Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Story of Squanto, Told with Appropriate Emphasis

Beginning any kind of enterprise is a difficult task.

For the Pilgrims at Plymouth, that great rule of life was no different. And they arrived in the New World at precisely the wrong time of year for easy success -- November 11, 1620. And the Pilgrims did not actually select and begin settling into the site for their new colony until late December -- the beginning of the New England Winter.

That first winter was viciously cold. Little of the work planned was actually accomplished. Most slept on board the Mayflower at night. While the deeply religious people prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed for help from God, half of their number died, from malnutrition, cold and disease.

While the Pilgrims were religious people in their own way, "religious" does not necessarily mean "completely moral."

Lo and behold, one of the outstanding characteristics of the Pilgrim's "religiosity" was fierce, undying anti-Catholicism. They despised "popery."

And God frequently gives us what we need, in answer to our prayers -- not necessarily what we pray for.

So, how did God answer their prayers?

One day, an Indian walked out of the woods at Plymouth and introduced himself to the Pilgrims. He smiled and, in the King's English, he said something like, "How do you do. My name is Squanto."

And, shortly thereafter, Squanto did something that astonished the Pilgrims even more -- he made the Sign of the Cross, and identified himself as a Catholic!

In answer to their desperate prayers for divine assistance, God sent the Pilgrims an English-speaking Roman Catholic Native American !!!

So, how did God pull this one off?

Many years before, in 1605, when Squanto was about 20 years of age, he was captured by one of the boats of the Protestant English sea captain George Weymouth, engaged in an exploration of the coast of Maine. Brought back to England as a "trophy" of his expedition, Squanto was trained in the English tongue apparently to serve as a translator for future explorers of the North American coast. Captain John Smith released Squanto to the New England coast in 1612.

In 1614, Squanto was re-captured by another Protestant English sea captain, Thomas Hunt, and this time, despite Squanto's English-speaking skills, he was put up for sale as a slave in the slave markets of Catholic Spain !

There some Roman Catholic friars saw Squanto, felt pity for him, purchased him, and offered him the choice of freedom, or staying with them. Squanto preferred to stay with the friars. It was at this time that Squanto was taught the Christian faith and baptized into the Roman Catholic Church.

After a time, Squanto managed to "hitch a ride" back to England, where another English explorer offered to return him to the New England coast.

Returning once again to New England in 1619, Squanto the "English Catholic" discovered that his particular sub-tribe had been wiped-out, probably by European disease (to which the Indians had zero immunity), and so he began living with a neighboring group.

When the Pilgrims settled Plymouth, they built their homes on top of where Squanto used to live.

And the rest is history.

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