BOUND TO FORGIVE: The Pilgrimage to Reconciliation of a Beirut Hostage
by Lawrence Martin Jenco OSM
(Ave Maria Press, 1995, 135 pp, $19.95 Available from AD Books)
"As I stepped from a car in Rome within days of my release from captivity, a paparazzi shouted at me from a distance, 'Father Jenco, what are your feelings toward the terrorists who held you?' I responded without much thought: 'I'm a Christian. I must forgive them'." (p. 13)
One of the most challenging Gospel imperatives is Christ's command to us to forgive those who have wronged us. So important is this imperative that each time we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Fr Jenco explores this Gospel imperative in his autobiographical account of his abduction and imprisonment as a hostage, Bound to Forgive.
Fr Jenco, who was working for Catholic Relief Services, had been assigned to Lebanon for only a short time before he was abducted on 8 January 1985. For the next nineteen months he was subjected to a range of privations, with his days spent largely blindfolded and chained up, being allowed to use a toilet only once a day.
Fr Jenco suffered a range of health problems as a result of these privations, including eye infections. When transported, he was bound with tape and placed in stifling hiding places in trucks, lest he be found by soldiers or police inspecting a vehicle. On occasions he was beaten by the guards.
Throughout Bound to Forgive, Fr Jenco discusses how his faith sustained him. He spent much of his time in prayer and meditation, making a rosary out of threads from a sack and celebrated clandestine Masses whenever he could. At times he was imprisoned with other Christians who consoled each other and conducted worship as "The Church of the Locked Door".
The account is marked by a peace and serenity, a peacefulness that was the result of Fr Jenco's ability to forgive his captors. He begins his account with an incident that occurred towards the end of his captivity when one of the guards asked Fr Jenco if he forgave his captors. Fr Jenco realised that at that moment he was being called to forgive, to "let go of revenge, retaliation and vindictiveness" (p. 14).
Bound to Forgive is an inspiring story of how God touched Fr Jenco's and how he, in turn, was able to reach out and touch the lives of others.