St Walter of Pontoise

(northern France) (entered heaven this day in 1099 – which was Good Friday that year)

Dear Wally,

Your nervousness is to be expected.  You’re about to take a big step.  Entering a religious order is no joke.  But don’t let your nerves get out of control.  Remember, you’re in God’s hands.  If that truly is your calling, it’s also where you will find fulfillment.  If it’s not, God has something he wants to teach you by bringing you there to find out.  Either way, you win.  Just be careful you have realistic expectations, otherwise the devil may trick you.  A quick glance at today’s saint will show you what I mean.

Walter was a lot like you.  He had received an excellent education, was extremely intelligent, and had achieved renown as a professor of philosophy and rhetoric.  But it was the honor of God that really motivated him.  And so he followed his vocation into the monastery, far from the vanities and temptations of high society.

When the famous and influential abbey of St German in Pontoise (northern France) needed an abbot, King Philip I himself undertook a diligent search for someone worthy of the task.  He settled on Walter.  But Walter didn’t want to be abbot.  He wanted to stay a humble, anonymous monk.  The King wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Walter finally gave in.  But he didn’t enjoy his new position.  In fact, he secretly fled the monastery more than once, but he was always found and brought back.  The last time he fled all the way to Rome, where he asked the Pope to excuse him from his duties.  The Pope wisely told him to go back, take up the responsibilities willed by God, and never leave again.  Walter did so.

But it didn’t get any easier.  The famous abbey suffered from all kinds of corruption, which St Walter began cleaning up.  So he made some powerful enemies.  At one point he was thrown in prison and physically beaten.  But when he was released, he took up his duties once again, unflinching in fidelity to God’s will.

The point, my dear nephew, is that the path of God’s will wasn’t paved with peaches and cream.  As you launch out on the great adventure of your vocation, remember that sacrifice and suffering don’t necessarily mean you’re on the wrong track – no matter what subtle temptations the devil may employ to lead you astray.

Your loving uncle,


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