Forgiving injuries: Bryson Hall lives message of forgiveness, reconciliation

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Bryson Hall, who lives in Bapchule on the Gila River Indian Reservation, found the grace to forgive deep wounds when he asked the Virgin Mary for help. These days, he teaches children at St. Peter’s Indian Mission School about their Native culture, weaving in the occasional lesson on forgiveness. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bryson Hall, who lives in Bapchule on the Gila River Indian Reservation, found the grace to forgive deep wounds when he asked the Virgin Mary for help. These days, he teaches children at St. Peter’s Indian Mission School about their Native culture, weaving in the occasional lesson on forgiveness. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, every month The Catholic Sun will feature a “Missionary of Mercy” who ­exemplifies one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
Practical ways to forgive injuries
  • Acknowledge the hurt and let it go
  • Offer prayers for the person who has hurt you
  • Read Bible passages about forgiveness
  • Realize that refusing to forgive imprisons you
  • Remember that to receive mercy, you must be merciful
  • Relish the freedom in letting go of grudges

BAPCHULE — Growing up on the sprawling Gila River Indian Reservation south of Phoenix, Bryson Hall remembers the day tragedy shattered his world: Oct. 12, 1996. He was just 12 years old.

That’s the day his 10-year-old stepsister was killed in a car accident. “Dad was driving — I was at my aunt’s. I came home and my stepmother blamed me. She said I should have been the one to die, not her daughter.” He was devastated. The blame went on for years, leaving a wound that festered.

Although Hall had been baptized Catholic, his stepmother was Pentecostal and did not permit the family to attend Mass. She also refused to allow Hall to visit his mother. “She never hit me. It wasn’t like that. She was a psychological abuser,” Hall said.

Hall’s father didn’t intervene, and that stung too. Eventually, his father and stepmother divorced. “In my teens, I started to get really rebellious. My father asked me, ‘Why do you do this to me?’ I said, ‘Since when do you want to help me?’” But before his father died, just two years later, Hall forgave him.

“He wasn’t a bad father — he just didn’t defend me,” Hall said. “I really needed him to help me, to be there for me.” Hall told his father that in spite of everything, he loved him. “I forgive you for everything I’ve been through,” he said. His love for the Virgin Mary carried him, he said.

Thinking back to his stepsister’s death, Hall remembered a woman who came to the wake. “As she came through the line to shake our hands, she put a rosary in my hand — she kind of hid it in my hands, knowing how my stepmother’s family was. She said, ‘The Blessed Mother hears you.’” Hall kept the rosary in his pocket and prayed it often. That is, until his stepmother came upon the cherished beads.

“She broke it. She said she didn’t want any of that heathen stuff in her house,” Hall said. He bent to scoop up the scattered pieces, but his stepmother said to leave the rosary there, to “‘let it go back to hell where it came from.’ I gathered it up and put it in a pouch and buried it out in the desert.” He asked Our Lady to forgive him for not protecting the rosary.

“Ever since my rosary was broken I said, ‘Blessed Mother, help me. Just help me.’ And I really believe she helped me through all those years.”

As a teenager, his mother began taking him back to Mass. Hall said he woke up one Sunday mad at everybody, mad at the world. He didn’t want to go to church, but at Mass that morning, the priest preached on forgiveness and spoke of how Jesus forgave those who spit on Him, cursed Him and crucified Him. “I thought, ‘If that were me, I wouldn’t have died for them.’ To be honest, I never thought of forgiveness. I thought, one day I’ll get them,” Hall said. “But when Father talked about forgiveness, I knew the message was for me.” Hall forgave his stepmother.

These days, Hall teaches Native American music and dance to the children at St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule. From time to time, he talks with them about the need to forgive. He tells them he understands how they feel. “Forgive them,” he tells his students. “Be the bigger person.”

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