St Willibrord

Bishop of Utrecht (The Netherlands) (entered heaven this day in 739)

Dear Willy,

Courage, my timorous young nephew, you must drum up your courage!  No use sitting in the coffee house with likeminded Catholics and lamenting the horrid state of campus life over a steaming café latte.  Sit there and slurp as many cappuccinos as you like, but do so while making plans to attack the neo-paganism and reclaim your campus for Christ!  Jesus and his angels are chomping at the bit (so to speak), waiting for you to give them a chance to flood that little bastion of secularism with grace; all you need to do is step out.  Start with a letter to the editor of the newspaper every Thursday.  Keep it short, make it direct, insure that it’s counter cultural (i.e. controversial), and they’ll love to publish it.  Send a copy to the local city papers too, and to the bigger papers – make some waves!  Then invite a speaker, then organize a debate… Don’t be satisfied until everyone has heard and accepted the good news of Christ.  Work together, as a team, and God will guide you.  Take today’s saint as your patron.

Willibrord was entrusted to some English monks when he was seven.  He learned the spiritual life well and headed to Ireland to deepen his knowledge and piety under the tutelage of the great Irish monks, together with his countrymen St Egbert and St Wigbert.  Various missionaries went from the Emerald Isle into the Netherlands in order to preach to the heathens there, but few returned, and those who did brought stories of dismal failure.  The challenge kindled a fire in Willibrord’s heart, and soon he and his buddy St Swithbert obtained permission to try their hand among the ferocious Frisians and their staunchly pagan leader, King Radbod.  They enlisted the support of the Frankish kings (Willibrord actually baptized Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father), and Willibrord went to Rome to request the Apostolic blessing for their work (he went again to Rome a few years later to be ordained bishop of the Frisians).  They spent the rest of their long lives (St Willibrord lived to the age of 82) spreading the Kingdom of Christ to and fro along the northwestern coast of Europe, complementing their gentle and cheerful charity with indomitable courage.

Once when he was marooned on a “sacred” island where it was forbidden to kill any living creature, eat any plant, or draw any water out of the “sacred” well except in silence, Willibrord showed his stuff.  He trapped and roasted some rabbits for himself and his companions and baptized three of the inhabitants with water from the well, pronouncing the sacramental words in a booming voice.  When he and his accomplices neither went mad nor dropped down dead the inhabitants were shocked, and began inquiries into the Christian God.  Of course, not everyone was favorably impressed with this and similar antics, and King Radbod’s sword claimed the life of more than one martyr in those days.  But Willibrord lived longer, long enough indeed to see Friesland transformed into an ordered, almost civilized, and partly Christian country.

That’s the kind of zeal and courage an apostle needs to have.  It’s exactly what the devil wants you not to have – he would much prefer a self-righteous passivity, a “fortress mentality” that kept you holed up and out of the fray, so he can continuing sapping life from the souls of your peers.  Please don’t give him the pleasure.

Affectionately yours,

Uncle Eddy

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