St Philip Benizi

first canonized saint of the Order of Servites (entered heaven on August 22, 1285)

Dear Nicki,

I think you have set yourself a false dilemma.  Just because you think you may have a vocation to the consecrated life doesn’t mean you should lay off your intellectual formation.  As long as you are discerning your vocation ACTIVELY (not just sitting around thinking about it and getting all kinds of worthless advice from your friends while you drink cappuccino at the Coffee House into the wee hours of the morning), you still ought to fulfill the duties of your state in life, which is the first field of God’s will for you.  Then, when the time comes to step into a postulency or candidacy program, you will know that you have faithfully fulfilled all that he was wanting you to achieve before your taking on the adventure of consecration. Today’s saint is a good example of this.

Philip was a noble Florentine by birth, at a time (the thirteenth century) when Florence was one of the wealthiest and most influential centers of Europe (or at least when it was well along the way to its future greatness).  He was a naturally brilliant fellow (something he shares with you) and by the time he was 19 he had already won doctorate degrees in medicine and philosophy in two of Europe’s oldest and greatest universities: Padua and Paris.  He took up the practice of medicine, but after a little while he was privileged with a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after which he decided to follow God’s call and join the Servite Order, a religious order dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and founded only a few years prior.  At first he tried to cover up his great learning and live as a simple Servite brother. But his spiritual director talked sense to him, and convinced him to put all the talents and education that Providence had awarded him at the service of the order’s mission. He was subsequently ordained a priest and given, successively, the tasks of novice instructor, friary prior, and, eventually, General Superior of the order.  

In addition to codifying the Servite rule, defending it from dissolution in the wake of the Council of Lyons, co-founding the Third Order, collaborating with various future saints, acting as a peacemaker between popes and emperors (for this he was once heckled and then physically attacked during a sermon – he turned the other cheek and his example of humility converted the onlooker Peregrine Laziosi, another future Servite saint) and Guelphs and Ghibellines, and strewing miracles wherever he preached (once he met a leper along the road; when he gave the leper his cloak, the man was immediately healed of his leprosy), he (and this is perhaps the biggest miracle of all) kept his deep humility intact.  So much so, in fact, that when it was rumored that the Conclave was considering him as a possible next pope, he withdrew into hiding in a mountain cave until someone else had been chosen.

I think you get my point, don’t you?  Wherever God is calling you, he will want you to make the best use of the talents he has given you (that’s why he gave them to you), so you need to keep cultivating them responsibly, even while you search actively and conscientiously for the path he would have you follow.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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