St Guntramnus

King and Confessor (entered heaven this day in 593)

Dear Gunther,

No, being a politician is not a sin.  Whoever told you that is off his rocker.  People are social; we form communities; communities need leaders.  It’s natural.  If you want to go into politics, you need not fear the wrath of God.  Well, let me reword that.  Success in politics is hard to achieve without giving in to corruption, without compromising your morals.  It’s not impossible, mind you, but in this fallen world it is certainly a challenge.  This is one reason why I recommend that you major in history and not in political science.  The latter tends to look at politics as if it were some kind of mechanical system.  It isn’t.  It’s about people.  Studying history will help you learn the “people” lessons that can give you the strength to resist temptations, lessons like the one today’s saint teaches.

Guntramnus was King Clovis’s grandson.  His father divided the Frankish kingdom among him and his two brothers; he got Orleans and Burgundy.  Those were tough times.  Kindness was not the highest value.  But even so, this king showed that governing in harmony with the principles of the Gospel is the surest way to peace and prosperity.

First of all, Guntramnus ended the Frankish civil wars that had been started by his brothers (each of them wanted to rule the whole kingdom alone).  How?  After defeating them he didn’t absorb their territories.  Instead, he simply ended the cycle of recrimination.  Now that’s a Christian thing to do.  And his own kingdom benefited immensely from it though increased security, which in turn led to loyalty (i.e. obedience to the king and his laws) and economic growth.  The magnanimous decision convinced his people that he wasn’t seeking his own self-aggrandizement; he wanted only what was best for his subjects.

He reiterated that lesson by the way he responded to two would-be assassins.  He was recognized as a hard (but just) punisher of crime, both among his own officials and among the populous in general (thus he was seen as fair – playing no favorites).  But in the case of these two men, sent to kill him by his brother’s evil queen, Fredegonde, he showed clemency.  The first was merely imprisoned (not executed, as he could easily have been), and the second was pardoned after taking refuge in a Church in the wake of his failed assassination attempt.  Once again, St Guntramnus showed that his highest priority was the good of his subjects, not his own honor or pride, and staying true to that priority was the secret to his success.

That’s one lesson (among many) that’s easier to learn by studying history than by studying political science.  Maybe you could double-major.  In any case, as you begin tracing out your career, I encourage you to start thinking of politics in terms of “civil service”, which is what it’s supposed to be.  That will be a good first step in the right direction: it’s about serving the citizens, not serving yourself.  If you keep that in mind, your political career will please the Lord and further his Kingdom.

Your loving uncle,


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