January 26, 2013 1 Comment
August 5, 2012 2 Comments
Have you ever said the words: “I will never forgive you for what you have done to me”? Maybe not, or maybe not often, I hope. But these are common words spoken in anger after an experience of deep disappointment, rejection, violation, manipulation or abuse. We express ourselves in anger because our hearts are wounded by such an experience.
We have to pray to God and ask him to give us the grace to forgive whoever has wronged us. Forgiveness is not ours to give”
The pain that we feel when someone has hurt us, for example, can be so intense, and our immediate reaction is then to direct our anger towards that person in order for him or her to feel the same pain in return.
Immediately we want to react, for example by sending hurtful messages via e-mail, BBM, SMS, Facebook or Twitter. We want to contact their friends and family and share what they have done and how bad they are. We want to take revenge.
Because it is our hearts that are wounded, it makes forgiveness from the heart very difficult and sometimes forgiveness seems impossible. And forgiveness is impossible if we think that we are doing the forgiving.
It is God who forgives the person through us. None of us have a supply of forgiveness stacked up somewhere among our possessions which we can take out and give to other people as needed. We have to pray to God and ask him to give us the grace to forgive whoever has wronged us. Forgiveness is not ours to give.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of our lives is that those who love us, wound us too. These are mostly people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbours, our teachers, our pastors.
The person whom we expected would be there for us might have wounded us, thereby breaking the bond of communion that existed between us.
We live in community, even between two people, and that community has been broken. This community will never be possible again without the willingness to forgive one another “seventy-seven times”. This means, forgiving until the matter is settled.
What can help us during our experience of woundedness is the fact that we see our friends and family as just that, friends and family—and not God.
We love God, we try to understand God, we know about God, we spend time with God in prayer, but, we are not God.
August 3, 2012 2 Comments
One of the most notorious criminal cases in modern European history has returned to the public eye, dominating the front pages and leaders of Belgium’s newspapers. A judge has agreed to release Michelle Martin from prison on the condition she enter the Convent of the Les Soeurs Clarisses de Malonne (Poor Clares) and remain under police supervision.
The news of the parole has prompted an appeal by state prosecutors, public protests, outrage in the press — and the mayor of Namur has ordered police to guard the convent. Why such a fuss? The opening paragraphs of a solid AP story tells us why.
BRUSSELS — The ex-wife of a notorious pedophile who aided her husband’s horrific abuse and murder of young girls – and who let two children starve to death while her husband was in jail – was approved Tuesday for early release from prison, infuriating the victims’ parents and reopening a dark chapter in Belgian history.
Michelle Martin, who is now 52, received a 30-year prison term in 2004 for not freeing girls her then-husband Marc Dutroux held captive behind a secret door in their decrepit, dirty basement in Marcinelle, 40 miles south of Brussels.
Dutroux, 55, is serving a life term for kidnapping, torturing and abusing six girls in 1995 and 1996, and murdering four of them.
During those years, Dutroux also spent four months in jail for theft, leaving it to his wife to feed Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, a pair of friends imprisoned in the basement. Martin let the girls starve to death. They were 8 years old.
Bumbling police work and claims by Dutroux that he was part of a wider pedophile network that included politicians, judges and police officials prompted public protests in Belgium and nearly led to the fall of the government. King Albert intervened and ordered a reorganization of the criminal justice system. The Dutroux affair had a profound effect on Belgium’s national psyche, some have argued, damaging public trust in the country’s civil institutions. Sixteen years into her 30 year sentence, Michelle Martin may be leaving prison to enter a convent.
While this has been a gruesome true crime, political intrigue and corruption story, it has now become a religious liberty story with faith taking center stage in this drama. The AP article closes with these paragraphs:
Under the terms of her release, Martin will have to remain at the convent and be assigned a task daily. Moreau, Martin’s lawyer, said it took some time for the convent to agree to have her live there. But in the end they realized that no one else would take her in, he said.
“They accepted because their vocation is to welcome people nobody wants,” he said.
The convent’s decision to give refuge to Michelle Martin has not been warmly received by the Belgian press…
Objections to her release were founded upon a belief that Michelle Martin was the incarnation of absolute evil — “l’incarnation du mal absolu” — the conservative national daily La Libre Belgiquereported. But no person was beyond redemption, the newspaper argued, saying the law must not “deprive anyone, not even the most heinous criminal, of any hope of getting out of jail…
De Standaard printed a letter from the Abbess of Malonne, where the sisters explained their decision to give Michelle Martin a home. They stated they had agreed to take her in as she has no family and no half-way house or other institution would have her due to the notoriety of her crimes. They stated that while she would be residing at the convent under the supervision of the judicial authorities, she would not be a entering the order but would be the guest of the Poor Clares. And, they felt it was their Christian duty to act as they did.
Nous avons la profonde conviction qu’enfermer définitivement le déviant dans son passé délictueux et l’acculer à la désespérance ne serait utile à personne et serait au contraire une marche en arrière pour notre société. Michèle Martin est un être humain capable, comme nous tous, du pire comme du meilleur.
Ideology plays its part in the coverage of this story. Self-identified Catholic newspapers have stressed the theme of penitence and redemption. Some secular newspapers have objected to the intrusion of Catholic sensibilities into the parole of a “monster”, but others have advanced ethical theories of crime and punishment. No one newspaper encompasses all of these views, but collectively the debate over the parole of Michelle Martin is an example of the best of the European press.
Can Michelle Martin be forgiven? Is parole a form of forgiveness? Should the church be accorded a custodial role in a secular state? All great questions. What say you?
February 10, 2012 1 Comment
G. K. Chesterton once wrote about being asked the following question, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” Chesterton was an agnostic in his youth, then was an Anglican for many years before entering the Catholic Church in 1922. The “first essential answer” to that question, he wrote in his autobiography, is “‘To get rid of my sins.’ For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins.”
Read on here.
October 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Los Angeles — It was supposed to be Robert Downey Jr.’s night, but somehow Friday’s American Cinematheque Award ceremony became all about Mel Gibson.
When the evening’s honoree took to the stage at the Beverly Hills Hilton to accept his doorstop, he had a clear message for Hollywood.
“I urge you to forgive my friend his trespasses,” Downey said to loud applause. “Allow him to pursue this art without shame.”
It was Gibson who handed out the award to the “Iron Man” star. That was a choice Downey made clear he had made in part to help his friend rehabilitate his image.
Gibson has become something of an industry pariah in the wake of taped phone calls during which he had used racial slurs and threatened to beat his estranged girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. Prior to that, Gibson was already on thin ice with Hollywood, having made anti-Semitic remarks when he was arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence.
Gibson was dropped from a cameo in “Hangover 2″ after cast members rebelled, although lately Warner Brothers has made a deal with the actor-director to explore an action film about a Biblical-era Jewish rebellion against oppressors. That too has drawn angry responses from Jewish leaders.
Downey, who had well-publicized bouts with drinking and drug abuse, said that by sticking up for Gibson, he was simply returning the favor. After his imprisonment and arrests on drug charges made him uninsurable and thus prevented him from being hired in Hollywood, it was Gibson who stepped up and paid his insurance bond on the 2003 film “The Singing Detective.”
“He kept a roof over my head and put food on my table,” Downey remembered.
He said that all Gibson asked in return was that Downey do the same for another person who was struggling…
August 25, 2011 1 Comment
“… while society will never forgive me, God has.”
Albany – Notorious “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz has no interest in getting out of jail.
Berkowitz said prison is “not a good place” but he has no plans to seek his release because God has already made him a “free man” by forgiving him.
“Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me,” Berkowitz wrote in a recent letter to a Fox News reporter. “He has given me a whole new life, which I do not deserve.”
Berkowitz added that “while society will never forgive me, God has.”
The famed serial killer is serving six consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences at the maximum-security Sullivan Correctional Facility in the Catskills for a string of killings that terrorized the city during the 1970s.
Berkowitz, a former Yonkers resident, has been denied parole five times and has been in prison 34 years.
He is eligible for a sixth parole hearing next year.
“I would do anything if I could go back and change things and have prevented the tragedy from happening,” Berkowitz wrote.
June 8, 2011 1 Comment
(CBS News) Minneapolis – In Minnesota, a young man was murdered and his killer was sent to prison. Then, as CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports, the story took a surprising turn.
In a small apartment building in North Minneapolis – a 59-year-old teacher’s aid sings praise to God for no seemingly apparent reason. Indeed, if anyone was to have issues with the Lord, it would be Mary Johnson.
In February 1993, Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death during an argument at a party. He was 20, and Mary’s only child.
“My son was gone,” she says.
The killer was a 16-year-old kid named Oshea Israel.
Mary wanted justice. “He was an animal. He deserved to be caged.”
And he was. Tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 and a half years — Oshea served 17 before being recently released. He now lives back in the old neighborhood – next door to Mary.
How a convicted murder ended-up living a door jamb away from his victim’s mother is a story, not of horrible misfortune, as you might expect – but of remarkable mercy…
You can read that story (with a short news video) here.
March 6, 2011 Leave a comment
Orthodox Christians observe Forgiveness Sunday, which precedes Lent.
On this day it is customary to ask forgiveness for all grievances and seek reconciliation with foes…
The rite of forgiveness was conceived in Egyptian monasteries.
There, the monks would each go off, alone, to spend all 40 days of Lent in the desert.
Since some of them never came back, prior to leaving they would ask each other for forgiveness for all grievances, as one would before death.
Lent culminates with Holy Week and Easter, or the Resurrection of the Lord, marked this time on April 24th day.