St Elesbaan

King of Ethiopia and Confessor (entered heaven in the sixth centuries)

Dear Eliza,

News of your latest victories has reached even me, here in my stifling tundric solitude.  Congratulations. I was also edified to learn that you have continued your volunteer hours at the children’s hospital.  I am sure those kids are edified by your example and encouraged by being in such close contact with a future Olympic athlete.  As your star rises, however, you should be forewarned that temptations will not diminish. At the moment, your future trajectory seems clear, but you musn’t for all that let your attention to God’s voice wane.  It could be that he invites you down a very different path than the one that seems so natural. And if he does, it would behoove you to follow. Such was the experience of today’s saint.

Elesbaan was a Christian born and bred.  And as he fell into Ethiopia’s kingship, he rightly saw that God was asking him to put his Christian wisdom and virtue at the service of the people he ruled.  This he did, winning the love and admiration of his subjects and the respect of his neighboring fellow rulers. Unfortunately, around the year 520, on the Arabian side of the Red Sea a Christian nation was usurped by a non-Christian ruler, who, in order to consolidate his power base, began a vicious persecution of the Christians.  Church leaders were exiled, Christian social leaders and their families were executed, and throughout the country freedom was impaired as terror grew. St Elesbaan, seeing himself as a disciple and servant of Christ, and engaged explicitly by the Christian emperor of the time, Justin the Elder, felt in conscience a duty to come to the defense of his fellow Christians.  This he did admirably, defeating in battle the forces of the anti-Christian usurper, and then showing exemplary prudence in pacifying opposing forces to reestablish just order in Arabia. He recalled the exiled Church leaders, appointed wise and virtuous governors, and authorized a famous congress to reconcile Jews and Christians.

From the looks of these early years, St Elesbaan was headed for political fame and fortune, but soon after his successful campaign, he felt called to a different vocation.  Indeed, he set aside his crown, commended his kingdom to his son, and sneaked out of the palace at night, making his way to a solitary mountain where he took the monastic habit.  He brought with him only a mat to sleep on and a cup to drink out of, and a heart full of desires to pray and do penance for the glory of God. For the remaining years of his life he served God in humility and silence, not even holding the slightest discourse with visitors from the outside world.  His example of virtue and holiness edified all the brothers, and he died a happy death, called to reign eternally with Christ in the everlasting Kingdom.

I’m not trying to convince you to consecrate your life entirely to Christ (only you and God know if that’s your true vocation), but I am concerned that even in the face of such a clear life path, you stay open to whatever indications the Holy Spirit may have for you.  After all, his plans will always be better than anybody else’s, won’t they?

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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