I recently attended a talk at our parish given by a highly educated woman who works in the Archdiocese of Washington D.C.. Although the talk was not focused on the topic of forgiveness, the speaker told a story that greatly impacted me.
She told the audience about growing up as one of nine children in a devout Catholic family, praying together every night. During nightly prayer, each member of the family would verbalize their examination of conscience and ask forgiveness for what they had done wrong. She explained that by doing this every night, year after year, her brothers and sisters are easily able to admit when they are wrong and ask forgiveness. She said this was a great gift her parents gave their nine children.
As she related this story, I was moved to tears. I began to think about my own little family, and how hard it can be to admit when we are wrong … and how hard it can be to forgive others when they have wronged us.
God has blessed our marriage tremendously, and one way He has done this is by teaching us the art of forgiveness through more experienced couples. Before David and I got married 21 years ago, we attended an Engaged Encounter weekend. During that experience, we listened to several married couples who shared their wisdom with us. They talked about the importance of forgiving each other when we have done something wrong, and saying specifically, “I’m sorry,” and “will you forgive me?” This was so hard for me to learn, and even harder to do when we were first married — and yet vital for our marriage.
As David and I started our married life together, we began to practice the art of forgiveness (we had lots of opportunities to do this!)
Later, as God blessed us with children, we learned that whenever we argue in their presence, they need to see the resolution of that conflict. They need to hear us say to one another, “I’m sorry,” and “will you forgive me?”
We have also taught them the importance of forgiving one another (and us) in the same way. Sometimes it takes time. None of us are immediately ready to admit that we were wrong and to ask forgiveness. Yet, eventually, by the grace of God, we are able to forgive and accept forgiveness. I pray that our children will continue this habit in their relationships as they grow up and become adults.
Just as our loving heavenly Father forgives us over and over again, so, too my sweet husband and precious children forgive me and I strive to forgive them. I have come to realize in 21 years of marriage that truly LOVING my spouse and my children means saying (and meaning) “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” It also means that I must always be willing to forgive them.
St. Faustina said, “He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart.”
As we grow our little saints, and try to love our husbands more each day, embracing our vocation of marriage and family, let us not forget St. Paul’s words, “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32