Remembering Fr. Ubald (RIP 1/7/2021)

Fr. Ubald and me, Chicago 2017

The first thing you’d notice was not his collar, but his smile. Despite the great sorrows he had experienced — or perhaps because of them — Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga was full of joy. I think that this joy was actually a source and sign of his healing gift, for both things emanated from the same place: an unshakable trust in the God who never failed him.

Not when he lost first his father, then his brother and mother and dozens of members of his own family, in the genocide against the Tutsi people.

Not when his own parishioners cast him out of the parish he had served faithfully for ten years … and went on to slaughter thousands of their brothers and sisters in a matter of days.

Not when thousands of people pressed him from every side, desperate for healing. It happened everywhere he went — from the big diocesan cathedrals to tiny country parishes here in the US, to churches across his homeland in Rwanda, and especially at the Center for the Secret of Peace, which he labored so hard to build as a testimony to the power of forgiveness in the heart of a nation. (Something we need so desperately today.)

And not when this lady editor he met by chance at a women’s conference in Minneapolis pushed and pushed him to tell his story. He took it in stride, and together we created what I’ve come to consider the most important project of my professional career: Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Dramatic Story of Healing and Reconciliation from the Heart of Rwanda.

Sadly, I had not been in touch with Fr. Ubald for some time before he died; like many authors, his friendship was a gift to me for a time. Now that he has gone to his reward, I can only look back on those beautiful days and thank God for what he taught me about being willing to let go of anything that does not keep us in the presence of the Father. And how the willingness to forgive and to be forgiven is the first and more important step to finding healing for our deepest, most painful wounds of body and spirit.

RIP, Fr. Ubald. Pray for me still.

#FrUbald #CenterfortheSecretofPeace #ForgivenessMakesYouFree

A Blessing for Not-So-Holy Families

It was like scratching an itch that had been building up for years. Then, the day before Christmas, the proverbial straw landed. Finally, this ol’ camel scratched in the form of a carefully worded e-mail.

Ahhhh . . . camel crap.

We’ve been shoveling it for days now, with no end in sight. Someday I’ll get around to sharing details, but for now I’ll summarize it this way: Nothing, not even righteous indignation, feels good enough to justify hurting someone you REALLY love. And sometimes even the most justified comeback can have consequences you never intended.

In this case, the easy “Sorry” won’t work. You know, the one-size-fits-all apology married men discovered this eons ago. …

  • “I’m sorry I agreed with you that those pants make your butt look fat.”
  • “I’m sorry I said your laugh reminds me of your mother’s.”
  • “I’m sorry I didn’t bring home the milk you forgot to ask me to pick up.”
  • Why not? I offered, and Craig said it would only make things worse.┬áSo instead I’ve decided to turn this into a little life lesson, about the importance of keeping one’s saddle clean-swept. Of talking things out before the straws get too thick. Of tending to relationships in the short term, so the occasional bump won’t matter so much in the long term.

    This week, on the feast of the Holy Family, I offer this blessing for not-so-holy ones.

    Father God, we are all your children.
    And sometimes children squabble.
    Teach us to play nicely,
    and to use our words carefully, kindly, and at just the right time.
    In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen!