St Philip Neri

(entered heaven in 1595)

Dear Phil,

You are just a freshman; you’ve got so much time ahead of you – three more big, fat years at college, and then a whole lifetime!  But you are wise to pose the question you asked in your last note: how can you make the best use of your college years? I imagine that this question has arisen because you have experienced a few qualms of conscious about how you utilized your time during your first year.  If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to bring it up in confession – ask our Lord’s pardon for any wasted, irresponsibly used time; time is a gift from God just like all the other gifts he gives us, and we ought to use it well.

There is an awful lot to say about time management, especially in today’s super fast-paced post-modernity.  As your loving uncle, however, I would like to give you one simple word to guide your use of time during these beautiful and critical college years: training.  Yep, you are in training. Only God knows what mission he has in store for you, what battles you will be called to fight for his Kingdom, what divine secrets he will want to communicate to the world through your words and example.  These years of your education are part of the plan; they are years in which he wants you to develop your talents and ready yourself to receive your marching orders. He is counting on you take advantage of every minute to build a solid character, form an agile and robust intellect, hone your interpersonal skills, learn to communicate, and learn the art of living.  The centerpiece of it all, however, has to be a deep, vibrant, dynamic, and heartfelt friendship with Christ. With that in place, the Holy Spirit will be able to take care of all the rest. Just like he did with today’s saint.

Philip Neri abandoned a promising clerkship to move to Rome, where he spent two years almost entirely in prayer and sacrifice, forsaking the pleasures of the world in hopes to discover how he was to serve the Lord.  He became so close to God, so filled with zeal, that he almost single-handedly ignited a religious revival among the corrupt and worldly people and clergy of the Eternal City. He is still today known as the Apostle of Rome (even though he was born in Florence).  He started all kinds of ministries, spent entire days in the confessional (he would tell people their sins even before they confessed them), and acted as a spiritual adviser to a steady stream of repentant cardinals, clergy, laity, and even a Pope or two. He had put his relationship with God first and kept it there, and that’s all God needed in order to ensure that his eighty years of earthly life were filled with incomparable joy, immense love, and incredible apostolic fruit.

So then, you would like a bit of advice on taking advantage of your time.  Well, if you can keep in mind that these are your training years (and they will never return) and that the core of all your training is your relationship with God… In that case, I’d be willing to bet that you finish with no regrets.

Love, Uncle Eddy

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