St Pantaenus

(entered heaven around 200)

Dear Patty,

So you’re trying to squeeze in more units by taking classes during the summer session, are you?  Knowing your grades from the last two years, I can say with confidence that you have not chosen this uncommon vernal occupation due to previous academic failures.  Therefore, I surmise that you are on your way to a double major, or a Master’s degree in four years, or an early graduation. Whichever it is, your enthusiasm for the life of the mind impresses me – and troubles me.  Nothing has done more damage to individual souls, to the Church herself, and to the world at large than intellectual pride. Of course, a love for learning can be healthy and holy, but an inordinate thirst for academic or intellectual achievement can easily (oh so easily – I have seen it happen before my very eyes!) degenerate into priggish arrogance and an overblown sense of personal greatness.  A lot of knowledge without a lot of moral virtue makes for an enlarged head and a shrunken heart – a body type that doesn’t fit through the pearly gates. My advice to you (besides recommending that you give at least as much attention to your prayer and apostolic life as you do to your intellectual life) is to get plenty of exercise (the best way is to play some sport that you enjoy) and learn from today’s saint.

Panteanus received a top-notch education and joined the ranks of the powerful and influential Stoic philosophers.  Then he ran into Christianity. We don’t know exactly how he was converted, but it seems that the doctrine of Christ filled in all the gaps of his philosophical worldview, and he quickly and energetically took over the famous catechetical School of Alexandria, which was to produce a cascade of brilliant scholars, eloquent preachers, and instrumental saints in the early Church.  Some say he went on a missionary visit to India, but all we know for sure is that he was nicknamed the “Sicilian bee,” which betokens both his energetic work ethic and enthusiastic method of teaching, as well as the sweet and satisfying flavor of his doctrine. Soon the catechetical school was held in the highest esteem of all philosophical centers throughout the flourishing Roman Empire.

If you can marry your love for learning to an ardent, heartfelt love for the living source of all truth and beauty (that’s God, by the way), I will rest at ease.  If not, I will pray that God rigs it so you fail every course you take from now on – better a bunch of Fs on your report card now than an everlasting F on your Report Card later.

Forever your Uncle, Eddy

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