St Paschasius Radbertus

(entered heaven on this day, 860)

Dear Esther,

I think you give up on people too easily.  Remember, our Lord pointed out to the Pharisees that it’s the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy.  Admittedly, your roommate isn’t a model of virtue or discretion (or even good sense, judging by your last couple of notes), but does that mean she can’t become a saint?  Is she out of range of God’s transforming and enlightening grace?  Of course not.  I know it’s hard to keep that in mind, but it will help a lot if you do.  Maybe a quick look at today’s saint’s rocky road to holiness will give your hope a boost.

The nuns of Notre Dame of Soissons (in Northern France) found the infant Radbertus on the steps of their convent one fine morning.  They took him in and took care of him until he was old enough to go to school.  At that point they put him under the tutelage of Benedictines in the nearby monastery of St Peter’s.  He was a bright student, but rowdy.  He gave everybody trouble.  But the monks never gave up on him.  He began preparations to become a monk himself, but his boisterous streak made him wonder if what the monks were telling him about life outside the monastery was really true.  So he decided to check it out.  It didn’t take long for him to realize that they were indeed right, and to decide that Providence was in truth calling him to dedicate his talents to the everlasting Kingdom, not to the passing wealth of the world.

When he was 22, then, he took the habit.  For the rest of his life he would tirelessly preach the Gospel in word and deed, living in monasteries (with one stint as an abbot) and in the courts of the French kings.  His advice and wisdom were valued and sought by churchmen and laymen alike.  His energetic scholarship and zeal for the truth led him to play an important role in the Carolingian renaissance – a rare and fruitful flowering of classical and Christian literature and spirituality.  He wrote profusely, preached and lectured publicly every day, guided Church councils, educated future saints and kings, and never relaxed his faithful adherence to the demands of his monastic rule.  Paschasius Radbertus became a theological and spiritual authority whose influence extended through the centuries.

It’s funny, though, how he died.  He dictated his last will and testament on his deathbed.  He didn’t own anything that needed to be bequeathed, but he did have one request to make: that no one would write the story of his life (during his own lifetime he had written the biographies of two abbots who preceded him in the famous monastery of Corbie, so chances were that someone was planning to do the same for him).    If his works endured and continued to help the church, all the better, but as for himself, he wanted to be forgotten, to return at his exit from this life to the anonymity that had marked his entrance into the world.

From foundling child to teenage rebel to monk to international scholar to saint – do you see the marvels God’s grace can work when we help him out just a little bit?  I hope so, for your own sake, and for your roommate’s.

Your loving uncle,


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