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St John Nepomucene
Martyr (entered heaven on 20 March 1393)
Some things, my bright young niece, are more important than promotions. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad you have been offered such a wonderful job right out of college. You certainly deserve it, and that company probably doesn’t realize what a jewel they are getting. But as your devoted uncle, I need to give you a warning. They will try to take advantage of you. They are less interested in you than in what you can do for them. So they will use all kinds of perks and promises of promotion to motivate you to work 80 and 90 hour weeks, throwing your life and your soul out of balance. Be careful. Keep Christ in the center. Remember that your friendship with him is priceless – no promotion will ever even compare.
That’s a lesson that today’s saint learned well. As a child, John was miraculously saved from a mortal disease by the prayers of his parents. In thanksgiving, they consecrated him to God. He easily found his vocation to the priesthood, and dedicated himself to it with such fervor and sincerity that his preaching literally converted thousands of sinners.
His holiness led to popularity especially among the poor. He was made Vicar General of the diocese of Prague, the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia at the time. His position was a platform for an active and remarkably fruitful apostolate, though his naturally retiring personality led him to decline more than a few offers of bishoprics. Among his many duties was that of interceding for the destitute in the court of King Wenceslaus. Though the King was hardly a model Christian, the Queen, Sophie, was devout. St John was her confessor.
And that’s how the trouble started. Wenceslaus was a suspicious fellow, in addition to being sensual, temperamental, and self-indulgent. He was also a control-freak, and at one point demanded that St John reveal to him what his wife had said in confession. The faithful priest refused to break the sacred seal of the sacrament. The King retaliated by putting him in prison. The situation was aggravated by John’s astute defense of the Church’s honor and well-being against other of the King’s selfish ploys. In the end, his refusal to bow to Wenceslaus’s desires earned him torture and a painful, martyr’s death by drowning in Prague’s Moldau river.
St John had every chance in the world to climb the social ladder, but he was more interested in Christ’s Kingdom than in Wenceslaus’s petty pleasures and politicking. You too may have to suffer a bit if you stay true to the Lord, but in the end, as you already know, fidelity to Him will make you much happier than a penthouse and a Porsche.
Your loving uncle,