Last year was tough for the Movement. I can hardly believe that only two and a half years have passed since we first received the news about Fr. Maciel. So much has happened in such a short time: so many questions asked and unexpected answers received, so many changes of habit and changes of attitude, countless conversations and debates, fathomless tears of both sadness and joy.
During that year, as we tried to accept our new reality and recover inner peace, the consecrated members of my center looked for creative and communal ways to reflect and pray upon the theme of God’s mercy, an issue many of us were personally struggling with. A class and I prepared a presentation on doctrine of divine mercy which included testimonies from real life and an open forum. During my research, I came across one testimony that truly did change the way I saw forgiveness.
Mary Karen Read was in French class at Virginia Tech the day a mentally disturbed man entered her classroom and gunned her down. It was April 16, 2007. She had done nothing wrong, nothing that merited losing her life; she was just a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Her family, along with an entire nation, was shocked and traumatized. Yet God always has a way to drawing sense out of senseless situations, situations that sometimes seem juggled by pure fate.
While cleaning out her bedroom, her parents found a small journal, with the last entry dated two months before her death. The entry consisted of her favorite quotes on forgiveness, such as “When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive,” “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love,” and “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” It was as if she had written them just for her family, intuiting what they would have to endure in the near future, and, in a way, I felt she had written them for me. True, they were simple quotes, perhaps even simplistic, the kind you find on a kitchen calendar under a photo of two toddlers hugging, or on some flowery cross-stitch made by great-Aunt Maud. Yet in the context of Mary Karen’s real, untimely, and painful death, they took on a whole new, deeper meaning for me.
Can I say I’ve completely forgiven Fr. Maciel and those who consciously acted as his enablers? Healing takes time, and I can’t rush it. Right after Fr. Maciel’s death, I was shocked to find myself doubting whether plenary indulgences should be applicable to a person like him. It was, after all, the first time in my life I’d been faced with the choice of forgiving a serious offense, and I needed many months to reconcile myself with the doctrine of plenary indulgences. It had always been my deepest intention to forgive, to “forgive those who trespass against us”, but forgiveness is also a grace, a divine assistance when the human runs dry. It is a grace we need to recover inner peace and look with hope towards the future. I believe I did receive a grace when I read those quotes from Mary Karen; as she forgave her offender while still living, I felt I could, too.
Here is an extraordinary video based on her quotes. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me: Just Forgive