St William

Archbishop of Bourges (entered heaven this day in 1209)

Dear Bill,

Your latest discernment update begs a response.  Just because you “feel attracted” to the vocation of marriage (most normal young men do, you know), and just because your prayer life has lately “felt kind of burdensome,” that is no reason to cancel your scheduled visits to the seminary.  On the other hand, though, you should still – in my opinion – follow through with your other options as well. You need to be responsible for choosing your first post-graduation step, and that means depending less on subjective “feelings” and more on objective reason.  Our feelings are real, and they are God’s gifts. They often help us follow our conscience and identify the right course of action. But they are secondary factors. They are not well educated, in general – they tend to follow a rather random course, like the weather. We mustn’t steer our lives by them primarily; rather, we must stay oriented by the true magnetic north of our reason enlightened by our Catholic faith.  Today’s saint is a perfect case in point.

He was born of an illustrious family in central France and early on discerned a vocation to solitude and prayer.  So he joined the flourishing Cistercian monastery nearby. His natural wisdom and growing holiness made him the logical choice for the abbot.  He fulfilled that office in two separate monasteries, always using it to great advantage for increasing the fervor of his brother monks. When the archbishop of nearby Bourges died, William was chosen to succeed him.  Of course, he had taken the monastic habit precisely to evade the hustle and bustle of life in the world, and the news of his election simply overwhelmed him. He refused to accept it, energetically pointing out that it was an imprudent choice, that he wasn’t up to the task, that he felt God calling him to tend to the monks, etc…  Only when his religious superior ordered him to accept the archbishopric (and when he received a similar command from the Pope), did he acquiesce. He cried throughout the journey from his monastery to the bishop’s residence. But it turns out that his adverse feelings were way off target. He was a model bishop. His own example of charity and evangelical poverty, coupled with a deep spirit of prayer and penance, won the hearts of his flock, the return to the fold of numerous Albigensian heretics, and even the loyalty of his initially envious clergy.  The archdiocese flourished in every way.

So you see, my sentimental nephew, our feelings can betray us.  It is much wiser to balance them out with regular doses of reasoned reflection, sound advice, common sense, and prudence – Christian prudence, that is.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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