A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well» (Proverbs 25:26).
Erasmus of Rotterdam was the greatest and most dazzling celebrity of the sixteenth century. Nobody enjoyed a moral and artistic prestige like his. He was regarded as a «doctor universalis,» «prince of science,» «model of study,» and «defender of true theology.» They called him «light of the world» or «Pythia of the West,» «vir incomparabilis et doctorum phoenix.» Emperors and kings, princes and dukes, ministers and professors, popes and prelates rivaled to obtain the favor of Erasmus. Charles V offered him a position in his council, Henry VIII longed to take him to England, Ferdinand of Austria to Vienna, Francis I to Paris. He received attractive requests from Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, and Portugal; five universities contended for the honor of giving him a professorship, three popes wrote him respectful letters. Members of the high nobility and illustrious scholars were on pilgrimage several days to obtain a handwritten signature of Erasmus in their family books. Receiving one of his letters opened the doors of fame and represented a great triumph, he was even enveloped in brocade by its addressee, who showed it off as a relic in front of his friends. But whoever could speak to him was a blessed man in this world. No one has possessed such an influence in Europe simply by their spiritual presence.
At the pinnacle of his fame, he encountered Martin Luther, who admired and respected him deeply. For Luther, Erasmus’s support was instrumental in consolidating the Protestant Reformation. Although the famous sage had been a precursor of reform, he did not want controversy and avoided committing himself with the German monk, but rather was considered a pacifist. However, the papal side also demanded his support against Luther. Erasmus could not remain neutral for long and he felt compelled to take the sad decision to confront the German reformer, an intellectual combat expected throughout Europe. In the epistolary discussion, Luther was very harsh with Erasmus. The great sage was repudiated by his former admirers.
Today, Erasmus of Rotterdam is rarely known. His great works, the result of brilliant research and embodied in a forgotten language (Latin), rest in libraries without anyone disturbing their sleep. Erasmus was a man who, at the time, did not know how to make the courageous decision to follow his spiritual convictions.
Today ask the Lord to give you the courage to be faithful to your spiritual principles and to keep you faithful to God.