Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

Article excerpt

Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer. By Father Michael Lapsley, SSM, with Stephen Karakashian. (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2012, Pp. xvi, 256. $25.00.)

Saints do not always make comfortable companions. Their focus and intent can be both the stuff that makes them saints and also a source of discomfort for others who find their uncompromising stands just a little difficult. Michael Lapsley gives us a rich and rewarding insight into his own personal journey from being the victim of a letter bomb in 1990 to establishing the Institute for Healing of Memories in South Africa in 1998. In telling his story he reaches back before the bombing in 1990, in which he lost both hands, an eye, and some of his hearing, and subsequently tells of the work of the institute to 2011.

Lapsley begins with an account of the bombing and his slow recovery and his acceptance of his brokenness. The route by which he became a target for such an attack is important, both for the light it sheds as a reminder of what life in South Africa was like under the brutal apartheid regime and for what it reveals of his own style and attitudes that made him a target for the attention of the South African authorities. His uncompromising but clear-sighted view of what needed to be said in South Africa put him off-side even with many in his own religious order in South Africa. On the other hand it was his obvious integrity and unwavering focus on the plight of the victims of apartheid that won him many friends and supporters, and, of course, enemies in the government.

After the pain and suffering from the bombing, the issue emerged of, "What now?" That Lapsley became a healer is a tribute to his deep faith. He recognized, partly through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that the way to true healing lay through the radical honesty of telling one's own story in a context of real acceptance-something even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could only hope for but not always achieve. …

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