Saturday, October 15, 2016

St. Antiochus of Lyons & the Will of God

Today the Church commemorates a truly great saint, St. Theresa of Avila.  A Doctor of the Church, she was at the same time one of the great mystical writers of all time and a hard-nosed pragmatist who, along with St. John of the Cross, led a much-need reform of the Carmelite order.  Her reform efforts were not welcome to everyone: she met strong, sometimes violent, resistance from her fellow Carmelites. We can all grow in Christ through her example of total surrender to our Lord, and it comes as no surprise that there are any number of beautifully written and insightful meditations on this amazing saint today.
    One disadvantage of the large shadow casts by giants of sanctity like St. Theresa, however, is that lesser-known saints who share the same day on the liturgical calendar can go unnoticed.  I’d like to look at one of these holy men and women, St. Antiochus of Lyons, whose feast we also celebrate on October 15th.
The sources I’ve been able to locate on St. Antiochus are brief, but tell an intriguing story.  He was a 5th century priest of Lyons, in what was then still called Gaul (the modern country of France).  The bishop of Lyons, St. Justus, abdicated his office and left for Egypt to become a hermit in the desert.  The people of Lyons sent Antiochus on the long journey to Egypt to persuade their holy shepherd to return to his flock.  Justus, apparently, was unwilling or unable to comply, and Antiochus returned home, an apparent failure.  The people of the diocese, however, recognizing that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21) saw in the failure of Antiochus’ mission a gift as well: a new bishop.  They promptly chose Antiochus to replace the departed Justus as their spiritual father.  We are told that he went about his new office “with zeal and firmness” until he was called to his final reward.

Egyptian hermitage
    St. Antiochus, very much like St. Bridget of Sweden, is one of those saints who seems to have failed in his primary mission, only to discover that his failure there really served to prepare him for a success greater than he had dared to imagine. We learn from the lives of saints like Antiochus is that the path to sanctity lies not so much in our own efforts as it does in accepting the will of God.  Even more, the failure of these holy men and women here on earth reminds us that whatever we do accomplish, or fail to do, here only matters for a little while; our true mission is not only loving and serving God in this world, as the Baltimore Catechism puts it, but enjoying eternal happiness with him in the next.
Let us all prayer for the Grace to join St. Antiochus, St. Theresa of Avila, and all their fellow saints before the Throne of God.