdom of Christ – and rivalries, jealousies, and envy only obstruct our progress.  The Church has always been a beautiful menagerie of personalities and charisms inspired by the Holy Spirit, and if we each faithfully fulfill our own mission, the whole body will benefit.  At the same time, however, we have to realize that the Church is divine AND human, and insofar as it is human, it will always exhibit some of our more petty tendencies. You can do nothing about how other people react to your evangelizing efforts, but you yourself can and should always support every good work being undertaken for advancing the cause of Christ.  In fact, I would say that God allows such conflicts (though he does not actually will them) precisely in order to give us an opportunity to imitate his heroic charity, his patience, his forgiveness, and his utter selflessness. Every time we take advantage of these opportunities, we release a flood of his grace into the bloodstream of the mystical body. Take today’s saints for example.

Cyril and Methodius were brothers.  They grew up in Greece and received an excellent education, which they both put to work initially in the civil sphere.  Methodius was governor of a Slavic province in the Byzantine Empire, and Cyril so impressed the emperor with his wisdom and prudence, that he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Khazars in Ukraine.  Eventually, both mixed experiences with religious life into their political dabbling, and so they were the emperor’s natural choice when the prince of Moravia (Slavic Europe) requested some missionaries who could evangelize the Slavic peoples in their own language.  Thus began one of the most famous missionary endeavors in the history of Europe. The saintly brothers were tireless in their efforts to minister physically and spiritually to the pagan Slavs, and the people responded blithely. Cyril and Methodius also managed to come up with a written alphabet for the Slavonic language, which became the vehicle for a national literature.  They also composed an entire liturgy in that tongue, which to this day is the liturgical language for both the Orthodox and the Catholic communities in Russia, the Ukraine, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Before their mission ended, they also translated the Bible into Slavonic.

Unfortunately, political conflicts between the German Emperors and the Byzantine Emperors over the Slavic lands interfered with their work, and twice they were called to Rome in order to plead their case before the Pope.  During the first visit, they were approved, made bishops, and commissioned to continue full speed ahead, though Cyril fell ill and died there in the Eternal City. Methodius labored on, in spite of bitter attacks from German prelates and princes, and dishonorable connivances on the part of the Byzantines.  The human reality of the Church erected obstacles, but never hindered the exercise of his zeal.  The unity of the faith was vindicated when he finally died, exhausted, and the funeral Mass was held in all three liturgical languages: Latin, Greek, and Slavonic.  Rivers of faithful who had received Christ through the achievements of these two missionaries flowed for days as they paid their respects after the funeral.

So, my courageous nephew, if you can keep Christ first in your heart in spite of the maddening circumstances you described, he will certainly not let them get in his way.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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