St Edwin

Martyr (entered heaven in 633)

Dear Ed,

I think I have an answer for you.  From the description you gave me in your last note, I can tell that some of your frustration is resulting from your defensive attitude.  As you discuss the faith with your peers, and try to convince your professors and family members of the trustworthiness of the Church’s teaching on all these issues, you have a nagging doubt in the back of your mind: “What if they don’t agree?  What if I can’t explain it well?  What if they ask me something I don’t know?…”  The insecurity resulting from this subconscious worry makes you come across as arrogant and belligerent, and that turns people off.  What’s the solution?  Simple.  Be confident in Christ and his truth.  The revelation God has given us through Jesus and his Church is dependable – more so than anything else.  You have the answers that everyone (whether consciously or not) is looking for.  In this light, every discussion (or “argument” as you call them) becomes an opportunity for you to identify the many obstacles to the truth that are blocking others from coming closer to Christ.  As soon as you identify them, gently try to move them aside. This will give the Holy Spirit more room to work, and little by little that soul will be drawn to God.  The story of today’s saint may be instructive in this regard.

Edwin was a pagan king of Northumbria (northern England) with great influence over the rest of the English kings.  He asked for the hand of St Ethelbert daughter in marriage (St Ethelbert was king of Kent, in southern England), but since she (Ethelburga) was a Christian, he was denied.  He persisted.  He assured Ethelbert that Ethelburga would have complete freedom of religion and that he himself would look into the Christian teachings, and so won permission for the marriage.  St Ethelbert wisely sent along St Paulinus as Queen Ethelburga’s chaplain, and the holy monk set about by prayers and discussion to win Edwin over to the Christian faith.  For a long time neither Paulinus’s nor Ethelburga’s efforts showed any results.  But eventually he agreed to gather his highest officials for a conference with St Paulinus on the true faith.  During the assembly, many of the pagan counselors and priests gave personal testimonies, showing that they had already been thinking deeply about the falseness of their gods and the pure light of Christian revelation.  One of the heathen priests put it especially well as he described the apparent senselessness of human life without Christ’s doctrine: “like the swift flight of a sparrow through the warm room where we sit and sup in winter when there is snow without.  It flies in at one door and out at the other, into the dark and cold from which it has just emerged.”  Finally, St Paulinus spoke, simply but clearly putting forth the fundamentals of Christian dogma.  The whole assembly was won over, and that Easter Edwin, his counselors, and hundreds of his subjects were baptized.  It was the beginning of a long and prosperous reign, the first Christian reign in northern England.  It ended after 17 years, when St Edwin died defending his Christian Kingdom against pagan insurgents from Wales.

Believe in the power of Christ’s truth, my young nephew – believe in it deeply.  Ask God to increase your faith and confidence in him.  Then, instead of the fragile light of vain uncertainty, your eyes will glint with the deep, warm light of Christian joy as you engage all questioners in fruitful discussions about the saving truths of our faith.

Prayerfully yours,

Uncle Eddy

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