St Miguel of Ecuador

(entered heaven on this day, 1910)

Dear Michelle,

Scholarship and sanctity don’t match?  Hogwash.  It’s not a question of choosing EITHER a life of academic excellence OR a life of religious brilliance.  Who panned off such an idea?  And why did you fall for it?  Let me guess, your seminar tutor is a super-intelligent grad student who also happens to be extremely good-looking; he has flattered you and complimented your intellectual prowess, while at the same time pointing out that religion is for the weak-minded.  Right?  And you fell for it.  You’re less mature than I thought.  Today’s saint should be able to put you back on track.

Miguel was from a high class family in Ecuador, and his folks had big plans for him – especially since he showed an uncommon intelligence from a very early age.  But then he met the religious De LaSalle brothers, and even as a boy he already knew that God wanted him to become one of them.  His parents were horrified, since the De LaSalles were all lay brothers.  They didn’t become priests, so they couldn’t have an ecclesiastical “career”.  They took him out of the De LaSalle school and put him in a diocesan seminary.  He was miserable.  So miserable that he got sick and had to be sent home.  Finally his mother relented and let him go back to school with the brothers.  He excelled in every way, and as soon as he could he took the habit.  And that was the beginning of an intellectual and spiritual itinerary that is still making waves.

He was a brilliant teacher, and worked himself to tatters trying to find the most interesting and enjoyable way to instruct his students.  At the same time, he began to publish works on pedagogy, philology, grammar, and other academic topics.  He published poetry as well.  Soon he was elected to Ecuador’s National Academy of Languages, and he also received membership in the Royal Academy of Spain, the Académie Française, and the Academy of Venezuela.  He became the acting secretary of education for the schools in Quito, and was sent by his superiors to Europe, where he could work on the definitive translations of De LaSalle documents.  There he caught pneumonia and died.

He wasn’t remembered by those who knew him primarily as a scholar, however, but as a saint.  One religious brother said that whenever he felt depressed he would drop by Br Miguel’s room, and Br Miguel would stop whatever he was doing and talk.  The brother never failed to emerge encouraged and cheerful.  Br Miguel was a model religious, and his writings inspired faith as well as imparting knowledge.  His motto was: “The heart is rich when it is content, and it is always content when its desires are set upon God.  Nothing can bring greater happiness than doing God’s will for the love of God.”

So let Saint Miguel be a reminder to you.  Bright and handsome grad students aren’t the secret to happiness or the source of everlasting wisdom – Christ their Creator, however, is.

Your devoted Uncle,


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