Much ink has been spilled over whether Vincent was really captured by pirates as a young man.
There was a period in his life that we know little about… and St. Vincent adamantly did not wish anyone to know about it.
At issue is whether he really was a captive in Tunis during a period between 1605-1607. There are three letters in his own hand that tell of such a capture. But in his later years, when these letters came to light, he did all in his power get those “dammed letters” back, most likely with the intention to destroy them.
J Patrick Murphy writes in Mister Vincent…
Vincent sold a rented horse for cash and then disappeared for two years telling a grand story to explain his time. He later tried to retrieve what he called “those damned letters.”
Lesson: It is okay if you have things in your past that don’t make sense; do good anyway.
Without entering into the scholarly controversy about why he wanted to get those “dammed letters” back, what is certain at least is that he really wanted them back.
Now who among us would dare to claim that the are not things we have written, said or done that we would rather not have others know about?
In John 8 we read of Jesus writing in the sand and each of the elders slinking away in shame.
Thankfully, verse 8 is crucial. “Go, from now on do not sin any more.”
The wonder that Pope Francis is trying to help us to become aware of more deeply this year is how profound God’s mercy is. He himself is so deeply aware of that it is part of his coat of arms.
Whatever was in those letters, we know how deeply Vincent was aware of God’s mercy and how he lived his life. These two facts were more important.
At the same time, we need to cope with the fact of things we have written, said or done.
God’s forgiveness is certain but many have difficulty in forgiving themselves. Some may find helpful Darlene Lancer’s reflection on practical ways to understand the dynamics of guilt and shame and how to cope. https://www.whatiscodependency.com/ho-to-overcome-guilt-and-forgive-yourself/