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St Porcarius and Companions
Martyrs (entered heaven in 732)
I hope you’re finding time for some needed rest. You’ve worked hard this summer and junior year is right around the corner – I don’t want you to arrive on campus already exhausted. Make sure you take a few days to enjoy nature, get some exercise, eat a few solid meals, and relax with family and/or friends. (I don’t often give this advice, since most of your cousins are less conscientious than you – they tend towards self-indulgence whereas you naturally tend towards self-discipline.) And then when you’re on the plane heading back east, you may want to review some of the arguments in your apologetics arsenal – like the one against moral relativism, for instance. I have a feeling you’re going to be needing them in the near future. You may even find today’s saint to be a good illustration for some of them.
Porcarius was the Abbot of St Hilary of Arles’s famous monastery on the Island of Lerins near France’s Cote d’Azur (the Island is now called Ile de Saint-Honorat, in honor of the monastery’s founder). It was flourishing under his wise and holy leadership. They had more than five hundred monks there, praising God, studying the Word, and preparing for the many missions they would take on for the good of a Europe still struggling to emerge from the chaotic aftermath of the Fall of Rome’s Western Empire. The vast majority of the bishops and missionaries in those centuries were trained in the monasteries, and the one on Lerins was, it seems, the very first in Western Europe, so it had a primary role. Prayer, work, and study were the order of the day – such an order that was to become the catalyst for a new, thriving Christian civilization, the fecund seedbed of those values of human liberty, justice, science, and ordered freedom that made for all that is good in western culture. You can picture how St Porcarius must have spent his days: on his knees much of the time, speaking and guiding the monks, whether from the pulpit or, more often, one-on-one, watching over the community like a true father, as Christ watched over his Apostles.
The peace and harmony of Lerins was disturbed in 732, however. Islam had recently made its debut, and the Saracen and Moorish armies where swarming over the Mediterranean and beyond, forcing conversions or slaughtering those who resisted. They made their way to the coast of France. Porcarius was warned in a dream that they would be coming to Lerins, and he managed to send a few dozen of the youngest monks and brothers to the safety of the mainland with the few boats at his disposal before they arrived. Then the saint gathered his other charges and prepared them to face the oncoming invasion, exhorting them to think of Christ and leading them in prayer. All but four of the remaining monks were massacred (the four survivors were taken as slaves). And that was the end of this Christian center, this great beacon of faith, hope, and learning.
If the relativists are right, and there are no objective principles of right and wrong, then they would have no reason to condemn crimes like these. If human beings cannot make common appeal to universal moral principles (as hard as such principles may be to identify in certain difficult situations), then physical force is the only valid law of any land – and if that’s the case, they shouldn’t mind if you go in and take their DVD collection, their computer, and their family heirlooms. (Of course, they would mind if you did that, which proves your point.)
Have fun relaxing.
Your loving uncle, Eddy
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