St Frumentius

(entered heaven in 380)

Dear Frummel,

How nice to hear that you aced your midterms.  Of course, don’t think I’m blind.  I know very well that you barely studied at all – just enough, in fact, to do better than everyone else.  But, as I have told you hundreds of times, God doesn’t need you just to do better than everybody else; he needs you to do your best.  If he gave you extraordinary intellectual capacities, it’s for a reason, and if you leave them only partially developed, although that might insure your own honor and comfort, it will compromise his plan for your life and your contribution to the Kingdom.  Study for life, for God’s glory – not just to ace your exams!  Ugh.  It pains me to see you frittering away your potential.  You are a college student; your primary duty is your intellectual formation (not to minimize your character and faith formation, but “students” are supposed to be “learning through studying”).  If you faithfully fulfill your duty, God will be able to lead you along the path he has planned out for you – if not, who knows what will happen?  That reminds me of today’s saint, actually.

A Palestinian philosopher named Meropius had two young disciples, Frumentius and Aedesius.  He took them on a voyage to the coastlands of Arabia as part of their education (and a nice trip for him), and on the way back the ship stopped off in Ethiopia (where the Red Sea meets the Indian ocean).  While docked, the natives massacred the sailors and all the passengers (including Meropius – philosophy did not save him) and looted their merchandise.  It so happened that the two boys were not with sailors at the time of the attack; they were off STUDYING (as they should have been) under a tree on the other side of the lea.  When the victorious (and glutted) Ethiopians found the boys, they brought them to their king, who was duly impressed with their Christian bearing, prudence, and gentility.  He hired them on (well, they didn’t exactly have much choice in the matter) as cupbearer and secretary.  They served their king well, and as their influence and reputation increased, they began to make inroads in evangelizing the country.  Out of gratitude, the dying king granted them their freedom, but they acquiesced to the queen’s petition and remained on to help keep affairs in order as the young prince grew into manhood.  When he eventually took the throne, Aedesius returned to Palestine.  But Frumentius wanted nothing more than the conversion of the entire people to the true faith, and so he traveled north to Alexandria and begged St Athanasius (Patriarch there) to send a bishop to the Ethiopians.  St Athanasius was in tune with the Holy Spirit, and ordained Frumentius to the episcopate, assigning him the very task.  He returned and began the slow but effective work, bolstering his heartfelt sermons with more than a few miracles, and made much progress (though not without encountering opposition) before he died some years later.

Just think, my precocious little nephew – if Frumentius had been gaming with the sailors or otherwise neglecting the duties of his state in life, he would have been massacred with the rest and this whole chapter of Church history would have never been written.  Humph.  May this saint’s example not go to waste.

Sincerely your Uncle,


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