St Julius the Veteran

Martyr (entered heaven in this day in 302)

Dear Julie,

Although I commend you for your creativity, you really don’t have to tangle yourself up so much to explain the faith to your unbelieving friends.  Your discouragement at not being able to convince your roommate that Christianity is true is, if I may be blunt, hardly Christian.  Remember, you can’t convert anybody.  All you can do is courageously and enthusiastically bear witness in word and deed, pray, and trust in God.  The example of today’s saint may help assuage your anxiety.

Julius had been a soldier in the Roman army for almost thirty years – which means that he had reenlisted voluntarily after the normal tour of duty.  He had seven separate campaigns under his belt and at some point during his illustrious military career had become a Christian.  It didn’t cause him any problems until the persecution initiated by the Emperor Diocletian, which tried in vain to cleanse the entire Roman Empire of Christianity.  He was denounced by his fellow soldiers (while he was on campaign in modern day Bulgaria), brought before the magistrate, and ordered to abjure his faith.  He refused.  In fact, he defended the truth of the Gospel with gusto.

The Roman official was loath to lose such a dowdy soldier, and tried various tactics (including bribery) to get Julius to burn just a little bit of incense to the Roman gods.  Julius, however, put into action the determination he had forged through years of hard living, and stayed faithful to his true King, Jesus Christ.  History preserves much of the conversation he had with his executioners.  One of his best lines came in response to a tedious query as to why he stayed faithful to a dead man rather than to a living emperor.  He explained: “It was he [Christ] who died for our sins to give us eternal life. This same man, Christ, is God and abides for ever and ever. Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life; whoever denies Him will have eternal punishment.”  I can’t imagine a more concise or accurate summary of the Christian faith.

And that’s my point.  Julius didn’t worry about giving “just the right argument”.  He explained what he believed as best he could, and trusted that God would take care of the rest.  And God did.  We don’t know if that magistrate become a Christian, but we do know that St Julius’ courage bolstered a fellow Christian soldier, St Hesychius, who went to the chopping block a couple days later.  And we also know that the Roman Empire ended up embracing the Christian faith en masse, a few more years down the road.

So don’t worry so much.  Trust that God will take your best effort and make it bear unimaginable and disproportionate fruit.  I wouldn’t give this advice to all your cousins, since some of them are just plain lazy and need to be made uncomfortable with their passivity, but you tend towards the opposite extreme.  Try to relax.  God wants your roommate to find Christ infinitely more than you do.

Your loving uncle,


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