St Serapion

Bishop of Thmuis (Lower Egypt) (entered heaven around 370)

Dear Thomas,

You ask me for a simple holiness formula.  You say you are tired of reading so many books and articles about all the virtues and the sacraments and the devotions and the disciplines… “Sick and tired of complications,” so you say, “give me the gospel pure and simple.”  Well, it’s funny you asked me today, because today’s saint has just the ticket.

He was a scholar who headed up the famous Catechetical School in Alexandria, Egypt before heading into the desert to serve God in silence and simplicity.  There he met and followed St Anthony, and he also met St Athanasius. He couldn’t hide his fame for long, and the more he tried, the more it grew, until he was installed as bishop in the city of Thmuis.  There he put his holiness and scholarship to work defending the true faith against the influential and widespread heresies of the time (Arianism, Macedonianism, Manicheanism…). Most of his writings are lost, but St Socrates recorded his summary of Christian perfection, which, I think, fits the description of what you were looking for. It pithily describes how to rid oneself of selfishness so that God can have free rein to make us into the saints he wants us to be.  It goes like this (though the English version sounds a bit clumsy):

The mind is purified by meditation and prayer,

The spiritual passions of the soul [pride, envy, arrogance, etc.] by charity [i.e. love of God and neighbor],

And the irregular appetites [gluttony, sloth, lust, etc.] by abstinence and penance.

St Serapion used to repeat this to himself often.  It seemed to work for him; maybe it will do the same for you – if you have the courage to live it out.  Keep me posted.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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