St John of Sahagun

(in northern Spain) (entered heaven in 1479)

Dear Jane,

Your last note distressed me.  Not because of the degenerate moral climate at your university, which you described so vividly, but because of your reaction to it.  Before you decide to transfer, I would encourage you to reflect deeply and pray a lot (I hope your three summer jobs don’t crowd out time for reflection and prayer).  As you do, consider well our Lord’s precept “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) It has many applications, you know. For instance: you decided to go to college to receive an education, but have you been giving anything back (besides your money, of course)?  You yourself admit that although the moral and ideological atmosphere on campus is positively putrid, extraordinary opportunities and excellent resources abound.  I would argue that God is giving you these opportunities and resources in order to grant your longtime wish to get a top-notch education, but he is hoping that you (with the vibrant faith and solid values that he has given you) will, in turn, spark a moral renaissance among your needy peers; instead of running away by transferring, maybe (I say maybe because I mean maybe) he is asking you to take up arms and reclaim that university for the cause of truth, goodness, and beauty, the tricolor banner of any college worthy of the name.  Think about it. But don’t just think about it.  Look at the examples of those who have gone before you.  Take today’s saint, for example.

John of Sahagun was an ignorant young priest who wanted to serve his flock better, so he obtained his bishop’s permission to go and study at one of Europe’s oldest and greatest institutions of learning, the University of Salamanca, founded three hundred years before Columbus even caught sight of our upstart continent.  When he arrived, the entire city, not to mention the university, was crawling with iniquity. Young nobles (of which there was an abundance) routinely bloodied the streets with their inane feuds (Spanish tempers, you know); rich landlords flaunted their wealthy excesses in town while their peasant serfs starved a few miles away; fashionable and knowing women plundered the lustful vigor of students and professors alike (all of whom were male)… In short, it wasn’t much different than today’s university culture.  It would have been easy for St John to stick to his studies, get his degree, and retreat to the quiet and tranquil ministry of St Agatha’s parish back home in Burgos, but God had other plans.

Upon completing his degree he had already acquired a reputation for powerful preaching and extremely wise spiritual direction (mostly through confession).  He staid on in the city, and soon entered a community of Augustinian friars there. For the next 24 years, he tirelessly ministered to this university flock, achieving a profound and lasting transformation in Salamancan faith and morals.  His career was cut short only by the ire of unrepentant sinners: after converting two young assassins sent to murder him, and being rescued from stoning at the hands of a band of resentful women, he finally succumbed to poison administered at the behest of a noblewoman whose adulterous affair had ended after her lover went to confession with the saint.

During these summer months, therefore, have recourse to prayer and a lot of reading about the saints who have gone before you, to whom you owe your faith; it just might be your turn to take up the cause of Christ and rescue the poor souls drowning in your campus’s moral quagmire.

God bless, Uncle Eddy

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