St John of Kanty

Priest (entered heaven on Christmas eve in 1473)

Dear Jon,

I hope you’re doing your best to avoid those typical family squabbles that so easily erupt when everyone is home for Christmas.  I used to hate them so – of course, now I don’t have to deal with them at all, while I would probably prefer to! In any case, you may want to follow the example of today’s saint for the duration of your stay at home.  

St John Kanty was one of the humblest and meekest scholars (and he was a truly great scholar) that our Church has ever produced.  He grew up in the Polish countryside, son of a devout nobleman and noblewoman. His keen intellect and lively faith showed his vocation early on, and he was sent to the University of Krakow to finish his studies.  Soon he was ordained a priest and given an assistant professorship at the university. Even then he led a strict life of prayer and self-discipline, though he was always warm, patient, and affable with everyone. He had great success both as a teacher and as a preacher.  And, as usual, this success aroused jealousy and envy, and his self-declared enemies connived to get him transferred to a small parish in a little village far away from the city. The people there didn’t like him at all, and he was deeply afraid of the responsibilities of his new position. In spite of these obstacles, he set to work with zeal and faith and had soon won the hearts of the whole town.  

When things settled down in Cracow, and he was recalled to the University to take up the Chair of Sacred Scripture, his parishioners were so distraught that they accompanied him on the road, weeping, until he announced, “This sadness does not please God.  If I have done any good for you in all these years, sing a song of joy.” Taking up once again the academic robes, he became a pillar of orthodoxy, a spiritual father to students and nobles alike, and a well-known visitor among Krakow’s poor.

What I wanted to point out to you, what is particularly relevant for your holiday “discussions” there around the fireplace, is a piece of advice that St John never tired of giving to his students: “Fight all false opinions, but let your weapons be patience, sweetness, and love.  Roughness is bad for your own soul and spoils the best cause.” I think it highly appropriate that a man of such temperament met his final reward on Christmas Eve. And I will join my prayers to his for you tomorrow.

Sincerely, your loving uncle, Eddy

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