St Gildas the Wise

Abbot (entered heaven around 570)

Dear Gilda,

Your latest note deeply saddened me.  Whenever I hear of clergy, who have betrayed their trust and given scandal to the very souls they were called to save, my heart just about breaks.  But, on the other hand, it really should come as no surprise. Our Lord himself warned us that his enemy would be planting weeds among the wheat and that he would only separate the two completely at the very end of history (Matthew 13:25-30) – and, of course, we have the example of Judas as a permanent lesson.  The Church has grown and thrived through the centuries despite times of even greater scandal than what you describe. Today’s saint, for instance, wrote an entire volume describing the “miseries, the errors, and the ruin of Britain,” which consists primarily in a litany of horrible abuses by the corrupt clergy. And he knew what he was writing about.  St Gildas was born, it seems, in Scotland, but traveled south through Britain at an early age, looking for a spiritual guide. He settled in Wales, where he received, apparently, an excellent education in scripture, the classics, and the ascetical life. Scholars from Ireland and other parts of Britain frequently referred difficult doctrinal and academic questions to him, and a dozen or so other saints from the Islands spent time as his disciples.  The evils that were gnawing away at the Church in his age drove him to more fervent prayer and sacrifice, however, and he ended his days as the head of a community of hermits living on an island off the coast of Wales.

I don’t want to belittle the evils you wrote about and their far-reaching effects, but I would say that to let such a scandal slow down your own passionate pursuit of Christian perfection would be to give the devil an added victory.  I hope you spare him the pleasure.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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