St Nereus and St Achilleus

Martyrs (entered heaven probably in the first century)

Dear Nigel,

Now is the time to correct your faults, my pusillanimous nephew – while they are still correctable.  Remember what our Lord said, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” (Luke 16:10)  So if you can’t stand up for Christian values now in your dorm meetings, how in the world will you be able to defend the truth when you are a delegate to the United Nations, or a US Senator, or a University President, or an officer in the American Medical Association?  Courage takes practice; Christian courage takes practice, prayer, and the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will certainly do his part (especially if you constantly pester him about it), but will you do yours? A bit of avuncular advice: frequently meditate on the example of the Church’s many martyrs.  Take today’s saints, for instance.

Nereus and Achilleus were fine Roman soldiers.  Legionaries of the great Emperor, bulwarks of Roman tradition and society.  Then they met Christ. Like so many of those early Christians, when God gave them the gift of faith and an invitation to follow him, their decision involved risking their lives.  Violent persecutions of the Church surged through the Roman Empire on and off for the first 300 years of Christianity; since Christians refused to worship the pagan Gods, they were considered enemies of the State (the hardihood of the empire was linked, so the ancients thought, to appeasing the traditional Roman gods), and so they could be executed for treason.  So these two soldiers of Rome knew that by entering the ranks of Christ’s army they were putting everything on the line. Soon afterward their resolve was tested. They were exiled, and when they still refused to repudiate their faith, they were beheaded. We don’t know any of the details, but from the earliest days of the Church, their example has breathed supernatural courage into the timidest of hearts.  And I think they (and their countless fellow martyrs throughout the centuries) can help you as well, with their prayers and their testimony.

So be strong, Nigel, and humbly but confidently weave the truth of Church teaching into the cultural dialogue on campus – Christ will help you, and only God knows how many souls will thank you for it when you meet them in heaven.  

God bless, Uncle Eddy

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