St Maolruain

Abbot (entered heaven this day in 792)

Dear Mary,

You know that I don’t like to be harsh, but under the circumstances I feel obliged to tell you bluntly that you are wasting your time.  Wasting, i.e. spending it uselessly.  (I don’t think I need to go into details; in your conscience you know exactly what I’m talking about.)  People in business have a saying: “Time is money.”  It means that every minute can be spent productively, and every minute that isn’t spent productively is a loss.  Well, for Christians, time is even more valuable, because our business isn’t about passing things that money can buy, but about eternal things, like souls.  For a Christian, time is KINGDOM.  Today’s saint understood that.

Maolruain was one of those brilliantly determined Irish monks who turned that Celtic backwash into the Land of Saints of Scholars.  He founded a monastery at Tallaght (Wicklow County, just south of Dublin) and began (together with St Oengus) the Culdee movement, an attempt to codify and regularize the multiplying but unorganized monastic communities.

Admittedly, their rules were a bit hard: all night vigils in freezing cold water, or with their arms spread like a cross, were frequent; total abstinence from alcohol; Sundays observed with positively Pharisaic limits on activity…  But he also emphasized practices that became fixtures in the Church and have benefited not only extreme monastery dwellers, but also regular lay men and women like you and your friends.  Regular, individual confession was one, spiritual direction was another.  And he wrote guides for taking full advantage of these disciplines.

In the end, his foundation didn’t last long, and his Culdee movement petered out for lack of economic support.  But the Church has recognized his zeal and his wisdom as springing directly from the Holy Spirit, and so we venerate him as a saint till this day.  (The local Irish devotees of St Maolruain venerated him with a rather interesting custom for about 1000 years: they would process house-to-house drinking and dancing jigs.  The tradition seems to have degenerated, and it was suppressed by ecclesiastical authorities in 1856.)

He had a saying that I think you should mull over: There are “three profitable things in the day: prayer, labor, and study, or it may be teaching or writing or sewing clothes or any profitable work that a monk may do, so that none may be idle.”  It’s that last phrase I want to call your attention to: “so that none may be idle.”  I think it’s safe to say that idleness has been your primary occupation since exams finished.  It really shouldn’t be, you know.  Please do something about it – before the devil does.

Your loving uncle,


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