St Valerius and St Rufinus

Martyrs (entered heaven in 287)

Dear Valerie,

Well now, congratulations on a VERY successful sophomore year.  I can only hope and pray that your remaining years will be as fruitful.  I have to admit, though, that I am not so much impressed by your academic and musical successes – I think you could achieve those in your sleep (you have a lot of natural talent there).  On the other hand, the progress you have made in the Catholic Student Center is truly remarkable.  God has blessed your faith and perseverance.  Now, however, I have to issue a warning (that’s one of the things uncles are good for).

No authentic Christian endeavor is free from difficulties and obstacles.  You didn’t have too many this year, and maybe you won’t have to face them next year, but if you continue to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and his Apostles, sooner or later he will award you with the blessings of persecution, of some kind or another.  So, without being morbid, you should at least prepare yourself sufficiently so that you aren’t surprised.  Contemplating the example of today’s saints may help.

Valerius and Rufinus were business partners in Soissons (northern France).  They worked for the Imperial government, collecting and accounting the taxes for their area.  They were Christians (this is the third century, so the Empire is still mostly pagan, and plagued by intermittent persecutions of Christians – it was officially illegal to be a Christian by this time), as they evidenced most convincingly by their personal piety and spiritual discipline (especially fasting), as well as their fairness and generosity (they were well known almsgivers).

In the unending ebb and flow of Imperial politics, one Emperor by the name of Maximian Herculius had to wage war against some Gaulish (i.e. French) rebels called the Bagaudes.  Having subdued them, the Emperor left Rictius Varus in charge of the Province, ordering him (among other things) to eliminate Christianity.  Thus began one of the many waves of violent persecution.

When the wave reached Soissons, Valerius and Rufinus took refuge in the woods, but somehow they were discovered, condemned, and beheaded, right there on the road into the city.  Their happy and prosperous lives came to a glorious but painful conclusion.

I don’t know if our Lord will be calling you to spill your blood for love of him, but he will definitely allow some sort of opposition to plague your Christian efforts – it’s the only way to purify your heart even more and lead you to the heights of holiness, which coincide with the heights of happiness.  It’s nothing to get alarmed or upset about, but I don’t want you to be naïve either.  Don’t let yourself be caught by surprise.  If you do, the devil may spring his favorite trap on you: discouragement, the first step to infidelity.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Your loving uncle,


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