St Marina

Virgin (date unknown)

Dear Maurice,

I commend you on your latest endeavor.  Organizing an impromptu NGO out of your Catholic student union in order to make waves at the UN meeting to discuss overpopulation and social justice is a tall order; that you pulled it off at all testifies to your fortitude, courage, and faith.  That you achieved such satisfactory results testifies to your keen cooperation with the Holy Spirit, who no doubt was your guide throughout the process. I hope others learn from your example. But (I feel it is my duty to warn you) your worthy efforts to defend the rights of people other than yourself must never turn into self-righteousness.  If you really want to grow in holiness, to follow Christ more and more closely, you need to practice that all-important lesson of “turning the other cheek” (Cf. Matthew 5:39) in response to insults and opposition directed against you personally.  This combination of personal humility and bold charity is exactly what Christ recommended, and what he lived.

In this regard, you may be interested in reviewing the life of today’s saint.  Most “serious” historians deem it nothing more than a pious legend, but I am a firm believer that behind every legend is a true tale.  In any case, the story is quite instructive. Marina’s father joined a monastery in Bithynia (now Turkey) when his wife died, leaving the future saint in the care of a relative.  But he soon changed his mind. He retrieved his daughter, dressed her up like a boy, and convinced the abbot to let “him” stay in the monastery. Thus Marina passed her childhood in a life of prayer, surrounded by sublime examples of piety and Christian charity, until she was seventeen, at which point her father died.  She, however, was so enamored of our Lord, and of living a religious life, that she continued to disguise her gender and became a regular member of the monastic community.

One of her responsibilities was driving a cart to a nearby village to pick up supplies.  This often required her to spend the night at the village Inn. When the Innkeeper’s unmarried daughter unexpectedly became pregnant, Marina was accused of being her seducer.  Marina accepted the accusation without resistance, and she was duly ejected from the monastery; she began instead to live as a beggar at its gates, still concealing her gender.  When the Innkeeper’s daughter had her son, the angry father forced Marina to take custody of him. Again the saint made no complaint and gladly took the baby under her care, along with the public shame brought on by the ridicule of the passers-by.  For five years she suffered thus in poverty and silence.

At that point, the monks were so impressed by her patience that the abbot allowed her (together with the child) to reenter the monastery (they still thought she was a man).  Soon afterward, she died. When they went to prepare her body for burial, they finally discovered the truth. Although they were all struck with great remorse for their treatment of her, they were also powerfully edified by this woman’s heroic virtue in the face of such injustice against her person.

You may want to think about St Marina’s example the next time you feel your blood start to boil at being insulted, misunderstood, scorned, or otherwise treated unfairly – meekness made her a saint; I don’t see why it can’t do as much good for the rest of us.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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