Monday, August 7, 2017

August 7 - St. Victricius, Soldier of Peace, Bishop

Victricius was born the son of a Roman Legionnaire. Like his father, he was set aside for military service to the Empire. He was trained from a young age to serve the Emperor and execute his directives. He followed in his father's footsteps and was on a path that led to acclaim, wealth, relative comfort, and power over other people.But, his path was interrupted when he began speaking with Christians like St. Martin of Tours. They introduced him to a crucified and suffering King. They told stories about heroic and willing martyrs and missionaries. They followed after a crucified king. To give honor to a victim of crucifixion was nonsense to those within the Empire--especially to those who had crucified others. And, yet, they spoke of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world and Victricius was intrigued.

They spoke of how the "warrior" they followed carried no sword and, yet, was still powerful.They shared the way of their Lord which proclaimed love stronger than death, sacrifice as true peace, love of enemies, and the revolutionary ideas of Jesus' ministry and message. Victricius, though conditioned by the Empire to reject such ridiculous notions as power through love and forgiveness, converted to Christianity. In his moment of conversion he began the process of changing who he was into who God was calling him to be.

Moved by his conversion, he laid down his weapons in front of his fellow roman soldiers on the parade ground. This action, though misunderstood by those without eyes to see, was a testament to his conversion and his conviction that security and peace gained through manipulation and dominance were not, truly, worth having. He was arrested. The Empire hoped that he would come to his senses when his military upbringing jarred with his arrest and, yet, Victricius' conversion had taken hold in his life and he accepted it. He was charged with desertion and, yet, was not shamed by it.Their attempts at manipulation and dominance did not cause Victricius' submission to their gospel. Recognizing that they had not been able to manipulate his mind or emotions to deny Jesus, they decided to appeal to their more familiar weapon: pain and threat of death.

They beat him severely--hoping that the pain would cause him to give in. They hoped to purchase his repatriation with a promise to stop the pain and, yet, Victricius simply accepted the beating without giving into their demands. They hoped to manipulate him but his conversion was already at work in his life showing him that their power was fleeting at best and not, truly, able to provide any peace or redemption. He rejected their paltry offerings of momentary "comfort" knowing that true comfort transcends pain--true peace transcends domination. Though they undoubtedly would have moved on to execution, for some reason they did not execute Victricius. Instead, they hoped to exile him. Perhaps, they were afraid of the message it would send if one of their chosen soldiers had rejected their deceit and been converted by the Christians. Perhaps, they hoped to shame him by stripping him of his title and, thereby, produce his rejection of Christianity. Regardless, he was not executed.

Victricius went on to be a traveling preacher for many years. He preached to the Flanders, Hainault, and Brabant peoples before, eventually, being name Bishop of Rouen in 386. His reputation as a peacemaker was notable. He was, occasionally, called to various places to provide mediation and peace between disagreeing parties.This man of war--trained by the Empire to engage in the Empire's gospel--had become a man of peace. He had given up a gospel of power through control, safety through dominance, happiness through material goods, and justice through vengeance and retribution. Instead, he had embraced the Christian Gospel: Jesus was born, lived, died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, was raised again after three days, and was seen by many prior to his ascension. These facts had changed his mind and life--and the minds and lives of many others.

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