St Ludger

Bishop (entered heaven this day in 809)

Dear Louis,

I have already told you this, but it seems like you need to hear it again.  Christian prayer doesn’t depend on emotions.  Therefore, if you root your prayer in emotions, you are not praying as a Christian.  Emotions come and go; faith is constant.  If you only pray when you feel like it, or if you lengthen your personal prayer time when you feel good and shorten it when praying is tough, your prayer can’t go deep.  That’s why I keep telling you that the surest way to improve your prayer life is making yourself an objective program (with the help of somebody who has a bit more experience) and sticking to it.  Exactly as you do for physical exercise.  That way you won’t be at the mercy of your feelings.  This was the secret to success of today’s saint.

He learned the importance of prayer from some of the Church’s greatest saints.  He grew up in the Netherlands (before they were called the Netherlands) when it was first being evangelized by the English and Irish missionaries.  He met St Boniface and was inspired by him.  Then he asked to study under St Gregory of Utrecht, who detected a special vocation in the boy and sent him to England for more spiritual and intellectual preparation.  There he was a disciple of the great scholar and churchman Alcuin in the famous school at York.  When he finished his studies, he returned to the mission territory of his homeland and, under the leadership of St Gregory’s successor, worked hard to spread the faith.  He was ordained a priest, preached, traveled, and healed.  He built churches and chapels and monasteries and dedicated himself with great fervor to the conversion of pagans and the purification of barely converted Christians.  When the Saxons overran the territory, however, he was forced to abandon it.  The mission was temporarily closed.

He traveled to Rome to consult with the Pope.  Then he lived for a few years in the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino not too far from the Eternal City.  When Charlemagne re-conquered Friesland (the Netherlands) and re-opened the mission, Ludger once again dived into the work of evangelization.  This time he dedicated himself to convert the very Saxons who had caused so much damage beforehand.  And his efforts were successful.  He eventually became Bishop of Munster, uprooted myriad pagan temples, and planted chapels and monasteries throughout the territory.  The only complaint ever registered against him was that he mismanaged his funds: he spent too much money helping the poor and not enough beautifying the places of worship.

In fact, for this “neglect” King Charlemagne called him to court.  When the time for his interview arrived, the king sent a messenger to fetch him.  The saint was occupied in his prayers, however, and said he would come as soon as he finished.  But the royal schedule was unused to waiting, and Charlemagne sent more messengers.  All to no avail.  Finally, when Ludger did arrive, Charlemagne demanded an explanation.  The saint merely said that he was following Charlemagne’s own advice, given when Ludger was made bishop, always to serve God before any man.  In fact, since the King of heaven is infinitely above any earthly king, when we are conversing with him, Ludger pointed out, it is our duty to leave aside every other occupation.  Charlemagne was duly chastened.

Christian prayer, my dear nephew, is the secret to a life full of meaning.  But that means that you have to develop the character needed to pray as a Christian.  Make yourself a program, get it looked at by a trustworthy spiritual director, and start following it, never letting less important concerns mess it up.  And furthermore, I recommend that you do so before wasting any more time.

Your loving uncle,


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