The parallels between Saints Stanislaus and Thomas Becket are remarkable. Each died within a hundred years of each other. Each was killed by a King to whom they had been a trusted counselor. And each and both served as a caution to ecclesiastics who too often take too much comfort in the company of kings and princes and other mighty men.
For we are ever tempted to power and wealth, my brothers. Sipping martinis by the pool with the movers and shakers has long been a dangerous sport for the ambitious clergyman.
Why? Because it smothers our insecurities with all its gusto and glitter. Because we too often confuse the martinis for God and the insider information for his will. But these transient pleasures, while not bad in and of themselves, don’t last. It is in failing to recognize their transitory nature that the danger comes. For “If I have put my trust in gold,” as Job reminds us, “[saying] ’You are my security,’…then I will have been unfaithful to God on high.” (Job 31:24-25,28)
So, wealth and power can’t be allowed to take the place of God. But that does not mean that every person with money or power is heading straight to hell. Jesus, after all, ate in the houses of Zaccheus, Simon the Pharisee and Martha and Mary.
Rather, Saint Paul advises us to strike a balance: “I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich, too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)
Stanislaus was a good example, born to a rich and powerful family, he was left with a large inheritance, he spent most of his priesthood in the chancery and then became Bishop of his native Krakow. Then he spent the rest of his life in power struggles with the King, ultimately dying by the King’s own hand. Just as Thomas More, a rich and powerful lawyer and politician all his life, by speaking the truth to power lost his head.
So, rich or poor, weak or powerful…it’s whatever God wills for me. As long as I don’t substitute ambition or earthy pleasures for his will. And as long as I am ever-ready to give up everything, even my life, for love of him and of his Church.