Feast of St. Boethius

There are a surprising number of people whom even knowledgeable Catholics don’t realize are Saints, and Boethius is one of the more prominent. While secular scholars loftily debate whether he was even Christian (which seems to me absurd given even a cursory reading of De Consolatione), the Church has recognized him as a Saint and martyr for centuries.

Living at the very end of the Ancient Empire, and seeing the chaos rising, Boethius made it his life’s work to translate, preserve, and consolidate the great philosophical works of antiquity. He intended a full translation of Aristotle and Plato, among others, but alas never got that far, or if he did the work is lost. But, while sitting in prison awaiting execution, he did write The Consolation of Philosophy, which summarized much of the best of ancient philosophy, particularly as applied to the moral life. This became the most influential philosophical work of the Medieval ere and one of the touchstones of western thought for over a millennium. It’s one of my own favorite books.

You can pick it up here
(Incidentally, I always think that Philosophy looks like she’s about to give him an admonitory whack in this picture)

Sometimes, in my more ambitious moments, I aspire to imitate St. Boethius in a small way. I also feel like I live near the end of one civilization and would like to see as much of what is good and beautiful about that culture be preserved and remembered. Only, the things I would want to preserve are mostly works of art and fiction.

In any case, his example is a sublime one: unjustly imprisoned, cut off from his vital work, and facing a truly horrible death, he nevertheless spent his remaining time composing a work of surpassing wisdom and beauty, one that, long after his death, would serve as the bedrock of Christian philosophy.

The real meaning of our lives are very rarely what we think they will be. Blessed are those who are humble enough to cooperate with the Divine plan nevertheless.

St. Boethius, pray for us, your children in thought.

“How splendid, then, the blessing of mortal riches is! Once won, they never leave you carefree again.”
-Bk II, Chp. V

(Also fun fact: his tomb is in the same church as St. Augustine’s – San Pietro in Ciel d’oro in Pavia, Italy. So if you want to pray for extra brain power, you know where to do)

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