St Paphnutius

Bishop (entered heaven around 350)

Dear Pappy,

The solution is simple; it’s called “the personal touch.”  Our Lord used it, the Apostles used it, and if you want to be more effective in apostolic work, you better use it too.  Fliers, guest speakers, activities, articles – all these things are necessary tools to defend and disseminate Christian truth, but to bring people into a living relationship with Christ and his Church, you need to surround all such generalized outreaches with person-to-person contact.  You have to get to know these people, let them get to know you, and invite them into friendship with Jesus Christ.  Faith is a matter of the heart, and you only reach the heart one-on-one.  Today’s saint understood that.

He was a monk in the Egyptian deserts, a disciple of the great St Anthony.  After learning the spiritual life he was raised to a bishopric in southern Egypt.  During the last Christian persecutions (under the Emperor Maximinus) those who adhered publicly to the true faith were often mutilated instead of martyred.  Bishop Paphnutius was one of these: they gauged out his right eye, severed his Achilles tendon, and carted him off to work in the mines.  When the persecution ended, these faithful Christians were dubbed “confessors” for having confessed their faith even in the face of such costly consequences.  He returned to his flock and lived as a model pastor, defending true doctrine again when the Arian heresy broke out.

At the first ecumenical Council (at Nicea in 325), he played a major and memorable role.  Later, at another Council that met to address Arianism, he saw a fellow confessor (Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem) sitting among the heretical bishops.  His heart was almost broken to see someone who had already suffered so much for the true faith forsaking it.  Paphnutius approached Maximus, took him by the hand and led him outside of the council chambers, where he warmly but urgently appealed to the prelate to return to the fullness of the true faith.  Maximus was so moved that when they returned to the council he stayed by Paphnutius’ side and sat with the Catholic bishops, and from then on he always upheld the Catholic faith.

Where public, general appeals make no impression, the personal touch can reach the heart.  If you add that to your program of evangelization, you’ll turn the campus upside down before midterms.

Sincerely,

Uncle Eddy

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