St John Climacus

Abbot (entered heaven around 649)

Dear Clive,

I have told you before that you will get yourself into trouble and waste precious time if you try to pursue holiness guided only by your own judgment.  The old saying that “no one is a good judge in his own case” has been verified too many times already; we don’t need you to prove it yet again. All you need to do is find someone who loves and is obedient to the Church, and who is a little more experienced than you in the spiritual life.  All the saints had spiritual directors of some kind or another – God likes to work in our souls through human means; it helps keep our pride in check. Today’s saint is a perfect example.

In his later years, John himself was a much sought after spiritual director, even though he lived in a hermitage on the top of Mt Sinai in Palestine (they made him descend to become Abbot for a few years, but he soon connived his retirement and returned to his solitude).  He guided countless souls on their path to union with God, and composed the revered spiritual manual “The Ladder to Paradise” (whence his name – “ladder” is “klimax” in Greek). But he started out his Christian discipleship just like you – ignorant and imprudent. And what was his first move?  To find a good spiritual director. Thus began the discovery of his vocation and his advance to heroic sanctity, which yielded abundant fruit for many years after his own death. He put it beautifully when he described the benefits he received from his spiritual director: “Under the direction of a prudent guide, I succeeded in shunning rocks that I could not have escaped if I had presumed to steer alone.”  

So, my precocious nephew, be humble, don’t go it alone, and become a saint.

Your concerned uncle, Eddy

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