St Ida of Herzfeld

(in Germany), Widow (entered heaven around 813)

Dear Herbie,

I can almost see you licking your lips as you look through the folders of job opportunities at the campus Career Planning and Placement Center.  Living your senior year as God would have you is less a priority, or so it seems from your notes, then getting a head start on your career path. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead and being responsible, but I detect a bit of over-eagerness; there’s a glint of gold in your eye that could easily make you blind.

Remember, earth is not heaven, and it never will be.  We are just on pilgrimage here, and your first job – as well as your second, third, and fourth jobs – is only a means to an end, an opportunity to contribute to the good of your fellow men and develop your abilities in their service.  But the real substance of life is elsewhere, in your friendship with Christ. Don’t forget that amid the stupefying glamour of your promising career. Take a lesson from today’s saint.

Ida was Charlemagne’s granddaughter, and she grew up in his court.  The lessons of the Christian faith took deep root in her soul during those early years, unlike many of her relatives and fellow courtiers.  Eventually she was given a handsome dowry and married off to a popular and Christian Duke, with whom she had one child (a son who eventually became a monk) before being left a widow.  She never remarried. Instead, she dedicated her time and the proceeds from her estate to serve the poor and the Church. She didn’t live very much longer herself, but in the years God gave her, she achieved what he dreams of for each one of us: true happiness, the kind of happiness that even the long, painful sickness that eventually took her life couldn’t dampen.

They say that each day she would fill up a stone coffin with food, and then distribute the food among the poor.  That’s a curious practice, but one can see the value of it: at the same time that she was serving her neighbor, she was reminding herself of her destiny – death.  It is not macabre to think of death. In fact, it’s rather macabre NOT to do so. In any case, it seemed to help immunize her from the many, many temptations of life in a medieval court, where power, wealth, and pleasure were all within arm’s reach, there for the taking.  She resisted those temptations, and found the true treasure of a life well-lived.

Maybe you should carry a little coffin on your key-ring, so you too can resist the temptations that are already seductively knocking on the door of your heart.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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