Rationality is not the only norm in life to assess the value of others. Occasionally we come across people who were unreasonable by the normal standards of life but who were giants in wisdom. One such person is Alexis.
He was the only son of a wealthy Christian Roman senator. His parents agreed to the proposal of a marriage with a rich lady. However on the wedding night he fled Rome and went to Edessa in Syria. Some claim his wife agreed to his flight.
There no one knew who he was. He lived as a beggar, accepting alms even from his own household slaves, who had been sent to look for him but did not recognize him. He wanted to live in anonymity. One day the Virgin Mary appeared to him in front of other people calling him ‘the man of God’. This made him very popular.
Celebrity scared him and so he returned to Rome. The hard life he lived in Edessa changed even his appearance so much that not even his parents recognized him, but as good Christians they took him in and sheltered him in their own home. For seventeen years he lived in a dark tiny cubicle under the stairs! He could ease himself of all this discomfort by simply revealing who he was. But he refused to do so. He spent his life praying and teaching catechism to children. He wanted to communicate the goodness of God to everyone.
He lived like this for seventeen years. Seventeen! When he died under the stairs, his family found a note on his body that told them that he was their own son. They understood. He had found the treasure hidden in the field. And he wanted to remain concealed close to his treasure!
Obviously the man who lacks the higher knowledge that comes from faith sees all this as a waste. Charles Swan lambasts this saint, “He who neglects every relative duty; he who is a cruel and ungrateful son, a bad husband, and careless master; he whose whole life is to consume time, not to employ it – to vegetate but not to exist – to dream away life, with every sense locked up…this is to be a Man of God?” And I suppose he is right if all there is in life is this earthly existence and if God does not exist.
However God exists and it is definitively worthwhile giving all your life to Him and Him alone. “Take God for your spouse and friend and walk with Him continually, and you will not sin and will learn to love, and the things you must do will work our prosperously for you,” counsels Saint John of the Cross.
To do this, on one hand it is highly recommended to reduce unnecessary activity because they will lead to dissipation and distraction. On the other hand it is essential to strengthen one’s focus on HIM. When Sister Catherine asked Saint John why, when she passed beside the pond in the garden, the frogs always jumped into the water and hid, he answered that the pond was the place where they felt most secure. “You should do the same as well: escape creatures and throw yourself deep into the center which is God and hide yourself in Him.”
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.