Sts Elias, Jeremy and Companions

Martyrs (entered heaven sometime in the first century)

Dear Jerry,

Let us talk plainly.  I commend your many apostolic activities, your letters to the editor of the campus newspaper, your participation in the debates and open forums.  You are showing a true conquering spirit, worthy of a follower of the eternal King.

But I sense the need to remind you of something essential.  All of this activity will do little good if not bolstered by the example of a holy life.  Remember, we human beings are not convinced to change our lives just by logic.  We are convinced by the experience of goodness and beauty – that wins over the heart, and the heart will open the mind and the will to the truth.

So you have got to back up your exposition of the truth with a constant presentation of goodness and beauty.  They have got to SEE in you all the Christian virtues: patience, kindness, respect, and most especially sincere concern for others – aka, Christian Charity.  Trust me, if you show your peers the beauty of an authentic Christian example, they won’t be able to resist the call of Christian truth.  This is the way it has always been.  Take today’s saints, for example.

Elias and his five Egyptian buddies left Egypt under the persecution of Diocletian in order to go north to Palestine and minister to the Christians who had been apprehended there and condemned to slave labor.  Great idea – but it got them into trouble with the authorities (did I forget to mention that you should get ready for trouble if you really want to live the Christian virtues?).

Going back into the city after a day at the mines, they were stopped at the gate and questioned.  They admitted who they were and what they were doing and they were taken prisoner.  As was usual at the time, they were racked and tortured before the official interrogation began.  Even so, once the official started questioning them, he couldn’t convince them to forego or compromise their faith.  Instead, their answers were like a living catechism.  For instance, when the judge asked where they were from, they answered, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem on high, which the Apostle calls every Christian’s true homeland.”

You can imagine what effect this kind of dialogue had on the pagan judge.  Infuriated, he had the tortures renewed, but to no avail.  Finally, he lost patience and ordered them beheaded.

But it didn’t stop there.  A young servant named Porphyrius was present.  He was so edified by their courage and poise amidst the horrible torments, that at their death he cried out that they at least deserved a decent burial.  The judge didn’t like that.  So he took the youth prisoner as well, and when he confessed to being a Christian, introduced him into equally horrible tortures in order to make him renounce his faith, even lighting a huge bonfire and leaving a blank space in the middle of it – reserved for Porphyrius, unless he denounced Christ.  The young warrior would do no such thing, and died a slow death, broiling in the flames as he sang Christ’s praises.

And it didn’t stop there either.  Seleucus was another eye-witness, and he couldn’t hold back his shouts of commendation at the young martyr’s fortitude.  At this, the judge immediately had him apprehended and beheaded, even without a trial.

And that’s how the faith was passed on and spread, through time and space: by the example of fidelity to Christ – acts of fidelity giving rise to other acts of fidelity, like links in a chain, until the faith reached our own day.  Keep that in mind as you continue your work of evangelization; beautiful words are good weapons by themselves, but they are made positively irresistible when accompanied by the torpedo of authentic Christian example.

Your cold and tired uncle,


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