St Eric of Sweden

Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1161)

Dear Rick,

Nothing hurts like a vicious insult.  On second thought, getting your head cut off might hurt even more, though the pain would go away sooner… Forgive me, nephew – such morose topics sometimes distract me here in my artificially lit cubicular prison, especially since getting my head cut off may very well be on my torturers’ to-do list.  But I digress. I wanted to write you to say happy Saint’s Day (you should celebrate with cake and fish stew – if you eat enough cake you won’t be able to eat the fish stew… just kidding, of course; I would never want to turn my relatives in gluttons) and give you some encouragement. You see, you are not the only who has had to suffer insults, mockery, and even violence for the sake of your faith.  As our Lord himself pointed out, “Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20)

St Eric of Sweden knew all about it.  When, under the influence of his faith in Christ, he began to put order and justice back in his violent and brutal society (for example, he gave Sweden its first comprehensive legal code), even sending missionaries to evangelize his country’s attackers after vanquishing them in battle, some of his nobles got a bit perturbed.  They conspired with the heir to Denmark’s throne and arranged a brutal murder. They brought an army against him, and as he rode ahead of his own soldiers, they threw him down from his horse, beat him, and lopped off his head.

So the next time you have to endure badmouthing and insults (whether to your face or behind your back), ask St Eric to pray for you, so that you can unite your own sufferings to those of our Lord in his passion, and thereby bring more blessings down upon this needy world.  Oh, by the way, St Eric’s messengers had brought him news of the coming attack while he was at Mass the day after the feast of the Ascension. He responded to their urgent warnings by saying, “Let us at least finish the sacrifice: the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere.”  There was a man who had his priorities straight.

God bless, Uncle Eddy

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