St Maximus of Turin

(northern Italy) Bishop (entered heaven circa 466)

Dear Matt,

I think you’re overreacting (as usual).  Don’t get me wrong, it’s commendable that you are trying to organize your time conscientiously, especially since nobody else is going to be organizing it for you (as this summer’s Fellowship is your first taste of full time research, you will soon discover the reason why so many graduate students take so long to finish their studies – precisely because they don’t do what you’re doing: organize their time.  And those who do make a plan often lack the self-discipline to follow it).  That said, however, you needn’t exaggerate.  You are not a monk (maybe God will call you down that path, but you’re not there yet).  I think praying all 150 Psalms each day may be overdoing it.  Perhaps you need to learn from today’s saint.

We don’t know a whole lot about Maximus, except that he seems to have come from Vercelli (northern Italy) and was the first bishop of Turin (where the famous Shroud of Turn is currently kept).  He also participated in a couple of important Councils in the fifth century, in which he defended authentic doctrine.  But we know him best as a preacher.  More than two hundred of his homilies survive – which means that his people considered them well worth writing down and spreading around (if they hadn’t been widely regarded and read at the time, they certainly wouldn’t have survived the so-called Dark Ages).

His eloquence bolstered the faith and confidence of a people sorely tried by the violent upheavals that crashed against the declining Western Roman Empire.  Maximus’s part of Italy was especially buffeted; it served almost as a thoroughfare for the many barbarian armies that swept in and out of the Italian Peninsula looting and pillaging.

One of the reasons he was so effective was that he kept things simple.  For instance, he spoke of the importance of prayer, but he focused on the essentials: he stressed the value of praising God each day (there the Psalms can indeed help – you were on the right track…), making sure to take some time to pray in the morning and the evening (that’s reasonable and wise, right?), and never neglecting to thank God before and after each meal.  He also encouraged the frequent use of the Sign of the Cross, even before every activity.  It’s a simple prayer (so simple, in fact, that we often forget that it’s a prayer!) by which, the saint explained, “a blessing is assured us in all things.”

I don’t mean to say that you should cut out your daily meditation and frequent Mass or the other good habits you’ve been forming, but I do mean to say that the Devil would love for you to overload on pious activities out of a subtle pride (or maybe vanity) about your exemplary austerity instead of really focusing your energy on the duties of your state in life – which comprise the fertile soil of God’s will for you right now.

Your loving uncle,


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