Particularly inspiring in this Year of Mercy, here is an extraordinary letter written by a young nun, Sister Lucy Vertrusc, to her mother superior. Sister Vertrusc became pregnant after she was raped in 1995 during the war in the former Yugoslavia. The letter appeared in an Italian newspaper at the behest of her Mother Superior.
“I am Lucy, one of the young nuns raped by the Serbian soldiers. I am writing to you, Mother, after what happened to my sisters Tatiana, Sandria, and me.
Allow me not to go into the details of the act. There are some experiences in life so atrocious that you cannot tell them to anyone but God, in whose service I had consecrated my life nearly a year ago.
My drama is not so much the humiliation that I suffered as a woman, not the incurable offense committed against my vocation as a religious, but the difficulty of having to incorporate into my faith an event that certainly forms part of the mysterious will of Him whom I have always considered my Divine Spouse.
Only a few days before, I had read “Dialogues of Carmelites” and spontaneously I asked our Lord to grant me the grace of joining the ranks of those who died a martyr of Him. God took me at my word, but in such a horrid way! Now I find myself lost in the anguish of internal darkness. He has destroyed the plans of my life, which I considered definitive and uplifting for me, and He has set me all of a sudden in this design of His that I feel incapable of grasping.
When I was a teenager, I wrote in my Diary: Nothing is mine, I belong to no one, and no one belongs to me. Someone, instead grabbed me one night, a night I wish never to remember, tore me off from myself, and tried to make me his own . . .
It was already daytime when I awoke and my first thought was the agony of Christ in the Garden. Inside of me a terrible battle unleashed. I asked myself why God had permitted me to be rent, destroyed precisely in what had been the meaning of my life, but also I asked to what new vocation He was calling me.
I strained to get up, and helped by Sister Josefina, I managed to straighten myself out. Then the sound of the bell of the Augustinian convent, which was right next to ours, reached my ears. It was time for nine o’clock matins.
I made the sign of the cross and began reciting in my head the liturgical hymn. At this hour upon Golgotha’s heights,/ Christ, the true Pascal Lamb,/ paid the price of our salvation.
What is my suffering, Mother, and the offense I received compared to the suffering and the offense of the One for whom I had a thousand times sworn to give my life. I spoke these words slowly, very slowly: May your will be done, above all now that 1 have no where to go and that I can only be sure of one thing: You are with me.
Mother, I am writing not in search of consolation, but so that you can help me give thanks to God for having associated me with the thousands of my fellow compatriots whose honor has been violated, and who are compelled to accept a maternity not wanted. My humiliation is added to theirs, and since I have nothing else to offer in expiation for the sin committed by those unnamed violators and for the reconciliation of the two embittered peoples, I accept this dishonor that I suffered and I entrust it to the mercy of God.
Do not be surprised, Mother, when I ask you to share with me my “thank you” that can seem absurd.
In these last months I have been crying a sea of tears for my two brothers who were assassinated by the same aggressors who go around terrorizing our towns, and I was thinking that it was not possible for me to suffer anything worse, so far from my imagination had been what was about to take place.
Every day hundreds of hungering creatures used to knock at the doors of our convent, shivering from the cold, with despair in their eyes. Some weeks ago, a young boy about eighteen years old said to me: How lucky you are to have chosen a refuge where no evil can reach you. The boy carried in his hands a rosary of praises for the Prophet. Then he added: You will never know what it means to be dishonored.
I pondered his words at length and convinced myself that there had been a hidden element to the sufferings of my people that had escaped me as I was almost ashamed to be so excluded. Now I am one of them, one of the many unknown women of my people, whose bodies have been devastated and hearts seared. The Lord had admitted me into his mystery of shame. What is more, for me, a religious, He has accorded me the privilege of being acquainted with evil in the depths of its diabolical force.
I know that from now on the words of encouragement and consolation that I can offer from my poor heart will be all the more credible, because my story is their story, and my resignation, sustained in faith, at least a reference, if not example for their moral and emotional responses.
All it takes is a sign, a little voice, a fraternal gesture to set in motion the hopes of so many undiscovered creatures.
God has chosen me-may He forgive my presumption-to guide the most humble of my people towards the dawn of redemption and freedom. They can no longer doubt the sincerity of my words, because I come, as they do, from the outskirts of revilement and profanation.
I remember the time when I used to attend the university at Rome in order to get my masters in Literature, an ancient Slavic woman, the professor of Literature, used to recite to me these verses from the poet Alexej Mislovic: You must not die/because you have been chosen/ to be a part of the day.
That night, in which I was terrorized by the Serbs for hours and hours, I repeated to myself these verses, which I felt as balm for my soul, nearly mad with despair.
And now, with everything having passed and looking back, I get the impression of having been made to swallow a terrible pill.
Everything has passed, Mother, but everything begins. In your telephone call, after your words of encouragement, for which I am grateful with all my life, you posed me a very direct question: What will you do with the life that has been forced into your womb? I heard your voice tremble as you asked me the question, a question I felt needed no immediate response; not because I had not yet considered the road I would have to follow, but so as not to disturb the plans you would eventually have to unveil before me. I had already decided. I will be a mother. The child will be mine and no one else’s. I know that I could entrust him to other people, but he-though I neither asked for him nor expected him-he has a right to my love as his mother. A plant should never be torn from its roots. The grain of wheat fallen in the furrow has to grow there, where the mysterious, though iniquitous sower threw it.
I will fulfill my religious vocation in another way. I will ask nothing of my congregation, which has already given me everything. I am very grateful for the fraternal solidarity of the Sisters, who in these times have treated me with the utmost delicacy and kindness, especially for never having asked any uncareful questions.
I will go with my child. I do not know where, but God, who broke all of a sudden my greatest joy, will indicate the path I must tread in order to do His will.
I will be poor again, I will return to the old aprons and the wooden shoes that the women in the country use for working, and I will accompany my mother into the forest to collect the resin from the slits in the trees.
Someone has to begin to break the chain of hatred that has always destroyed our countries. And so, I will teach my child only one thing: love. This child, born of violence, will be a witness along with me that the only greatness that gives honor to a human being is forgiveness.