In one of the horrendous moments of the war in Bosnia a number of Catholic religious sisters were raped by the Serb militia.
One of them, Sr Lucy Vertrusc, later wrote a letter to her Superior sharing something of her inner turmoil, and the painful decision she had made to leave the convent so she could devote herself to the child she was now expecting.
In the letter Sr Lucy speaks of her humiliation as a woman, and how difficult it was to reconcile this seemingly unhealable wound with her faith in the one she considered as her Divine Spouse.
Gradually she was able to come to terms with the ordeal, and even to give thanks for it, since it allowed her to be in solidarity with thousands of other women insulted in the same way, and forced into unwanted maternity.
With extraordinary faith and courage she tells her Superior that now she was able to offer her suffering for her rapists and for the reconciliation of her country. And then she finishes with some of the most moving words I have ever read:
“I will go with my child, I don’t know where, but God who so suddenly broke my joy, will show me the road … My child, born from violence, will learn only love; together we will witness that the greatest thing a human being can do is to forgive.”
The despicable violation that Lucy Vertrusc experienced, both to her person and to her religious consecration, would seem almost too much for any human being to bear.
Inflicted with such an unjust wound, we naturally find ourselves harbouring thoughts of retaliation, revenge, and hatred. Or on the other hand, we succumb to thoughts of self-pity, despondency and despair.
The path to forgiveness is not easy.
But when someone like this woman of God makes that courageous journey to forgiveness, the whole human race is ennobled.
This is an extract from Fr Ken Barker’s book His Name is Mercy.