St Nicholas of Flue

(entered heaven this day in 1487)

Dear Nick,

As you prepare to embark on your career I will leave you with one thought: the blessings of God are not for heaven alone.  Not at all, my ambitious young nephew, not at all. God has taken an interest in this world, and the closer you stay to him, the more good you will do no matter where your career takes you.  Fie on those time-management experts who relegate “religion” or “spirituality” to one sector among many – you and I are Catholics, and Catholics understand that when Jesus became a man, he proved once and for all the God is passionately interested in all of mankind’s most mundane affairs, not just an hour every Sunday morning.  Today’s saint is a perfect example.

He was a Swiss farmer, and his family was part of the “Friends of God” movement – a kind of spiritual revival that swept through northern Europe in the 15th century.  He married a devout woman, and the Lord blessed their happy marriage with ten children.  He served his country well in the wars they faced at the time and was raised to a high civil rank, though he repeatedly declined an invitation to be made governor of the federation (one of his sons ended up occupying that position).  When he was about 50 years old, he finally responded to a divine call that had long been brewing in his heart. Leaving his family (his wife and children recognized his decision as in accord with God’s will – it was not uncommon in the Friends of God movement), he retired into the wilderness, where he built himself a little cell and passed the rest of his years as a hermit.  From midnight to noon he would pray, and in what remained of daylight he would receive visitors who came to seek his spiritual or temporal advice (he was granted a special portion of the gift of counsel). For nineteen years he lived this life, high on a rock cliff over of a mountain stream. His fame spread rapidly (especially since it seemed that he lived only on the Eucharist – he was unable to eat or drink anything else), and the gifts he received enabled him to build a chapel nearby, which enabled him to receive the sacraments more frequently.

It happened that Switzerland reached its height of political and military influence during his lifetime, and the confederation of Cantons was forced to formalize its political arrangement.  It was an extremely complicated affair, and progress was slow. When almost everything had been resolved, a disagreement broke out about the status of two provinces, and the entire confederation was on the verge of collapse.  The political assembly, however, had the good sense to adjourn their own meeting while a messenger could be sent to get the holy hermit’s advice on the problem. When the messenger returned with Nicholas’s recommendation (history does not record in what it consisted of), the disparate parties were brought into agreement, and within an hour the future of Switzerland had been determined.

And that’s what I mean about God taking an interest in our earthly affairs.  So in your life, at least, don’t buy into that perverse notion of “separation of Church and state”; let God into everything you do – he alone will never let you down.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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