St Peter of Tarentaise

Archbishop (entered heaven 1175)

Dear Pete,

Your latest plea for advice reminded me of those vapid songs from the seventies, which gloat in mistaking mere feelings for true virtue.  You are an artist; you have been gifted with a keen emotional sensitivity, and God is certainly planning on putting that to good use for his Kingdom.  Nevertheless, you are still a human being, and human beings are more than mere feelings; we have something called reason, another thing called willpower, and we Christians even have the gift of faith to top it all off!  Feelings are blind – sometimes you feel like doing the right thing, a lot of times you feel like doing the wrong thing. Sometimes you feel like being kind, other times you feel like being crabby. Imagine what a monster you would be if you let all your feelings have their way all the time.  Perish the thought! I remind you that feelings are like the weather. Sometimes they can help our journey through life, and other times they can hinder it. The important thing is to keep in mind your destination (union with God through friendship with Christ) and let nothing stop you from pursuing it.  Today’s saint has a lot to say about this.

At twenty Peter became a Cistercian monk.  He was so dedicated that he inspired his whole family (mom and dad, two brothers and one sister) to become Cistercians soon afterward.  He loved being a monk. At thirty he was made superior of a new monastery and worked tirelessly to turn the place into a saint factory and a beacon of Christian charity (he built a hospice next door, where he would tend the sick and house travelers for free).  Soon, however, he was appointed to the archbishopric of Tarentaise in south-central France. For thirteen years he reformed and reinvigorated the ailing archdiocese, with the aid of plenty of miracles. But he missed the monastic life so much that one night he sneaked away, went to Switzerland and became a lay brother (dedicated to manual labor) in a monastery that didn’t know him.  He was much happier there, but the people of his archdiocese demanded his return when they finally tracked him down a year later. Reluctantly, he agreed, and went on to extend his works of charity throughout France, defend the papacy against the seemingly overpowering wiles of the emperor Frederick Barbarossa (St Peter was the only person that the emperor permitted to speak freely against him – so evident was the archbishop’s holiness), and midwife peace between the quarreling kings of France and England.  If he had followed his feelings instead of his faith, Europe would have lost a mighty champion of charity and peace, and you would have lost the possibility of asking this saint for his prayers on your behalf. So keep your goal in mind, and let nothing deter you.

Sincerely, Uncle Eddy

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