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St Peter Canisius
Doctor of the Church (entered heaven this day in 1597)
You’ll probably be reading this in the airport, as you wait to board your long flight home for the holidays. I have been reading over the various items you sent me throughout the last semester. It was a hard one for you, no doubt. But I think some of your difficulties were really unnecessary. In almost every note you wrote me, you complained about being “too busy” and not having “enough time” to do everything. I would like to make a suggestion. You may not feel like taking it, but I hope you take it anyway.
I suggest that you take out a blank sheet of paper and during your plane ride, instead of watching a movie, do a detailed analysis of how you used your time during the last five months. Be demanding with yourself. Think about the priorities you had set for yourself back in August, and the commitments you consciously took on, and the goals you had set for yourself, and see how responsibly you stayed faithful to yourself. I have a strong feeling that you will be a little bit disappointed – you ended up spending an awful lot of time on things that make no appearance at all on your personal goals/priorities list. But don’t stop there. After you have made that analysis, make a plan for the coming semester. Revise your goals and priorities if you need to, anticipate the seductive time-stealers that will make their appearance, and decide NOW how you will deal with them. Weave some prayer into this airplane planning session, force yourself to finish before you disembark, and I guarantee you will have a much more peaceful vacation and a more productive second semester (you should review your revised plan on your plane ride back in January).
You may want to take as a motto for the coming semester a famous phrase by today’s saint. He responded to those who thought he was overworked that “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.” Simple philosophy – the “with God’s help” part is key because it implies that your first priority is to be doing what God wants you to be doing. You can count on this saying because few people in the history of the world have been such effective time managers as St Peter Canisius.
He has been called the second Apostle of Germany (St Boniface was the first, you’ll remember). He grew up in Holland and showed intellectual prowess at a young age. He also discerned a vocation to the priesthood at a young age and joined the budding Jesuit order when he was barely 20. As soon as he was ordained, he was sent as a theological consultant to the Council of Trent. Then to Rome to spend some time working at the side of St Ignatius of Loyola, and then began his long career as a founder of schools and colleges, first in Sicily, and then – for most of his lifetime – in what was then Germany and the Austrian Empire. Dozens of colleges and universities trace their origins to his work, and whole cities (e.g., Fribourg, Vienna, Ingolstadt) owe their continuing presence of Catholicism to his indefatigable preaching and instruction in the aftermath of the Protestant rebellion. For a time, he served as Jesuit Provincial for the entire region. It is estimated that he covered 6000 miles on foot and horseback during just two of those years as Provincial. Even when his health began to fail him, he continued his evangelizing efforts by adding to his already impressive roster of instructional and doctrinal books (his three Catechisms were reprinted two hundred times and translated into 15 languages during his own lifetime). In short, this great apostle filled every waking hour with fervent activity and tranquil love, winning countless souls for the Kingdom of Christ.
Right now your duties differ somewhat from his, but if you prioritize and organize yourself, I am confident that you can make better use of your precious college years, and stay peaceful and happy all the while.
Sincerely, your uncle, Eddy