St William of Roskilde

(in Denmark) Bishop and Confessor (entered heaven in 1067)

Dear Bill,

It’s no mystery, my precocious nephew.  You’re always stressed out because you have tunnel vision.  You’re always thinking of yourself and your projects and your likes and your problems, to the exclusion of the bigger picture.  This is immaturity, pure and simple. Forgive me for being so blunt, but I am, after all, your uncle. You need to remember that the universe doesn’t revolve around you, it revolves around God.  Christ is the King, and he is busy leading the Church to its final triumph over evil, and you are one of his soldiers. If you can keep that straight in your head, your stress will dissipate, because you’ll realize that Christ is the one in charge, and all you have to do is faithfully fulfill each task he gives you day by day.

It’s a question of expanding the default setting of your mental worldview to include more than just yourself.  Today’s saint is a good example of this kind of maturity.

William was an English priest who served as King Canute’s chaplain.  (Remember King Canute, the Danish ruler who conquered England in the eleventh century?)  The first time he accompanied the King to Denmark, William was so moved by the ignorance, superstition, and even idolatry rampant among the Danes that he asked to stay there so he could spread the Gospel.  This he did, with huge success. His zeal and piety won countless souls to Christ. Eventually he was made bishop of Roskilde, on the large Island of Zealand, poised between Denmark and Sweden, the residence of the Danish Kings.

From there he continued to preach and teach the Gospel, and to govern the Church with courage, even to the point of risking his own life.  He had a few run-ins with Canute’s successor to the Danish throne, Sweyn. Their first conflict occurred when the young King entered into an unlawful, incestuous marriage with a Swedish princess.  After St William’s remonstrance, however, Sweyn repented and corrected his ways. William then had to confront him a bit later in order to remove yet another scandal from his young flock.

This time Sweyn had abused his royal power, putting a group of people to death without a fair and public trial.  The next day the king came to church, and Bishop William was there barring the door, insisting that Sweyn repent of his sinful, scandalous behavior before desecrating the house of God.  The King’s companions drew their swords to menace the man of God, but William bared his neck and proclaimed himself willing to die in defense of God’s honor.

In the end, Sweyn repented of this sin too, and subsequently joined forces with the holy bishop to promote the good of his people and of the Church in Denmark.  So close were the two leaders that when the King died, the Bishop asked God that he not be separated from his friend, and died soon thereafter, so that they were buried together.

Christianity and civilization came to Denmark because William’s eyes were wide open: he saw the fields ripe for the harvest, he saw the big picture, and his life, though hard, was fruitful and fulfilling because of it.  So I suggest you turn off your tunnel vision. You’ll not only be better able to handle stress, you’ll also have less stress to handle.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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