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St Mary of Edessa
Apostles (entered heaven in the first centuries)
I am in a terrible rush. It seems that there’s been some kind of outbreak of voodoo among the guards here, and I am to be brought as a witness to a trial that begins tonight. Thus, I don’t know when I’ll be back, and I wanted to answer your last note as soon as possible. I am sure you’ll forgive any traces of incoherence left by my forced brevity.
I would advise you not to leave college just yet, rather, add another half hour of prayer (Christian meditation, you know what I mean) to your daily schedule, preferably in the evening, so that you are starting and ending the days in heart-to-heart conversation with the Lord. That will gradually confirm you in what he is asking of you – either to take a semester off in order to serve the Church more directly, or continue your studies and serve him that way. Your heart seems to be in the right place – you’re not trying to escape or anything, so the extra time in prayer will, I am certain, give you the light and strength you need.
Just watch out for subtle temptations. It seems God has a wonderful and extraordinary vocation for you, so the devil will by sly and devious in trying to ruin it, as he was with today’s saint. She was St Abraham’s niece (you remember the Mesopotamian wonder-worker who converted whole towns with his tears, who spent his life in a stone cell on a mountain, refusing even to take possession of the immense riches he inherited, don’t you?). When her father died, Abraham took her under his wing, built a cell for her near him, and taught her the deep and wonderful ways of prayer and penance. She advanced quickly in the spiritual life, and became known for her piety and wise advice. Then the devil struck. A bad monk (a wolf in sheep’s clothing, really) began to frequent St Abraham’s cell pretending to seek spiritual guidance. In fact, however, he was using his frequent visits to confuse and seduce Maria. Unfortunately, he succeeded. After he fall, she gave in to yet another temptation – despair. Thinking herself unforgivable, she fled her hermitage and took up residence in an Inn near a big city, where she gave herself over completely to dissolute and dishonorable living. St Abraham heard of her plight, prayed and did penance for her, and eventually went out to rescue her. He disguised himself as a native townsman and solicited her at the Inn. When they were alone, he revealed his true identity and encouraged her to come back to her Lord. She was filled with remorse, threw herself on her knees, repented, and placed her soul under his care. He put her on his own horse and led her back to her cell, where he joined fervent prayers and penances to wise advice, such that she soon reformed and regained her previous holiness. For the last years of her life, she prayed in seclusion and obtained from God’s goodness many miraculous favors for the benefit of the people living nearby.
Even those well advanced on the road to holiness, you see, can fall into the most degrading sins. So keep your prayer light on, and stay close to Christ, and beware the deceptions of the devil – God will take care of the rest. Gotta go.
Your devoted uncle, Eddy