St Wulfstan

Bishop of Worcester (entered heaven in 1095)

Dear Stan,

Always good to hear from you, my faithful nephew, though your last note brought ominous tidings.  In your description of the recent successes of your campus activities you only mentioned numbers – so many students now attending the weekly meetings, so many students coming to the First Friday liturgy, so many students attended the workshop on faith and reason… On the one hand, it is necessary (I mean that) and praiseworthy to take stock of these objectives, measurable indicators of the relative success of your evangelization efforts.  But on the other hand, such indicators don’t tell everything. For example, it is theoretically possible to have high numbers attending your events, but few attendees deepening their commitment to Christ. I’m not saying that this is your case; I’m just saying that it could be your case. When we focus on exterior success to the detriment of real, lasting success (bringing as many people as possible closer to the Lord), we run the risk of disconnecting from God’s will and serving only our vain and vague sense of worldly accomplishment.  

Today’s saint has a great phrase in this regard.  He was one of those remarkable young men who even in his early years strove passionately to know and please God.  He dealt with youthful temptations so definitively that later in life he was sublimely free to give himself without reserve to his task of shepherding the important diocese of Worcester, England, a post he was forced into (he had no book learning and felt completely inadequate to the task) after having been a monk and then Abbot of a monastery in the same city.  He so effectively reformed the decadent morals of the citizenry, that when William the Conqueror had all the native English bishops deposed in favor of his Norman clergy (this was after his successful invasion of the Island in 1066), St Wulfsan was the sole English prelate to maintain his see. Towards the end of his life, the growth of his community of faithful forced him to tear down their ancient and dilapidated cathedral (it was made of wood), and erect a magnificent new structure, much larger and more elaborate.  He realized the necessity of this exterior work, but it pained him to see the old building razed. He remarked at the time, “The men of old, if they had not stately buildings, were themselves a sacrifice to God, whereas we pile up stones, and neglect souls.”

Well, in a sense you too are piling up stones – the stones of many apostolic initiatives and projects of evangelization on campus and off.  Keep on piling them up with energy and cunning, but don’t ever let yourself be rebuked for having neglected souls.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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