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Martyr (entered heaven in 1028)
I can’t write much – something strange is happening in the prison here, and they will soon be moving me (temporarily, so they say) to another cubicle. I can’t help wondering if the color scheme will be different, or the chair of a different type… You see to what straits I have been reduced, that such trivialities arouse interest?
Anyway, even though I only have a couple of minutes, I didn’t want to wait any longer before answering your last note. Let me start by saying that I’m glad to hear that you are at peace with your choice of a major, and I think you have reason to be. Philosophy has long been one of the greatest human endeavors, valued and encouraged by the Church since the dawn of Christianity. I must warn you, however, that most contemporary universities teach philosophy in a dangerous way. The value of philosophy comes from its being able to impart a clearer and deeper understanding of the way things are. Today’s philosophy departments, however, tend to present it merely as a buffet of differing opinions about the way things are; they leave truth up to personal taste. Thus, even though your professor of Kantian ethics is a charismatic fellow, and intelligent, and attractive, that should not suffice to make you in turn a Kantian disciple.
I realize that mine will be a lone, distant, faint voice among the many loud and present voices of your professors, but I feel obliged to remind you now, right at the outset of your philosophical endeavor, that Christ has much relevance for philosophy, and that although you don’t need to close yourself off from any philosophical reflection, you can do no better than to measure the thoughts and ideas you study against the sure yardstick of Christian doctrine. I know that will be a hard thing to do. I know that it is in vogue to belittle faith, to dismiss it as so much nonsense, and I know that if you assert a different point of view, they will make you suffer for it. But if that happens, you will only be joining the ranks of many who have suffered before you. Take today’s saint, for example.
We know so little about him, but that little is plenty enough. He was an Englishman. He was a nobleman, with the highest birth and education possible in eleventh century England. But he recognized the vanity of worldly pursuits, and heeded a call to put his extraordinary mind at the service of the King of kings. So he trained himself in virtue and Christian knowledge, and went to Germany to spread the Gospel. Having found success there, he ventured further north, to lands still untouched by Christ, and preached the true faith among the pagans in Sweden, at the time of King Olaf II, the first leader to call himself the King of Sweden. There Ulfrid met initial success, but it was fraught with difficulty and opposition. Even so, he persevered. While he was preaching vehemently against the pagan idols, he took an ax to a huge and much revered (superstitiously) idol of the Norse god Thor. He had to show them that this was not god, but merely a man-made idol. But his interlocutors were enraged at his boldness, and rushed upon him. Thus the great saint was martyred.
I doubt you’ll have to wield a physical ax to dismantle the pagan and idolatrous philosophies you may run across in your studies, but if you are faithful to the truth, you will indubitably be set upon by enraged pagans. Be ready for it, and don’t be afraid – the Truth will set you free, not Thor-like idols.