St Praetexatus

Archibishop of Rouen (in northwestern France) and Martyr (entered heaven on February 25th, 586)

Dear Tex,

Well, I must say you are becoming quite, how shall I say… “practical”, as you advance in your college career.  I was able to read between the lines a little bit in your note, and I didn’t like what I saw.

I know grades are important, and contacts are important too.  They seem even more important now that you’re finishing off your junior year and grad school and job applications are right around the corner.  All that matters, granted.  But does it matter more than the state of your soul?  Do you really think getting the right recommendation letter is a good excuse for covering up your faith, for silently condoning behavior and beliefs that make a mockery of Christ?  Before you answer, recall the story of today’s saint.

We don’t really know a whole lot about the fellow – at least, not until he became Archibishop of Rouen in the year 549.  Rouen was an important city in what is today northern France, and its bishop was automatically a celebrity.  And you know what that means – whatever he did or said was eagerly observed, criticized, and commented upon by everyone, kings and queens included.  And that become a point of contention for him.

You have to understand how politics worked back then to appreciate fully his predicament.  Europe was still quite pagan for all practical purposes, and even though the great King Clovis had united the Franks under one rule, his death and bequeathing of the kingdom to his sons reintroduced divisions.  King Clothair I had briefly reunited the Frankish kingdom, but later re-divided it in order to give hefty inheritances to his three sons.  Each of them in turn married in view of their own ambitions.  Unfortunately, their wives were equally ambitious and proud.

You see what a politically explosive mix had been concocted.  It was ignited by the addition of that most common and tragic ingredient: lust.  King Chilperic had married a Spanish princess named Galsvinda.  But he had a mistress on the side – Fredegonda.  She was resourceful.  It seems she contrived the death of Galsvinda in order to procure her own marriage to Chilperic.  But Chilperic’s brother, Sigebert, had married Galsvinda’s sister, Brunehault, and Brunehault was not going to let Fredegonda’s evil machinations go unchecked.  Sigebert protested his brother’s second marriage.  Fredegonda ended up having him killed too.  She continued her murderous ways, doing her best to insure that all three Frankish kingdoms would be reunited again under the rule of her favorite son.  The details of her plots would make a triumphant TV mini-series.

In any case, good St Praetexatus was swept into this whirlwind because he denounced Fredegonda’s behavior.  So the energetic, evil queen stirred up the other bishops against the saint, and achieved his exile.  But political developments eventually enabled his return.

At that point it would have been much more comfortable and profitable for him to keep quiet.  But what does earthly comfort and profit matter in comparison with Christ and his Kingdom?  Praetexatus continued to preach in favor of all the Christian virtues, and make up with his words, prayers, and example for what was lacking in Fredegonda’s deformed conscience.  Only his courage and fidelity were able to counteract the expanding scandals caused by her myriad injustices.  And she knew it.  So she had him murdered as his was singing morning prayers together with his clergy.

Do you share Praetexatus’s faith?  Or would you rather hitch your wagon to today’s Fredegondas?  Think about it BEFORE you start pursing your career, so you’ll be prepared to make the right decision when seductive temptations come knocking at your door.

Your concerned uncle,


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