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St Frederick of Utrecht
(Netherlands) Bishop and Martyr (entered heaven this day in 838)
Part of me feels sorry for you, but part of me doesn’t. C’mon, did you really expect your vacation Bible School to achieve perfection in its first year of existence? If you did, you were inexcusably naïve. If you didn’t, then what are you worried about? Maybe you’re just a bit surprised by the rapidity and intensity of the opposition and criticism you’re having to deal with, especially from the “competition”, as you put it. If that’s the case, a quick look at today’s saint should help you relax.
Frederick was born of a noble line of rulers from Frisia (modern day Netherlands). But he felt called to serve a higher Kingdom and so became a priest. His reputation for learning and holiness (a potent combination, which you are also achieving, and which may be at the root of the envy you’re having to deal with) made him the logical choice for bishop of Utrecht, a post he occupied with distinction for almost twenty years. At the time, Christianity hadn’t yet sunk deep roots in this violent, pagan society, so he spent his days catechizing the baptized, putting order in the clergy, and working for the moral reform of the rather scandalous Frisian traditions that were being energetically perpetuated by the royal leaders of the time (for example: incestuous marriages were all the rage). He also prepared and sent out missionaries to the neighboring peoples who were still un-baptized.
Although his moral exhortations won him plenty of abuse from the imperial court, it was his missionary work that proved to be his downfall. The leaders of Walcheren, one of the communities he was trying to win over for the Gospel, deeply resented his unwelcome efforts. They sent two assassins to do away with him. This they did by stabbing him with swords while he was celebrating Mass (a cowardly way to go about it, in my humble avuncular opinion).
I gather you catch my drift, right? Any time we launch out to spread the Gospel, we need to be ready to suffer for it. Our enemies are not of flesh and blood, remember, and so they will find all kinds of ways to inhibit us. So don’t worry, take Jesus’ advice instead: rejoice when they persecute you, for your reward will be great in heaven (but watch your back all the same).
Your loving uncle,