I’ve seen hatred and I have seen love. And love is more powerful. (Immaculee Ilibagiza)
In her book, Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza provides in shocking and poignant detail, her first person account of surviving the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Hidden for three months in a tiny concealed bathroom with 7 others, she somehow managed to remain alive while most of her family (her mother, father and two brothers) were killed by Hulu soldiers.
I am a prolific reader, and her beautiful autobiography still haunts and inspires me, years after I first read it. Today, I got the rare and meaningful opportunity to see and hear her speak in person at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. She’s incredibly bright, beautiful, and joy-filled. In my heart, she was already a spiritual giant, and hearing her share in person how her Catholic faith guided her through her ordeal and does the same still now in her everyday life was moving beyond what I can adequately express here. She is a soul who glorifies the Lord!
What makes Immaculee particularly remarkable to me is the grace filled way she speaks about her devotion to our Blessed Mother, who always points us to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The compassionate way she presses all in her path to forgive everyone always is equally impressive because this is a woman who has forgiven that which seems nearly inconceivable to me. Her message of hope spoke to my most interior parts, leaving me feeling the peace of Christ.
Recently, I admit to whining a little too much to the Lord. I’m kind of sick of that as well as my unholy self-judgements and I am ready to stand in the light of truth. It’s important that we realize that we are all created in the image of God, so to violate the dignity of our humanity by thinking anything less is not of God. We should strive to be people of joy, and joy is the conscious possession of a good. We have to come to know ourselves and that we are loved by God, forgiven for our mistakes, just as we are! Our Blessed Mother stands ready to help us if we ask for her hand. I needed that reminder, so thank you, Immaculee!
I suppose I hope our good and gracious God is patient and loving enough that He’s happy to hear from His silly daughter, Shelly, even if she needs to adopt an attitude of gratitude in a much more profound way. Here’s the thing. I JUST finished begging Him for some “boots on the ground”. I told God I can only read so many books and that to grow in holiness, I really, really, really want some face time with actual holy persons who live in His truth, love and peace. Then, I showed up for my weekly Awaken meeting and one of the authors I most revere IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD for her selfless example of what it means to truly Trust in Providence SHOWS UP IN CARMEL, INDIANA. Are you even kidding me, Lord? THIS woman? What the heck?! Being a Jesus girl can be kind of comical sometimes. I imagine Him up there rolling His eyes at me marveling at the ferocity of my stubborn refusal to give up my own will and follow His instead.
Immaculee, you inspire me. The depth of the love and grace which flows through you to all in your path is beyond all telling. It felt a lot like today, for this mom of 3 boys from Indiana, the Lord sent you to hold up that rosary and show me the way. I left filled with JOY. I strongly suspect there are a couple of hundred other beautiful women who felt largely the same way. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!