St Willihad

Bishop (of Bremen, in northern Germany) (entered heaven this day in 789)

Dear Willy,

I know, of course, that you are “only doing your duty” by spending time sending cover letters and résumés to the “top 121” management consulting firms.  Certainly it would be presumptuous for you not to look for a job – senior year won’t last for ever. But I cannot hide my distress at discovering that you have not even considered – not even for a moment – the possibility of putting your considerable talents to use in serving Christ’s Kingdom.  You have your whole life ahead of you; would it be so unspeakable to give the next two years to work in some apostolic endeavor? Have you looked into your heart and asked the Lord if he would you like you to do so? Do you think He has given you your many abilities precisely for such a transcendent mission?  Perhaps the example of today’s saint will prove enlightening.

His mother died when he was only a boy, at which time his dad joined a monastery.  So Willihad spent his childhood learning the wisdom of Christ from the monks. It took root, and he received approval from the King of Northumberland (England) to follow the footsteps of his countrymen, St Boniface and St Willibrord, by going as a missionary to the Continent.  He ended up picking up right where the martyred Boniface had left off, and spent the next 35 years spreading the Gospel among the pagan Saxons. His work had its ups and downs, however, seeing as he had to dodge the repeated Saxon rebellions against Charlemagne’s rule. During the wars he waited patiently in monasteries, dedicating himself to prayer, study, and the encouragement of his missionary companions.  He also betook himself to Rome to receive the Pope’s blessing for his work. In the end, his missionary zeal gradually won over the hearts of even the most resistant Saxons, and he was made bishop of Bremen, where for two years he oversaw the construction of a Cathedral and of many churches. The Church in Germany had been conceived by St Boniface, but it was given birth by St Willibrord.

I do him an injustice, however.  I forgot to mention that throughout his 35 year conquest he longed constantly for the grace of martyrdom.  It was denied him – only, however, because God had other plans. In a place called Trentonia he and his disciples succeeded in destroying many idols and places of idol worship, which, as you can imagine, didn’t go over well with some of the unconverted.  They organized an attack, and the ringleader let fly his first sword-blow at St Willihad’s defenseless neck. But instead of cutting off his holy head, the sword shattered to pieces upon cutting a little string that held a necklace of relics. I imagine St Willihad sighed in disappointment for himself, but rejoiced in the salubrious effect the miracle produced on the hard-hearted pagans.

Your energy and creativity have often reminded me of the great pioneer missionaries like today’s saint, and more than once I have hoped you would make a higher priority of spreading God’s Kingdom.  I have suspected that you, like Willihad, would discover a special calling in your heart, and follow it courageously, letting God work miracles through your fidelity… But who am I to say that such work would be longer-lasting and more worthwhile than management consulting?…  Something to think about, anyway.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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