The Greatest Union

I’ve recently returned from my annual weeklong silent retreat. Often it is the highlight of my year, a place to reconnect more deeply with God and to get my priorities straight for the next year. This year, I arrived at retreat with the intent to grieve. I was grieving the recent death of my stepdad. I was grieving the loss of a friend who had dropped out of my life without explanation, then briefly reappeared […]

Five Ideas for Responding to a Refusal to Reconcile

Pope Francis declared this year to be a Jubilee Year of Mercy, a time to extend mercy to others through both acts of forgiveness and care for those who are poor or most in need. We also know ourselves to be in need of mercy as sinners. My favorite definition of mercy is that of my colleague Jim Keenan, SJ, who says that mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another. In […]

Using Imagination to Learn to Let Go

At CatholicMom.com, Susan Bailey wonders, “How can we hope to forget what we can’t forgive? How can we learn to let go of those words and actions that weigh us down and block that life-giving joy that God so wants us to receive?” She finds an answer in Ignatian imagination and shares her prayer, which begins: It was the end of the day and the sky was orange, reflecting the setting sun. The air was […]

Two Differences between Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Sometimes we hesitate to forgive because we think it must automatically include reconciliation. These are two separate processes, and one does not always lead to the other. 1. One person can forgive; it takes two to reconcile. With God’s help, I have the power to forgive anything. That doesn’t mean that I’m willing to forgive anything or that it will be easy. And sometimes a wrong is so heinous that it can take the rest […]

Loved Sinners

We have not always made choices that lead us to praise, honor, and serve God. We have not always acted as if we believe that we are loved. We have not always treated everything in our lives as a gift. We come to the humbling awareness that we are sinners, that we have often been ungrateful and unfaithful. We have failed to respond to God’s offer of love by failing to love God and love […]

Forgiveness, Transformation, and Mercy

Mercy seems to be a recurring theme in my prayer. But what is mercy really? What does it mean when we say God is merciful? How am I called to be merciful? I am no theologian, but I think there are two words that describe what God’s mercy means—forgiveness and transformation. Forgiveness: God is a forgiving God. God’s love for us is unconditional and the very foundation upon which we are forgiven. No matter what […]

What Forgiveness Means

I have a friend whose family members hang onto grudges and slights. They are people who remember everything ever done to them, against them – and by whom. They just can’t let of the wrong that has been done to them and they carry it with them every day. “Refusing to forgive someone who has wronged you,” he says, “is like taking rat poison and hoping the rat dies.” Forgiveness is an incredibly difficult task, […]

The Mission: Repentance and Forgiveness

I recently watched “The Mission” again. It’s based on the tragic story of the Jesuit mission settlements in Paraguay in the 17th and 18th centuries. Here is an unforgettable scene depicting repentance and forgiveness. Some background to the scene. The repentant sinner is Rodrigo Mendoza, a Spanish adventurer played by Robert De Niro. He has enslaved Indians and killed his brother in a duel. Now he wants forgiveness. As a sign of his repentance, he […]