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St Julian of Antioch
Martyr (entered heaven in the early fourth century)
Your steady stream of successful campus events is, I am sure, doing an immense amount of good for more people than you know. Keep up the good work. Keep forging ahead; don’t get complacent. But in the midst of your success, I would caution you to remember that sooner or later times of trouble will return.
One of the most frequent errors in the spiritual life is to forget about the cross during periods of resurrection. Suffering, misunderstanding, persecution, difficulty, failure – it’s all right around the corner, my energetic young nephew, and so you must never let it out of sight. Sometimes the Devil conquers even strong souls by surprise attacks – so the trick is never to let yourself be surprised, never to think that earth is heaven, even when you happen to be experiencing heavenly delights.
Today’s saint learned this lesson especially well. Keeping his example in mind will help keep your optimism realistic and prepare you for the trials to come.
He was a Roman noble living in Cilicia (in modern day Syria), when he was apprehended for being a Christian (this was during the harsh persecutions under Diocletian). The judge in his town was particularly creative. After the normal tortures – the rack, iron hooks, scourging, and fire – had laid his bones bare and exposed his very intestines to view (without making him waver an inch in his fidelity to Christ and God’s will), the judge changed tactics. He decided to wear the saint down by constancy instead of pain. So he had Julian brought to the tribunal every day, day after day, where he was cajoled or taunted, depending on the judge’s mood. But that didn’t budge him either. So he condemned the saint to the humiliation of being dragged through all the towns of the province, in chains, every day, for an entire year, with the guards declaring aloud a litany of trumped-up crimes for which he had been found guilty. The saint ignored the humiliation and took advantage of this treatment to encourage Christians throughout Cilicia with his words and example.
Finally, exasperated, the pagan prosecutor had to condemn him to death. But he chose the most horrible of executions that he had available, the one reserved for parricidal murderers. He had him sewn inside a leather bag with a large assortment of scorpions, serpents, and vipers, and then thrown off the cliffs of Aegea (the sea-side town where the governor was residing) into the sea.
So the next time you’re tempted to rest on your laurels, call to mind St Julian of Antioch, and think of the Christians who even right now in various parts of the world are suffering imprisonment and persecution for the faith. Then pray, if not for the blessing of more crosses, at least for the strength to bear those the Lord will deign to send you.
Your loving uncle,
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