St John of Beverley

Bishop of York, England (entered heaven this day 721)

Dear Jake,

Beware the enervating touch of activism!  Yes indeed, my dear nephew, it is quite clear to me from your recent communiqués that you are falling prey to one of the devil’s preferred attacks on Americans: activism.  I define activism as doing a lot of good things for the wrong reason. Now, you are clearly doing a lot of good things. Designing your own major and taking on the intellectual challenge of an honor’s thesis show responsible use of your considerable intellectual gifts; becoming a Resident Assistant is putting yourself at the service of your neighbor; running the Catholic Bible Club is a big help to your chaplain; you won’t regret keeping up your trumpet-playing by staying in that big band group… You are doing a lot of good things.  But you say you are constantly frazzled, stressed, and way too busy, with not even enough time to pray every day. That’s the tip-off. If these other activities are crowding out your prayer commitments, I am willing to bet that you have lost sight of the big picture. Remember what our Lord said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33) Keeping your relationship with God first ensures that all your other activities contribute to the good of your soul (and others’) and not to its demise.  

Do you remember St John of Beverly?  He was the most venerated of the many early medieval saints who graced the blessed Kingdom of England. In the midst of a boon in the English church he was at the forefront of expansion, first as bishop of Hexham, then as bishop of York.  He fulfilled his pastoral office with fearless zeal and stunning effectiveness, because he would periodically go off to the woods or to some other solitary place to refresh his soul in prayer and contemplation, exchanging intimate thoughts with his Lord.  Often he would bring along a poor person and take care of him during the sojourn. Later, his many miracles were praised in Alcuin’s poetry, and his intercession was invoked to obtain English victories in key battles against the Scots and the French…

Yes, my dear nephew, if we wish to do truly great things with our lives, we will never let anyone or anything eclipse that precious time we spend in prayer every single day.  The more you have to do, the more you need to pray. Take it from me, who am, gladly,

Your uncle, Eddy

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