Monday, January 24, 2011

Feast of St. Guasact

Since I've done a bad job posting during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity but have intended to do so in order to encourage my readers to pray, as Christ prayed in John 17, that we may be one as he and the Father are one, I thought I'd at least repost something here at the end. Today is the feast of the good St. Guasacht, part of the throng of Irish saints for whom there is almost no historical evidence, as happens on an island with little recorded history and much oppression. Please use this post as a reminder to pray for forgiveness and reconciliation in all the many factions that have divided our family over the millenia.

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Today is the feast day of St. Guasact. 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 and the two Sts. Emers (feast day December 11). 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, St. Guasact; pray for us slaves.

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