St Fintan of Cloneenagh

Abbot (entered heaven in 603)

Dear Nancy,

I was worried about your Cornerstone group, and so I was doubly happy to hear that it’s beginning to gel.  Sometimes it takes a while for people to build up enough trust so that they can really open up, sharing one another’s troubles and triumphs in gentleness and true Christian charity.  That’s why even now I would advise you to be very, very patient with your little flock. Remember, you have almost four years of solid spiritual formation behind you, while for many of the younger girls this is their first experience of authentic Catholic fellowship.  It will be better for you to err with too much prayer and patience than with too much discipline and exigency. At the same time, however, be sure to keep diligent in your own spiritual life. Maintaining the balance is difficult, at times, but important.

They say keeping such a balance was one of today’s saint’s most notable characteristics.  Fintan began his monastic career as a hermit when he was still a youth. He lived in extreme austerity in central Ireland, and began his lifelong habit of eating only herbs and water (not recommended as a general practice, by the way – don’t get any rash ideas).  Soon his holiness became evident, and he attracted a few disciples. The few slowly grew to many, and the many to a multitude. As the numbers increased, he saw the need to modify his rule of life so as to accommodate the varied needs of his followers, but wasn’t sure if that would constitute a betrayal of his penitential ideal.  About the same time, some members of a nearby monastery registered a complaint that his demands on the monks were debilitating and imprudent. That convinced him, and he allowed a relaxation of the harsh way of life to benefit the members of his community, while maintaining it for himself. The monastery thrived, and did much to contribute to the conversion of the barbarians through supplying holy missionary monks.

In a similar way, then, I would say you should strive to serve the members of your Cornerstone group with sweet Christian charity, but edify and instruct them through the example of your own well-ordered and self-disciplined life.  God will take it from there.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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