Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maewyn Succat's Legacy

"If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me." ~Saint Patrick
St. Patrick is one of my favorite people of all time. For those not familiar with his story, here it is in 8 minutes:


One of the reasons I love Maewyn Succat is because he allowed his experiences to change him. Some say he was the son of a bishop in the church, but even if he wasn't, as a Holy Roman citizen in England, he would have been going to church at least once a day ("No soccer balls in church!"). He could have easily believed that God had abandoned him to a heathen land for no reason. 
However, just like the biblical Joseph, who (eventually) came to be in authority over his captors, and (eventually) told those who sold him, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)--Patrick came to (eventually) see his slavery as something good. He speaks of it later on as a positive turning point in his life. 
Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.

He doesn't call his slavery a punishment, but a "humiliation," something to make him humble. After leaving slavery, he could have very easily left Ireland behind and never returned again. But his love for and trust in God was so strong that he not only entertained the idea when it popped in his head, but felt so compelled to go that he risked being returned to his master whom he abandoned as a runaway slave. He did not allow his bad experiences with the Irish to color his views of of the people. 

Maewyn Succat's work with the Irish colored every aspect of their lives, so much that the ancient mythologies of the Celts, not 100 years after his death, told the stories of gods coming to believe in the son of the Most High God.

Whether religious or not, his life is a wonderful example of forgiveness, of "turning the other cheek," and helping those who have wronged you. I only hope that, given the chance, I can show the same grace and fiery determination he showed when the soldiers of Coroticus murdered and enslaved the Irish.

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am," I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He himself testifies that this is so. I never would have wanted these harsh words to spill from my mouth; I am not in the habit of speaking so sharply. Yet now I am driven by the zeal of God, Christ's truth has aroused me. I speak out too for love of my neighbors who are my only sons; for them I gave up my home country, my parents and even pushing my own life to the brink of death.
Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold this nobility of mine, I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of "everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."
My chief request is that anyone who is a servant of God be ready and willing, to carry this letter forward; may it never be hidden or stolen by anyone, but rather, may it be read aloud before the whole people — Yes, even when Coroticus himself is present.

May God inspire these men sometime to come to their senses in regard to God again, so that they may repent, however latter day, of their grave crimes, namely homicide against the brothers of the Lord, and that they free these baptized women whom they have taken, so that then they may deserve to live to God and be made whole once more, here, now and for eternity.

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