Up Front and Personal

My Heart Forgives

by Michael Gilbride

I was asked to write a reflection of my experience as a survivor of sexual abuse by clergy. This Lent, just as last year, I read from two diaries; the first was that of St. Faustina and the second was The Diary of Anne Frank.

My reflection began with St. Faustina’s words: “In meditation, I learned that I should hide myself as deeply as possible in the Heart of Jesus.” From there, I reflected that from her hiding place, with war all around, Anne Frank wrote these inspiring words: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) process had me re-read the words my perpetrator wrote to me: “where love is concerned nothing is ever really enough.”

My current therapist, an Episcopal priest, said nothing can ever really repay me for what was taken from me when I was young. When I came forward to Bishop DiMarzio, we spoke about the concept of reparation with regards to the Sacred Heart.

Last November, I visited Auschwitz where Anne Frank lost her life. Can anything ever make up for what was lost there? Yet, her writing and letters live on.

Meeting other survivors, I came to understand most feel they experienced a spiritual death. My heart forgives the priest who took advantage of me. I think the Lord will have mercy on him. Now my reflection is upon how my heart and the heart of the Lord are affected.

Anne Frank’s words about how young people are not understood make me wonder about my understanding of the word survivor. Her words make me think of what was taken from me when I was young. She writes, “it’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, dreams and cherished hopes.”

I still pray for hope and healing at the yearly Masses of Hope and Healing. I reflect upon my perpetrator preaching so long ago about the Beatles song: “All you need is love.”

I know that in the hiding place of my heart, there are still wounds and these hurts are spiritual ones. My reflection makes me think that the words of Anne Frank are so true…in youth we’re forced to think up a solution, though most of the time our solutions crumble when faced with the facts.

I wonder, can I now write about those things that were taken so long ago? My hope too is for mercy and my hope is for mercy for me and the perpetrator.

My reflection ends with the words of St. Faustina: “It is for me to write how unable I am to put down clearly what I experience in my soul. O God, can a pen write down that for which many a time there are no words?”

Gilbride is a member of the Survivors Advisory Committee.

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