Friday, December 11, 2009

The Feast of the Sts. Emers

Today is the feast day of the two Sts. Emers, and, with the name “Emmers” not altogether unfamiliar to me, I can’t help but take note. Not only do these fourth-century saints nearly foreshadow one of my affectionate nicknames(!), they are Irish(!!), the foster-sisters of St. Patrick himself(!!!).

As the story goes, unreliable and erratic as all the best Irish tales are, after Patrick was kidnapped from his home in Great Britain and sold to Maelchu (or Miluic, if you prefer) in northern Ireland where he spent years in slavery tending sheep, he grew up beside Maelchu’s children, St. Guasacht (feast day January 24) and the two Emers. Why history remembers only one name for the two women I do not know, but since it barely remembers anything more I suppose we should be grateful. Beggars can’t be choosy, after all.

Patrick, as we all know, receives a vision while tending sheep on Mt. Slemish, miraculously escapes Ireland, reunites with his homeland, hears the Irish people calling him in his dreams, and returns to the land of his captivity where he proceeds (from what I can tell) to found churches in virtually every town and to convert personally nearly every fourth- and fifth-century Irish saint (and believe you me, there are many!).

But the first priority is the very family who had enslaved him, and, while Maelchu burns himself alive in his home rather than see Patrick again (evidently those are his only two options?), his three children receive the faith, dedicate themselves to mission of bringing the gospel to the druidic people, and became some of the first bishop/nuns. As Patrick puts the veil on his two foster sisters, their feet sink into the stone beneath them, and the marks are visible to this day.

So today from a less fantastical land of parking lots and laborious rearranging of 1s and 0s where nevertheless the scars of bitterness run just as deep and the power of grace trumps them just as conclusively, I thought I would venerate Patrick’s slave-owners-turned-sisters. Pray for us slave-owners, Sts. Emers; pray for us slaves.

1 comment:

Christian H said...

Odd. I've heard of a different story (Moari, I think) where two sisters had the same name--Mar'rallang or something like that. In that story, though, that they shared a name seemed to be an important thematic point. Not so much in this one.