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St Marcian of Constantinople
Priest (entered heaven around 480)
It’s no mystery, my extravagant nephew. YOU may not know where your money goes, but I do. Even though I’m on the other side of the globe. YOU SPEND IT. Where else would it go? You are always buying things you don’t need, and you still haven’t made a personal budget for yourself, so your money just drains away with the refuse of your whims. But I am glad you are concerned about it. If you start learning how to be a good steward of material things now, you will avoid great misery (and possibly even slavery – being a slave to your financial instability, that is) later. If you don’t, you won’t.
The first thing to keep in mind, of course, is the basic truth that money is a MEANS to an end, not an end in itself. That’s the fundamental lesson. Today’s saint learned it well.
He was one of those authentic flowers of virtue amid the gaudy artifices of high society. His family was aristocratic and Roman, though he was born in Constantinople. He was used to the finer things of life, but from an early age the truths of the faith moved him deeply, and he began to divide his free time (even as a child) between praying, doing penance, and serving the poor. As an adult, he began investing his family fortune in building churches and poor houses and relieving the physical and spiritual needs of his compatriots. He did so quite effectively, showing unusual intelligence, amiability, and prudence – for which reason his uncle had him ordained a priest, against his own resistance (he considered himself unworthy). To carry out his priestly duties better, he disciplined himself more, engaging in such austerities that he tweaked the conscience of his fellow clergy and the socialites he served. They were so tweaked, in fact, that they became piqued, and accused him of Novatianism, spreading the rumor that he was a heretic. He responded not at all, silently accepting the humiliation and calumny and continuing with his religious and charitable activities.
In that way, the false accusations spawned by envy yielded a harvest of increased virtue in the saint, virtue that was plain for everyone to see. For example, once when he was being rushed through the streets to preside at a liturgical service he passed a miserable beggar, almost naked. He stopped, took off his clothes and gave them away, so that he subsequently came to the church with nothing on but his chasuble. Even so, when he came in, it appeared he had a golden robe on underneath – so luxurious a robe that the Patriarch publicly reprimanded him for dressing too conspicuously, whereupon the saint removed his chasuble to prove that he had done no such thing.
As a result of the saint’s perseverance in virtue, with great fanfare and popular enthusiasm he was named to the second highest post in the city, Treasurer of the great church of Hagia Sophia. His position enabled him to increase his good deeds and spread his vibrant faith even more effectively than before. By the time he died, the Treasury was in fine shape, and his family fortune had been thoroughly invested in an eternal bank account (i.e. it was completely gone).
That, my bright young nephew, was a man who knew what money was for. I recommend that you do you best to learn that lesson sooner rather than later.
Your poor uncle,