Father Forgive Them…Forgiveness Bible Study Day 5

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From today’s reflection

I realize now that the pain people caused me was basically the collateral damage of whatever hurt they had to deal with. In spite of the things I suffered, the hurt that I endured in the past led to me finding my strength. So as unlikely as it sounds, if you are one of those people that hurt me and you are reading this, know that I love you as my brother or sister in Christ and that I forgive you and that I am praying for your happiness.

Read the rest here!

Let Fear and Anger Out, Let Love In: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 4

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From today’s reflection:

Having selfless love for those who’ve hurt you means wanting them to be happy. And I mean legitimately wanting happiness for them and not saying it sarcastically or bitterly. This selfless love has to come from the heart. Do they deserve this selfless love? No! None of us deserve to have selfless, unconditional love in our lives. It’s not something we’re entitled to. Nor will it be something that happens overnight. It all starts with letting go of our anger and fear.

Read the rest here!

The Difference Between Forgiveness and Vengeance: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 3

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From today’s reflection:

The story of Jonah is both a comedy and a tragedy. It’s comical because of the irony: a prophet actively trying to hide from God while all the pagan pirates and the city of Nineveh were more than willing to ask God for mercy when the situation calls for it. It’s tragic because Jonah didn’t understand God’s mercy towards the Ninevites and the pirates,  and refused to forgive his enemies. Instead, he held onto his desire for vengeance.

Read the rest here!

Also, this is my favorite version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”:

The Purpose of Our Problems: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 2

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From today’s reflection:

I always believed that everything happens for a reason. It’s never clear right away and sometimes, the worst things in our lives will never have an explanation that we can understand for as long as we live. Still, most of the things that we’ve experienced in our lives can either be used for the better or as an excuse. It all depends on our perspective.

Read the rest here!

Why We All Need Forgiveness: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 1

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From today’s reflection:

Most of us know the story pretty well: God created Adam and Eve and told them not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then Eve gets tempted by the serpent, both she and Adam eat the fruit, they get in major trouble and God banishes them from Eden. (Seriously, Adam and Eve. You had one job!)

The banishment from Eden seems like a downer ending for Adam and Eve, but remember that the word “genesis” means beginning. This is only the first chapter of what we now call “salvation history.” Even as He gives punishment to Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Divine Mercy was already at work.

How? Find out here!

Forgiveness Bible Study Introduction

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Today is the start of my latest Bible study from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. If you’ve ever wondered anything about what forgiveness is and how it can be a part of your life, please join me on this two-week journey!

From today’s introduction:

The idea of forgiveness seems easy at first glance. It’s easy to forgive an accident or to forgive a child when they made a mistake. I know that for some of you, forgiveness seems like such an unimaginable concept. It’s a lot to work though, especially if someone hurts you so much, it damages your mind, heart and soul. However, forgiveness isn’t something people deserve or have to earn. It’s something we all need. It’s an act of compassion, which means it’s given even when it’s not asked for.

 

Read the whole thing here!

I have a song for every reflection in this study. You can check them out on the Spotify playlist I made:

The Other Side of Recovery

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When I shared my commentary about Kesha’s struggle to break free of her contract and desire to be free of her alleged abuser, a friend of mine reminded me that I had to include compassion towards those who have been raped and sexually assaulted. So this follow-up post isn’t just a letter to Kesha, but to all victims of rape, assault, and abusive relationships (physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, etc.).

My dearest sisters and brothers,

If you’re reading this, you probably feel broken. The world is not the same anymore. There were times that you felt like your mind and your body were not your own. You want to blame yourself for what happened. Why didn’t you see the red flags? Why are people blaming your behaviors? For a time, you were completely helpless. You probably still feel helpless right now.

You are not alone.

Just because there is a lack of evidence of this trauma does not negate the fact that this happened to you. The pain will not go away overnight. It’s a process, but believe me when I say that you will find your way out of the dark.

What’s most important right now is protecting yourself and finding a way to let this traumatic experience make you into a stronger person. It’s so easy to cut yourself off from the world, to build a giant wall around your heart and not let anyone in. But the first step to recovery is to find people who will support you. Reach out to a friend who will listen. Go to counseling or some kind of support group. It’s important to have a sense of community because pain and misery grow from constant isolation.

Once you’ve regained some strength from your support community, pay it forward and start helping your local community through volunteer work. Reach out to the less fortunate, offer to tutor your neighbor’s kids, or work for a blood drive. If you feel strong enough to help others who were in your situation, start training to work those crisis hotlines. Through serving others, you’ll find that you get a better sense of self and a sense of purpose as well.

The hardest part of recovering, I think, is finding a way to let go of the past. While there is a time and a place for catharsis, the feeling can only carry you so far. This is probably gonna sound impossible. Unimaginable even. But at some point, you need to forgive the person who has hurt you. I’m not asking to forget that it ever happened. I’m not asking for you to try and make amends with them. I’m not even asking you to contact that person again.

Forgiveness means letting go of all the anger and hurt. It means no longer plotting revenge or wishing that the worst will happen to the people who’ve hurt you. And yes, it’s really, really, really hard.

But here’s something I learned. The people who’ve hurt me in the past were all broken in some way. They suffered a traumatic childhood or had their own set of problems that I had no idea about, or grew up without any sense of direction in their lives at all. The people who have broken you have been broken themselves. And instead of choosing to try and get past all the hurt, they instead chose to hurt someone else. Misery loves company, after all. And misery may be all that they know.

So when I ask you to forgive the person who has hurt you, I am asking that you hope that the also find their way out of the dark. That they are no longer broken or defined by their circumstances. They may all seem like monsters right now, but there is still humanity within them, just as there is humanity within all of us. Let go of your resentment and anger and one day, you’ll find that the pain will soften to the point of being nonexistent.

The emotional growth you will receive will come when you least expect it. And trust me when I say you will not see it coming. Something good always comes out of something bad. Just know that you are already finding your way out of the dark. You are not alone.

 

Forgiveness: Doing the Unimaginable

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We have a lot of concepts of what forgiveness is and how it’s supposed to be done. When I was out with my friends yesterday, I passed by a woman who reminded me of someone who hurt me deeply.

 

Back when I was in college, I had my first anxiety attack when I was presenting my writings in a class. The lady who triggered the anxiety attack showed no compassion towards me and thought that I would never become a good writer or amount to anything. I used to have nightmares of her and whenever I ran into her on campus, I either ran away or froze completely, waiting until she left the room in order to breathe again.

 

I’m not sure if the woman I saw last night was the same woman who caused my first anxiety attack or some doppelganger of hers but as I went home, I thought to myself “How would I feel if it actually was her?” The answer was “Nothing.” Never have I ever thought that feeling nothing towards a person would ever be a good thing, but in this scenario, it’s a major milestone.

 

I’ve mentioned before that when I venerated the relics of St. Maria Goretti, I said a prayer of forgiveness towards those who’ve hurt me and asked the saint to help me forgive myself as well.

 

There’s this song from Hamilton called “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Some of the lyrics in this song reminded me of how I felt when I was dealing with my anxiety, specifically the idea of dealing with and trying to do the unimaginable. One one of these unimaginable things is forgiveness. As Giles said in Buffy Season 2’s “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s-it’s… it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” And, of course, there’s also this song:

 

I used to dream of the day when I would be a successful, bestselling writer and finally get revenge on the woman who caused my first anxiety attack. But now, this peace that I feel, the fact that I can look her in the eye and feel absolutely nothing at all is better than revenge. It’s a release. It’s a new kind of strength. And it’s a very beautiful thing.

 

I know that for some of you, forgiveness seems like such an unimaginable concept. It’s a lot to work though, especially if someone hurts you so much, it damages your mind, heart and soul. It’s okay to feel angry, hurt, and afraid. But at some point, you need to let go of all of that. Forgiveness isn’t about pretending that nothing happened. It’s more like acknowledging that you’ve grown past that hurt and have healed from it. It means releasing the emotional power that the anger, hurt, and anxiety had over you. It also means that the person who caused that hurt can’t trigger that pain anymore.

 

Forgiveness is a process. I don’t know if I feel this same peace when I think about others who’ve hurt me, but I’ve already let go of at least two people who’ve caused me pain in the past. It will be a great day when I realize that I’ve let go of all that hurt. But for now, the fact that I’ve finally overcome one of my worst experiences is enough for me.

 

Meeting Saint Maria Goretti

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So last night, at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, I had the privilege of attending Mass in honor of St. Maria Goretti, whose relics were being venerated. The church was packed. I honestly haven’t seen a church so crowded outside of Christmas and Easter. The line to venerate the reliquary was almost a mile long and I’m very certain I’m not exaggerating when I say that. My dad and I, however, were lucky to get a seat in the church.

It was during the Homily that I learned about St. Maria Goretti’s intercessory power and how America has a special relationship with her. For one thing, her brothers immigrated here and started families. A descendant of one of Maria Goretti’s brothers was present at Mass. American troops also used the basilica in Nettuno as a base when they invaded Italy. They also taught baseball to the people of Nettuno and currently the city has the best baseball team in all of Italy. I also learned she’s excellent with healing people whose legs or feet might be amputated.

I got to venerate her twice. Not knowing how long the line will be, I grabbed my Rosary and made sure that it touched the reliquary while I was in line to receive communion. When I was in line to venerate her properly, I received two prayer cards that touched the reliquary. Through reading the cards, I learned that anything that touches the reliquary becomes a third class relic, so I made sure that my ring touched the reliquary. I was only there for a short fifteen seconds both times, but I felt an amazing power from both of those moments.

I own third class relics now. It’s seriously amazing.

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The most amazing thing that I learned from the story of St. Maria Goretti is the power of forgiveness. The priest who gave the homily, Fr. Carlos Martins, gave a great detailed story about the life of St. Maria Goretti. It broke my heart to know that  Maria Goretti had to take care of her family at such a young age. It disgusted me that a 19-year-old boy lusted after an 11-year-old girl so much that he was willing to kill her in order to get his way. He wasn’t even sorry for killing her and tried to say that she attacked him. The judge, of course, didn’t believe him. If this story was done on Law and Order: SVU, Alessandro would’ve been completely unsympathetic. And yet, one moment of forgiveness changed everything. Alessandro Serenelli received a vision of Maria Goretti giving him fourteen white lilies, one for each time he stabbed her. In this kind gesture, Maria Goretti told Alessandro that she forgave him.

After receiving that vision, Alessandro Serenelli repented. He was released from jail three years before the actual end of his sentence because of how different he was from when he was imprisoned. He ended up breaking up the entire Goretti family through his actions and yet  when he approached Maria Goretti’s mother on Christmas Eve, she chose to forgive him. He became a Franciscan and devoted his life to God. And in spite of what everyone thought about him, Alessandro chose to forgive himself.

Fr. Martins asked everyone to pray a litany asking St. Maria Goretti to help them forgive the people who’ve hurt them and to most of all forgive yourself. I prayed this litany during the Offertory hymn. It was a powerful experience for me because I have no idea if the people who’ve hurt me were even sorry for what they did. And yet through forgiving them, I chose to let my anger go. At this point in my life, I realized that the hurt that I was put through led to me finding my strength. So as unlikely as it sounds, if you are one of those people that hurt me and you are reading this, know that I love you as my brother or sister in Christ and that I forgive you and that I am praying for your happiness.

I’m gonna go more into the power of forgiveness in a later post.  If you want to see what I experienced, there’s a video of the livestream on St. Theresa’s YouTube channel. It clocks in at 2 hours, but it’s worth watching.