The careful shepherd watches over Christ’s flock


From a letter by Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr
The careful shepherd watches over Christ’s flock

In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.

The ancient fathers showed us how we should carry out this duty: Clement, Cornelius and many others in the city of Rome, Cyprian at Carthage, Athanasius at Alexandria. They all lived under emperors who were pagans; they all steered Christ’s ship—or rather his most dear spouse, the Church. This they did by teaching and defending her, by their labors and sufferings, even to the shedding of blood.

I am terrified when I think of all this. Fear and trembling came upon me and the darkness of my sins almost covered me. I would gladly give up the task of guiding the Church which I have accepted if I could find such an action warranted by the example of the fathers or by holy Scripture.

Since this is the case, and since the truth can be assaulted but never defeated or falsified, with our tired mind let us turn to the words of Solomon: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence. Think on him in all your ways, and he will guide your steps. In another place he says: The name of the Lord is an impregnable tower. The just man seeks refuge in it and he will be saved.

Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.

Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.

Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.

Job’s appeal to the goodness of his life

From the book of Job
31:1-8; 13-23, 35-37
Job’s appeal to the goodness of his life

Job said:
I have made an agreement with my eyes
and entertained no thoughts against a maiden.

But what is man’s lot from God above,
his inheritance from the Almighty on high?
Is it not calamity for the unrighteous,
and woe for evildoers?
Does he not see my ways,
and number all my steps?
Let God weigh me in the scales of justice;
thus will he know my innocence!

If I have walked in falsehood
and my foot has hastened to deceit;
If my steps have turned out of the way,
and my heart has followed my eyes,
or any stain clings to my hands,
Then may I sow, but another eat of it,
or may my planting be rooted up!

Had I refused justice to my manservant
or to my maid, when they had a claim against me,
What then should I do when God rose up;
what could I answer when he demanded an account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
Did not the same One fashion us before our birth?

If I have denied anything to the poor,
or allowed the eyes of the widow to languish
While I ate my portion alone,
with no share in it for the fatherless,
Though like a father God has reared me from my youth,
guiding me even from my mother’s womb–
If I have seen a wanderer without clothing,
or a poor man without covering,
Whose limbs have not blessed me
when warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
If I have raised my hand against the innocent
because I saw that I had supporters at the gate–
Then may my arm fall from the shoulder,
my forearm be broken at the elbow!
For the dread of God will be upon me,
and his majesty will overpower me.

Oh, that I had one to hear my case,
and that my accuser would write out his indictment!
Surely, I should wear it on my shoulder
or put it on me like a diadem;
Of all my steps I should give him an account;
like a prince I should present myself before him.