Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Dramatic Story of Healing and Reconciliation from the Heart of Rwanda

Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga
Ave Maria Press, 192 pages

Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Eighty of his family members and 45,000 of his parishioners did not. Shaken by the tragedy, he has dedicated his ministry to reconciliation and healing between the Tutsis and Hutus whose long-simmering ethnic animosity ignited the slaughter of some 800,000 Rwandans. In this remarkable book, Fr. Ubald tells his story and relates a message of hope as he encourages forgiveness and peace wherever wounds are to be found. His “five spiritual keys” are central to his message, and he closes with a guided meditation for those who wish to overcome hatred and fear in order to find peace.

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Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.

A TROUBLED JOURNEY

Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”

LEMONADE DIPLOMACY

Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”

RESTORATION

Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Heartfelt Confession – whispering in the ear of Christ

Man, I have 1,000 great Confession stories for you, but one particularly comes to mind. Now, I won’t waste your time by telling you all that I did or didn’t do to get to that confessional kneeler. That’s not my main point here. But I will call your attention to the metallic, creaking sound of the door as I stepped into the main foyer of the church. You know the sound. Those rusty hinges needed attention. And so did my soul.

I walked into this sacrament feeling pretty corroded. I had been overworked, overstressed, and downright disgusted with my sin. As I confessed my sins, the priest sometimes seemed to be lost in prayer. At other times he would stop to ask a question, or offer an understanding nod. There was no judgment in his eyes. Just compassion. He listened. Patiently. He offered counsel, directed me to key scripture passages, and reminded me of the faith that I profess. And then, absolution. Such a great word. Such a great gift.

It was a simple, ordinary confessional experience, and yet when I re-entered the world via that same rusty door, I felt extraordinary. Clean. Forgiven. Restored. New. Like a well-oiled spiritual machine. Confession puts everything in its right place. I am a sinner. I’ve given my heart and soul to Christ, but I’m still a man battling my pride and sinfulness. …

It’s hard for me to admit my sins. To the man in the mirror. To God. And sometimes to a trusted priest. But one thing comes to mind that I always say to my kids – sometimes the best things in life are the hardest things in life. Walk with me for a minute into the pages of the Bible. Let me set the stage. Jesus was about to appear to his apostles after His resurrection. Yet the very ones who were closest to Christ were hiding from the world behind a locked door. They were afraid. Christ entered the room, breathed on them, and spoke these empowering words: Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

…When you and I kneel in the confessional and repent of our sins, we are truly whispering in the ear of Christ. It’s Christ Himself who meets us in the confessional in the person of the priest. As He revealed to a simple Polish nun, St. Faustina (one of my favorite saints): When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. [from Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska]

Excerpt used by permission, from Parenting On Purpose: 7 Ways to Raise Terrific Christian Kids, by Jason Free (MercySong, 2018). www.mercysong.com. From chapter entitled “Sittin’ in a Catholic Pew,” section on “Confession,” pp. 147-150.

JASON FREE is a popular writer, speaker, and master of ceremonies at conferences and retreats. Former general manager of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA, he has taught marriage and family counseling at the graduate level, and has done extensive work with couples and families. He and his wife Colleen are proud parents of nine children.

Rita Cosby – 2019 Summit Speaker

FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR RECONNECTS WITH WWII WARSAW HERO – HER DAD

Rita Cosby says people who see her walking down the street in Manhattan often still think she’s on Fox News.

It’s been a few years since Cosby, an Emmy-winning radio host, journalist and veteran correspondent, was on that channel, but she is as busy as ever. She is a co-host and political editor at WABC radio in New York City and a correspondent for CBS’ “Inside Edition.”

Cosby is also the author of the bestselling 2010 memoir Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father’s Past. As a speaker at the Legatus 2019 Summit, Cosby will be sharing the lessons about faith, forgiveness, and hope that she learned after reuniting with her father, a Polish native who was haunted by his experiences as a fighter and prisoner of war in World War II. Cosby recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

For people who don’t know your story, what is Quiet Hero about?

When I was a teenager, growing up, my father left the family, literally at Christmas. For a long time, I did not know very much about my father.

Just a few years ago, in late 2008, after my mother had passed away, we were going through an old storage locker and I found this briefcase. Inside was an old rusty POW tag and a bloody white-and-red fighting Polish armband. I saw a name on a card that looked like my father’s. My father was Polish, and I knew he had been in the resistance, but I didn’t have any idea to the degree that he had been a prisoner of war and what he had gone through.

I knew within minutes what I had to do. I knew that I had to forgive my father and find him, and see if he was alive.

What enabled you to forgive your dad?

On my mother’s death bed, she told me, “Your father was a hero. I hope you can forgive him.” What gave me strength was my faith. I knew as a Christian that I had to forgive him. I had to find out who he was.

How did you find your father?

I used my journalism investigative skills. When I located him, he was living outside of Washington D.C., and I remember taking the train ride down. I was so nervous. He looked a lot older. We didn’t really know each other. It was like two strangers meeting again and having to start from square one because there were so many long, lost decades.

How did the relationship develop?
My father passed away in 2012. We at least had a few years together, and we were best of friends at the end of my dad’s life. After telling me his story, my dad broke down in tears, and I found a very broken man with a lot of regrets and a lot of pain from the war and other things. I went from many years of anger and frustration to really admiring that he was even able to function given what I learned what he went through.

What had he been through in the war?

He lost almost 90 percent of his unit in the Warsaw Uprisings. He was in Warsaw, a 13-year- old citizen-soldier, when the Nazis invaded. He literally saw front-line fighting for 5 1/2 years, was captured and taken to a POW camp. He escaped through sewer pipes, and when he escaped, he was 90 pounds and 6 feet tall.

What have been some reactions to your book?

I get letters from people all over the world telling me that my book has inspired them to forgive. I’ve done book signings too where I’ve had Holocaust survivors saying, “You’ve inspired me. I’m going to go home and tell my grandkids my story now.” That’s been unbelievable for me, and an incredible gift.

What role has the Catholic faith played in your life?

Faith has always been an important part of my life. I feel like it’s given me, just as a journalist, incredible grounding and perspective. As a person, I felt it’s always motivated me and kept me appreciative and grateful for everything I’ve had and kept me able to connect to people and understand them.

The importance of virtues in business

WILLIAM H. BOWMAN writes that firms run by virtuous leaders thrive in the marketplace and the results show in their bottom lines. Further, the character of employees is more important than ever, and data show that companies led by men and women of character outperform competitors. Key virtues include integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion . . .

William H. Bowman

William H. Bowman

by William H. Bowman

April’s Harvard Business Review has a fascinating article which notes that we regularly hear about unethical CEOs, but not much about firms led by “highly principled leaders.”

Do such organizations outpace competitors? KRW International conducted a survey and found that firms run by virtuous executives had a two-year return on assets of 9.4%. Those led by ethically challenged leaders returned 1.9%. And what were the key virtues they tracked? Integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion.

This isn’t the first time the relationship between virtue and corporate performance has been observed. In 2001, Jim Collins published Good to Great, demonstrating that top CEOs consistently practiced two key virtues: personal humility and professional will. He called that “Level 5 Leadership” and said it was primarily responsible for the 5:1 stock performance advantage great companies had over their direct competitors.

With such dramatic results, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to hire employees who took seriously the practice of virtues? We all say we want employees with integrity, but do we seriously address the issue of virtue in our recruiting procedures? If not, we should! Fivefold performance advantages are just too significant to ignore. But how do we do this? Which virtues are the most critical?

I was the president of two companies, each with about 250 employees. One was in the child care business and the other conducted building inspections. Each company decided it would work to acquire the human virtues most important to its customers.

Our first step was assembling a list of human virtues. We were able to identify 135 of them. Recognizing the impossibility of becoming proficient in each, we decided we would choose five. But which five? We needed employees to buy in because this was going to be serious work. So we decided we would ask each of our customers: “What is most valuable in the work that we do for you?” We received over 200 responses from each company’s customers.

We then mapped each customer response to one of the 135 human virtues. At the end of that mapping, we picked the five that received the most comments. For the child care company, the virtues were patience, optimism, tolerance, perseverance and commitment. For the building inspection company, they were diligence, dependability, knowledge, charity and honesty.

With virtues identified, we created an 18-month program where the first three months were reserved for planning, and each successive three-month period was dedicated to learning and practicing each of the five virtues.

Of course, we learn from Aristotle and others that virtues can’t simply be willed, they must be practiced. We become a generous person by practicing acts of generosity, not simply by reading about the value of giving. So for each virtue we created a plan by department so employees would have plenty of opportunity to practice that virtue. One of the real benefits of this process was that the entire company worked on each virtue at the same time, so there was a lot of shared experience.

A few months after the program ended, we went back and measured our key company metrics to see what had changed. We were not expecting to see the dramatic cost savings that accrued at the end of the program. Here are some examples:

• A reduction in turnover at the building inspection company from 20% to 14% six months later, to 8% a year after the program ended. It cost us about $25,000 to replace an employee, so this saved us $750,000. At the child care company, turnover was reduced by 35%.

• When our building inspectors missed a defect, the company had to pay to remediate it. That bleed was running $1 million a year before the program, but fell to $150,000 a year after the program ended, saving $850,000 per year. This savings continued year after year.

• A Fortune 100 company decided to purchase a child-care facility for its own use because it wanted a partner dedicated to helping its employees improve their personal as well as professional lives.

The break-even for each company’s program was less than six months. So we had a company that was more virtuous and that cost much less to run. Truly a virtuous cycle.

The character of employees is more important than ever, and data show that companies led by men and women of character outperform competitors. A conscious plan to help employees develop the virtues important to their business can vastly improve a company’s culture, as well as reduce its costs.

WILLIAM H. BOWMAN is president and CEO of Core Values Group.