St Francis of Paola

Founder of The Minim Friars (entered heaven in 1507)

Dear Frank,

I am delighted that your report cards make your parents proud.  But I am worried that they might be making you proud as well. It’s OK for your parents to be proud of you (as long as they remember that you were created by God through their cooperation, not the other way around), but for you to be proud of you – that could be dangerous.  Of course, if God gave you smarts, you are wise to develop them – “to whom much is given much will be asked,” as the Good Book (that’s the Bible, by the way) says. But you would be foolish to think yourself great because of them. After all, they are not really yours; they are God’s.  He gave them to you. He could just as easily have made you dense. And if he gave them to you, any greatness they produce belongs to him, not to you. Your greatness ought to be in your humility, in your self-control, in putting your talents to work for the Kingdom of Christ… Virtues, my bright little nephew, Christian virtues: not even a 5.0 grade point average can make up for their absence, but they can make up for anything.  You would do well to consider the example of your namesake, St Francis of Paola. (Happy saint’s day, by the way.) He went off to be a hermit when he was 15 (in a cave on the coast of Calabria, Italy – you know, the “toe” of the “boot”), and never had more than the most rudimentary education. Nevertheless, his fame for miracles spread far and wide, such that King Louis XI asked the Pope to send St Francis to cure him from a deadly disease; and during his stay he so impressed the courtiers with his wisdom that the most learned men vied to be his disciples.  (He didn’t cure the king’s disease, but he did bring the king back into communion with God before he died – in St Francis’s arms.) So if you would be truly wise, my bright little nephew, remember that the report card we get at the very end matters most, and in the meantime, don’t let your grades go to your head. Hopes and prayers, Uncle Eddy

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