St Leonides

Martyr (entered heaven in 202)

Dear Leon,

I don’t know what has gotten into you.  A month ago you were certain God was calling you to the priesthood. Now you are convinced that what the world really needs are holy husbands and fathers, and you are determined to become one.

Spring is in the air, my inconstant young nephew: be wary of decision-making under such volatile situations.  But don’t just be wary; be sensible too.  What makes for great husbands and fathers?  The same thing that makes for great priests: fidelity to God and his will in your life, especially in the little things (not sleeping so late, not procrastinating so much, not indulging in those shameful and incapacitating sinful pleasures; making room for prayer in your life, fulfilling your duties – like study and work – with real zest…).  Focus on developing that habit and you’ll never go far off track, which ever track God may assign you.  Today’s saint is one of the great examples of this nuts-and-bolts Christianity.

Leonides lived in the cosmopolitan Egyptian city of Alexandria.  He was a propertied man and a leader in the Christian community there (some sources even say he was a bishop).  He had seven children, the oldest of whom was the famous and brilliant theologian and Father of the Church, Origen.

At the beginning of the third century, the Emperor Severus initiated one of the many waves of persecution against the Christians.  He wanted to boost the spirit of unity in the Empire by having all its citizens return to their religious roots and worship the Imperial deities.  And of course, the Christians wouldn’t comply.  So Leonides, being a leader of one of the largest Christian communities in the Empire, was arrested and put on trial.  When he refused to worship the idols, he was thrown in prison.

Martyrdom, everyone knew, was just around the corner.  His eldest son (17 at the time) longed to join his father in bearing witness for Christ.  So determined was he, in fact, that the only way his mother could keep him from turning himself in was by locking up all his clothes!  He wrote a letter to his dad, admonishing him: “Take heed that for our sakes you do not change your mind.”  (They had confiscated his property and left his large family with nothing when they put Leonides in prison.) Leonides had taught his children well what it meant to be a Christian.  And he drove the lesson home for good by faithfully adhering to Christ even to the point of laying his neck on the chopping block.

I don’t know if God is calling you to spiritual or biological fatherhood.  The former calling is easier to test than the latter, but in either case, there’s only one way to prepare for the path ahead: love Christ with all your heart by living your college life as he would have you.

Your loving uncle,


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