St Nazarius and St Celsus

(entered heaven probably in the first century)

Dear Chelsea,

My dear and misguided young niece, I do not wish to sound callous, but the simple truth is that you are wasting your tears.  When our Lord said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” he did not mean that we should feel sorry for ourselves and whine pitifully in the face of life’s difficulties.  Our tears should be shed for only one reason: the cruel evil of sin and its multifarious brood of miseries. Hardship, rejection, and other such crosses do not need our tears so much as they need our faith.  When you accepted the holy chrism on your forehead at confirmation, when the bishop sealed you with the cross of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, you knew very well (or you should have known) that you were entering into a battle, into a life of conflict and constant effort in defense of the Kingdom.  Be neither surprised nor deterred by the battle, but freely weep when you see souls succumb to the enemy.

Forgive me if this is too blunt, but frankly, I have never had much patience for anyone (including myself) who starts wallowing in his or her self-pity.  “Oh it’s so hard to follow Christ! It’s so difficult to be faithful! I am suffering so much! Nothing is working out the way I planned! I thought that being a Christian was supposed to make me happy and joyful, but I feel miserable!” …  Why does the Church demand that every place of worship prominently display a crucifix? Just for fun? Hardly. This life is full of many joys, but whether you’re Christian or not, we can’t escape the cross. Jesus did not promise to eliminate life’s burdens; he just promised that if we believe and trust in him, he will lighten them with his love.  Today’s saint is a perfect example (one of many).

Nazarius was the son of a pagan father (an officer in the Roman army) and a Christian mother, who brought him up to be a Christian.  (Some sources even say he was instructed by St Peter himself.) As soon as he was old enough, he set out from his native city of Rome in order to preach the gospel with exemplary dedication and zeal throughout Italy, together with the young Celsus, who served as his assistant.  As can be expected, before too long the authorities apprehended him (this was in Milan), demanded that he sacrifice to the Roman gods, and when he refused (announcing his allegiance to the one, true God) they lopped off his head for treason.

Christ promises meaning; he promises intimate friendship with God in this life and the next; he often grants experiences of intense and even ecstatic joy – but he never once promised that following him would be easy.  Therefore, my dear niece, cry all that you must, but never cry alone; if you turn your tears into prayers, they will bring forth the precious fruits of faith, hope, and love.

Very truly yours in Christ, Uncle Eddy

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