St Peter Balsam

Martyr (entered heaven this day in 311, by crucifixion

Dear Sam,

Just relax for a moment.  Everything’s going to be all right.  You don’t need to get so upset. Choosing a major is important, but the fate of the universe isn’t hanging on your decision.  Take a deep breath, let it out slow… Now then, let’s talk rationally.

The first thing you need to realize is that your major doesn’t determine your future.  Majors can be changed; many different careers can follow upon any particular major; you can switch directions in graduate school… In short, whatever profession you eventually choose, your own habits of hard work and responsibility, plus your natural talents, will weigh far more in the balance than your undergraduate major.  Trust me.

But let’s take this reflection to a deeper level.  Your current anxiety, though unhealthy, is a good opportunity.  Society today tends to define self-worth by exterior things, like money, position, awards, looks… Your current preoccupation, if you think about it, is a symptom of that same erroneous mindset.  I think you need a good dose of reality. And today’s saint can give it to you. He was one of the many Christians who died in Diocletian’s persecution, just a couple of years before Emperor Constantine finally made Christianity legal in 313.  Here is the ancient account of his trial. Read closely (Peter was apprehended in Palestine):

“…Being brought before Severus, governor of the province, the interrogatory began by asking him his name. Peter answered: ‘Balsam is the name of my family, but I received that of Peter in baptism.’ Severus, ‘Of what family, and of what country are you?’ Peter. ‘I am a Christian.’ Severus, ‘What is your employ?’ Peter, ‘What employ can I have more honorable, or what better thing can I do in the world than to live a Christian?’ Severus, ‘Do you know the imperial edicts?’ Peter, ‘ I know the laws of God the sovereign of the universe.’ Severus, ‘You shall quickly know that there is an edict of the most clement emperors, commanding all to sacrifice to the gods, or be put to death.’ Peter, ‘You will also know one day that there is a law of the eternal king, proclaiming that everyone shall perish, who offers sacrifice to devils: which do you counsel me to obey, and which, do you think, should be my option; to die by your sword, or to be condemned to everlasting misery, by the sentence of the great king, the true God?’ Severus, ‘ Seeing you ask my advice, it is then that you obey the edict, and sacrifice to the gods.’ Peter, ‘I can never be prevailed upon to sacrifice to gods of wood and stone, as those are which you adore.’ Severus, ‘I would have you know, that it is in my power to revenge these affronts by your death.’ Peter, ‘I had no intention to affront you. I only expressed what is written in the divine law.’ Severus, ‘Have compassion on yourself and sacrifice.’ Peter, ‘If I am truly compassionate to myself, I ought not to sacrifice.’ Severus. ‘My desire is to use lenity; I therefore still do allow you time to consider with yourself, that you may save your life.’ Peter, ‘This delay will be to no purpose, for I shall not alter my mind; do now what you will be obliged to do soon, and complete the work, which the devil, your father, has begun; for I will never do what Jesus Christ forbids me…’”

You can imagine the final outcome.  Severus had Peter hung and stretched from the rack and torn with iron hooks.  Every once in a while, he would invite him once again to apostatize, and Peter, seemingly impervious to the pain, would uphold his faith, in spite of the urgings of the crowd (horrified at the cruel punishment) to save himself.  After wearing out two shifts of torturers, Peter finally met his death by crucifixion.

Maybe you’re not in danger of worshipping idols of wood and stone, but perhaps your current anxiety indicates a misplaced understanding of where you can find true peace of mind: not in what you do (or will do), but in who you are – a soldier and brother of Christ.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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