Redeeming the Past
By: Michael Lapsley with Stephen Karakashian
*Catholic Press Association Book Award: Biography (First Place)
“Although he was broken physically, he has become the most whole person I know, truly a wounded healer.” --Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Michael s life represents a compelling metaphor . . . a foreigner who came to our country and was transformed. His life is part of the tapestry of the many long journeys and struggle of our people.” --Nelson Mandela
“Not quite three months after Nelson Mandela was freed from Robben Island in 1990, Anglican priest and African National Congress chaplain Lapsley opened a letter sent in the mail. The bomb in it blew off both hands, sent shrapnel through his body, and destroyed one eye . . . . Though severely injured, his mind and tongue remain intact, producing this most amazing memoir of a man who writes he "has never made a distinction between human liberation and my Christian witness." . . . Within three years of his attack, he opened the doors of The Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, in the new South Africa, and launched a global Healing of Memories program. The book's final section highlights stories from this work, from Rwanda to Northern Ireland, from Colombia to North Carolina. With dry, self-deprecating wit, Lapsley treats readers to an emotional, gripping tale of a priest, his prosthetics, and his promise, as St. Teresa of Avila put it, to be Christ's hands in the world.” --Publishers' Weekly
"The Church often thinks it knows what the world wants from it — inspiration, 'leadership', clear teaching. But surely what the world is most hungry for is the simple knowledge that healing is possible — not by forgetting or minimizing outrages and sufferings but by sheer, obstinate, costly commitment to work with the grain of grace. This is what Father Michael has demonstrated in so many contexts across the globe, and this book is a wonderful testament to what the gospel can make happen."—Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury
In 1990, Fr. Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest active in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, opened a letter bomb that nearly killed him. Though he survived, the blast took both his hands and one of his eyes. This memoir tells the story of this horrendous event, beginning with the journey that led him there--particularly his rising awareness of the radical demands of the gospel and his growing identification with the freedom struggle. But that was not the end of his inspiring journey. In post-apartheid South Africa, Lapsley saw a whole nation in need of healing from trauma both physical and spiritual. He discovered a new vocation: drawing on his own experience of trauma to promote the healing of others, in South Africa, and ultimately throughout the world, in the international Institute for the Healing of Memories.
Michael Lapsley, born in New Zealand, became an Anglican priest in the Society of the Sacred Mission, and was sent to South Africa in 1973. There he became active in the antiapartheid movement, ultimately joining the African National Congress. After surviving an assassination attempt while living in Zimbabwe, he returned to South Africa to found the Institute for the Healing of Memories.
Stephen Karakashian is an American psychotherapist who has worked with Father Michael and the institute for the Healing of Memories in South Africa and the United States. He lives in Portland, Oregon