Tag Archives: friendship

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.

Offering ‘fruit’ of self-giving to sustain, heal and reunite

The most fulfilling love one can experience is that of fully giving oneself without reservation and at all cost. In a sincere and total gift of self, we mirror Christ’s sacrificial love for us. St. John Paul II frequently quoted the passage from Gaudium et Spes, “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS 24).

Desmond Thomas Doss was a corporal who served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946. Doss refused to carry a weapon into combat or to kill anyone because of his personal religious beliefs. In 1945, Doss became the only conscientious objector ever to receive the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the medal for his bravery in saving 75 men at the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot.

At the Battle of Okinawa, Doss’s unit, fighting at the top of a cliff, was being decimated and was forced to retreat. Doss was helping others off the ridge to safety, and at one point, a wounded soldier died in his arms. At this Doss prayed a simple prayer to God: “What do you want of me?” and with that he heard the cries of the many other wounded soldiers still in harm’s way on the ridge. Doss was very much aware of the danger of losing his life by going back to help. He helped because he heard God calling him to a sacrificial love for his fellow man. While lowering the wounded one at a time to safety, the rope caused his hands to bleed, and he prayed again, this time, “Lord, please help me to get one more.” Each time he brought another to safety, he repeated the prayer because he knew God would supply the courage and strength.

Through faith and selfless sacrifice, Doss fully gave himself up to God’s will, unconditionally, and at all costs. Beautifully said in John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Following the example of this incredible hero in uniform, let us remember that we must not be afraid to get our hands sullied until they “bleed” out of love, doing all we can to help our families, and our fellow man in need with the same sacrificial love of Jesus. We can recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” Let us reflect how we can respond more fully to God’s call. Lord, what do you want of me?

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they have grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient At Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.

Prosciutto, Arugula and Melon Fig salad • serves 4

Ingredients:
½ lb. prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 bunches arugula, washed and stemmed
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (suggested: Cucina Antica Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Cup pecans, toasted at 375˚
4 firm ripe figs
12 ½-inch slices honey dew melon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Cup Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/3 oz.)

Preparation:
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Place arugula in a large bowl and toss with 4 Tbsp. of vinaigrette.

Trim the tough stems from the figs and cut each fig into 8 slices. Season melon with salt and pepper. Wrap each slice of melon in two slices of prosciutto.

Mound the greens on 4 plates. Place 3 prosciutto-wrapped melons around the greens. Arrange 8 slices of fig (1 whole fig) on each plate. Shave Parmesan cheese over salads and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.