St Pantaleon

Martyr (entered heaven around 305)

Dear Leo,

I can tell that you are more interested in being popular than in being happy (they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the same thing).  You know that true happiness, true meaning, and satisfaction in life comes from a deep, lively friendship with Christ and the heartfelt pursuit of virtue.  You would not deny it (I read your home school essays before you went on to college, so I know how much you know… You mother was so proud of them that she sent them to me on a regular basis – you know how moms can be).  And yet, there you are, spending all your leisure time hanging out with cliquey, socialite crowd and placidly tolerating their far-from-virtuous pastimes. I realize, of course, that they need to hear the gospel as much as anyone, and that your entry into their circles provides an opportunity to make it heard, but I urge you to be completely honest and ask yourself who’s really converting whom.  Certainly we need to be IN the world, otherwise, we can’t convert the world, but we must flee from every venue that sucks us into being OF the world. Take a lesson from today’s saint.

Pantaleon was a prestigious doctor in the Emperor’s court in Nicomedia (modern day Turkey).  In those days emperors were really emperors, and an emperor’s court was the epitome of luxury, worldly pleasure, intrigue, indulgence, and seductively opulent idolatry.  Pantaleon was already a Christian when he received his imperial appointment, but he jettisoned his faith after prolonged immersion in the enticing and sophisticated company of his newfound pagan buddies.  Luckily for him, a zealous Christian learned of his apostasy and set out to win him back to the Lord by urgent entreaties, prayers, and ingenious ploys to extricate him from the court’s excesses. Just in time.  Soon thereafter began the persecution of Christians under Diocletian, which purged the empire of its lukewarm believers, but made martyrs of those who stayed faithful to the Lord, one of whom was Pantaleon. (Some fellow physicians who had been offended when Pantaleon refused to participate in their sinful entertainments denounced him, and the saint suffered cruel tortures and decapitation instead of denying his faith.)

So don’t be naïve, my swaggering young nephew; be shrewd and careful in choosing your “friends.”  Playing with fire is fun and alluring, but no mere human can escape its heat.

Always your Uncle Eddy

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