Today, January 29, on our FSJ calendar, is the commemoration of St. Gildas the Wise (if you don’t have a FSJ Calendar, you may order it here.)
Gildas once reminded me that we’re not the only Christians troubled by their times. Gildas the Wise was a 6th-century monk from the British Isles (born, it seems, in my ancestral home of Dumbarton, Scotland). In his treatise, On the Ruin of Britain, he writes of the current Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain and cites the moral laxity and infidelity of Christians as their cause. During earlier periods of scarcity and suffering, the Christians had remained faithful and trusted in God. But in a recent time of prosperity, they had forgotten God. Rampant immorality, corrupt clergy, and selfish leaders plagued the land. (Sound familiar?)
But if you think Gildas was simply “venting,” you’d be wrong. He begins:
Whatever my attempt shall be in this epistle, made more in tears than in denunciation, in poor style, I allow, but with good intent, let no man regard me as if about to speak under the influence of contempt for men in general, or with an idea of superiority to all, because I weep the general decay of good, and the heaping up of evils, with tearful complaint. On the contrary, let him think of me as a man that will speak out of a feeling of condolence with my country’s losses and its miseries, and sharing in the joy of remedies.
“Sharing in the joy of remedies” is a wonderful phrase. Gildas, a godly man, viewed the world with the eyes of Christ. He sought a return to God’s grace, the healing of souls, and an end to sin and its destruction. He loved his audience. He was a curator of the healing grace of God that all men need for salvation.
It is this that we, too, seek to promote in Touchstone. There is only one reason to articulate orthodox doctrine: to assist us in the firm knowledge of the Savior, who is both God and Man, and thus able to save. St. Paul insisted on sound doctrine, without which the saving faith would be watered down, corrupted, and lost.
At such times as this, however, it may seem that there is little one person can do. Again, Gildas points the way. In a hymn of the Eastern Church, a verse is addressed to him: “Teach us to despise nothing, that all our talents, however small, may be employed in God¹s service.” To begin with, each of us can and must pray, daily, for our families, our neighbors, our pastors, our parish families, and our leaders.
Support the good, encourage the weak, love all men, do good to all. “The harvest of righteous is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (–James of Jerusalem, Epistle, 3:18.) Notice the order: the fruit comes from a peaceful sowing. Sometimes in the history of the church, that which was sown was the blood of martyrs, “the seed of the church.” It was taken in violence, but offered in peace. We are witnesses, which is an honor and a privilege. We may together share in the joy of remedies!
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