Father forgive them


Do you think if you were a victim of the holocaust and you went through forced labor and starvation and saw people shot around you you would say:

“Father forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing?”


It’s hard to know what we would do. We are so far from Christ, or many of the saints, beginning with Stephen in Acts.

There is a wonderful CD series by a woman who survived concentration camps and more during WWII. She tells of how she forgave those who committed terrible crimes, and the struggle she had to work through to find love and forgiveness. The CD is called To Hell and Back, and I’m afraid I can’t recall the name of the woman. If you get a chance to listen to this, take advantage. It’s a powerful story.

As for what I would do, I can’t know until/or if I face that kind of situation. To say that I would ask God to forgive them, might be a bit prideful. Remember Peter who was so sure he would not deny Christ, and then he did. Better to say that by the grace of God, I will act as He would desire.


I pray I would. I can’t know I would. I can develop, in Christ, this ability to forgive, however. One that learns to forgive when tested in small ways is increasingly opened to God’s grace, and therefore is more likely to be able to forgive when tested in large ways.


I pray I would, too


Yes, I would say that.


If terrorists plunged airplanes into three buildings killing upwards of 3,000 people, would you be able to say the same?

If suffering people, seeking to feed their families, sneak into your country looking for work, would you be able to say the same?

If someone commits a terrible crime against a child in your community, would you be able to say the same?

This question is not hypothetical. Daily we are challenged to see things through God’s eyes. God who loves each of us “as if there were no other”. God’s love and pardon is limitless.


It would not be easy and that’s how it should be. Fr. Neuhaus in his book Death on a Friday Afternoon writes about how forgiveness that comes too easily minimizes the pain and seriousness of sin. I knew a priest, long since deceased, who spent nearly six years as a prisoner in Dachau and saw all those things and more. It was perhaps only in the last 10 years of his life that he came to terms with what had happened to him and this was a man who had a rich and almost mystical prayer life.

One of the hardest things for my friend and many other survivors–and this is perhaps true of any victim of sin–is to come to terms with one’s self. Any victim of a serious crime or sin wonders (openly, in the dark of night, or even subconsciously) whether in fact they did something to deserve this. Others die around them: friends, strangers or people who they consider better or more worthy. Why was I spared when these others died? Did I take an extra piece of bread, could I have helped but did not?

My priest friend had a friend Fr. Steven who volunteered to help prisoners in a typhoid quarantine block of Dachau. Fr. Steven died of typhoid shortly before the liberation of the camp, helping fellow prisoners until he grew too weak to stand. Although he never said it, having read my friend’s memoirs I know he asked himself many times “why wasn’t I there too?” In many ways this is so much harder than forgiving the camp guards and some impersonal group of dead Nazi leaders.



To be honest, I have no idea what I’d say. I’ve never been tortured before. My ideaof torture is my neighbors next door blasting rap music @ 3 in the morning, or having to go to the bathroombut I have to walk a long distance to get to one, lol. I honestly can say, I do say to myself, what goes around comes around, but Father forgive them would be a new habit I’d have to form.


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