St Eusebius of Vercelli

(northern Italy) bishop (entered heaven in 371)

Dear Eustace,

I really do dislike raining on my nephews’ parades, but sometimes the parades need to be denounced, and if good old Uncle Eddy doesn’t do it, who will?  Yes, I heard the news: you’re “going out” with a lovely young lady who will be a freshman as you begin your junior year (I guess those local pre-orientation barbecues are more productive than I thought).  You already know my opinion on this whole “going out” thing: dating (aside from courtship) siphons off attention and energy from what God needs you to be doing, and it stifles your growth to maturity – you should be developing pure, vibrant friendships with peers of both genders, not taking refuge in the illusory (and dangerous) idealism of superficial romance.  But we can talk about those things later (if I ever get out of this drab prison); the truly important point is that this young lady does not share your faith (I have very thorough sources of information, you will notice). That is a flashing yellow light if ever I saw one. There you go, investing time and energy in falling in love with someone whose fundamental outlook on life, whose dearest values and goals diverge from your own.  Is that wise? And don’t go telling me that you are “evangelizing” her – cuddling on a park bench under the stars is hardly a fruitful setting for evangelization; it’s much more conducive to de-evangelization, as you know very well. I would never venture to tell you what to do, but I will go so far as to remind you that the faith you have received is not to be taken for granted, and by giving over your heart to someone who doesn’t share that faith, you are carelessly putting it at great risk.  It makes me shudder to think how casually you are treating a treasure that men and women through the ages have suffered and died to pass on to you. Take today’s saint, for instance.

Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli in northern Italy, was renowned for his dedication to his flock, his orthodoxy of doctrine, and his love for the Church.  At the height of the Arian controversy, when the emperor and almost half the bishops of Christendom were promoting that devilish heresy (the Arians subtly denied the divinity of Christ), the Pope chose Eusebius to go and meet with Constantius (the emperor) and convince him to call a council to settle the issue.  He did, and they held the council in Milan (northern Italy). Things were going badly for Eusebius and the other faithful Catholics. At one point, Eusebius brought the meeting to a climax by placing a copy of the Nicene Creed (that’s the one we still recited at Mass every Sunday) on the table and calling for everyone to sign it before continuing with any other altercations.  Furious chaos erupted, and the council broke up. The emperor then met privately with Eusebius in order to win him over to the Arian position, first by flattery, then by force. Nothing would budge the fiery saint, so Constantius had him exiled. For the next few years, Eusebius suffered not only humiliating and painful banishment but public degradation (they would drag him through the streets half-naked whenever they transferred him to different prisons, which they did frequently) and even torture (solitary confinement, isolation from his companions, pestering torments of various kinds).  Through it all, he refused to compromise the true faith, and he continued to sneak off letters of encouragement to his flock and to the other true Catholics. When the emperor died Eusebius was freed, and spent a few more years traveling throughout the eastern empire to confirm the Catholics in their faith before returning to Vercelli, where he died in peace.

All of that, just to defend the true Catholic, Apostolic faith, so that seventeen centuries later you and I could have the joy and privilege of receiving its saving truth intact.  I ask you to keep that, at least, in mind, even as your love life clouds the rest of your better judgment and common sense. Take care of your faith, my dear nephew, and it will take of you.

Sincerely, Uncle Eddy

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