Fr. Lapsley was an inspirational guest preacher at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church on Sunday, October 30. During the violent years of anti-apartheid in South Africa, Fr. Lapsley publicly advocated for black and white victims of violence, spoke out against the government, and finally became its victim when he received a letter bomb. He lost both hands and his sight in one eye, suffered damaged hearing, and sustained severe burns. His struggles to achieve bodily, spiritual, and emotional healing are now the focus of his life’s work.
In 1998, Fr. Lapsley founded the Institute for the Healing of Memories in Cape Town, to offer support to fellow South Africans and, eventually, to victims of war, genocide, and violence in places like Rwanda, Burundi, Northern Ireland and East Timor. He uses his own inner healing to connect with people who live with searing memories and help them onto a path to forgiveness and reconciliation.
During his sermon at St. Ann’s, Fr. Lapsley discouraged using the phrase “forgive and forget,” and instead suggested that Christianity, with Judaism and Islam, is one of the great remembering traditions. “If anyone tells you to forget the past, tell them they are talking junk,” he insisted. Bad, destructive memories require that we first acknowledge them so we can begin to heal. Forgiveness, he said, is painful and difficult and requires a connection between the wronged and the one who wronged, who seeks reconciliation and “restorative justice,” rather than punishment.
Fr. Lapsley believes that people in pain need the help of God to acknowledge and disconnect from their memories, to free them to achieve forgiveness. He has brought his message to places around the world and is presently working to establish his institute in North America. To learn more, visit www.healing-memories.org.