It is the weekend, a time for some renewal and reflection. This was a busy week, with forgiveness workshops touching lives in Verona, Wisconsin; Dublin, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; the Philippines; Italy, and other places.
I am left with a burning question: Will those who hear the message of The Forgiving Communities forget about it as quickly as they heard about it? We are in a sea of noise and each voice, each tone, each loud crash competes for our attention. How does one rise above it all to accomplish something as quiet and gentle and courageous as forgiveness in this context?
Sometimes the message is bound to fall flat, but when it does not, what are the crucial ingredients that have risen above the competition for one’s time and energy? For one and only one of those ingredients, I think it takes at least two very dedicated people to team together and never, ever give up. The teaming up has to involve the message, heard over and over, that forgiveness matters: in the individual heart, in families, and in communities.
As it says in the Hebrew Proverb (18), a brother helped is like a strong city. The key is to be unwavering together, especially when criticisms come or distractions tempt which in the long-run really do not matter.
I think we have found these two brothers, well, sisters actually, in Lynn and Noreen in Dublin. Each has the heart of a lion. Dublin and all of Ireland is collectively in need of forgiving, given the history of that region and the current economic struggles. Forgiveness is one piece to putting all of the pieces back together for a thriving Ireland.
My personal thanks to Lynn and Noreen. May we walk together for a long, long time in service to our brothers and sisters in need of forgiving and being forgiven.
The National Center for Reason and Justice announced recently that they will be appealing the case of Fr. Gordon MacRae, sentenced to prison in 1994 for the crime of sex abuse against Thomas Grover. Mr. Grover’s former step-son has now claimed that his former step-father fabricated the story. Mr. Grover’s former wife labeled him as a “compulsive liar.” A former substance-abuse counselor for him now claims that he made so many allegations against so many supposed perpetrators that the stories were not credible. Mr. Grover has a history of arrest, prior to and after the accusation against Fr. MacRae, including multiple forgeries and burglary. These offenses were not made known to the jury.
It looks like, if Fr. MacRae is exonerated, he will have a large list of people to forgive. Walk a mile in his shoes and then answer the question: Who do I need to forgive? The obvious first choice is the accuser. Then comes anyone who remained silent during the trial (they could have shared impressions of Mr. Grover’s character in 1994). Then there is Fr. MacRae’s lawyer, who apparently did not dig deeply enough into Mr. Grover’s arrest record. The prosecutor played a part in the sentencing, as did the judge and jury. One can only imagine the injustices perpetrated on Fr. MacRae in prison. The list of people to forgive is long and the injustices deep, if he is found innocent. Injustice can lead to further injustice which can lead to anger and more anger. Forgiveness, properly understood and practiced, can cleanse the inner life of its caustic resentments and set the inner house in order. The road for that may be long for this priest, imprisoned for more than 17 years.