“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." (St. Faustina, Diary, 390)
The golden rays from the sun shined down upon my face with the droplets of morning dew dancing upon the blades of grass as I took one step after another like so many times before each morning at the convent. It was for love alone that I first began the journey to become a religious sister and continued to walk willingly in the blood-stained footsteps of Christ towards Calvary. Each day as my novice mistress, Sister Eva, vehemently chided, belittled, and mocked me, I daily offered up my suffering to Christ and for the sanctification of Catholic priests as I knew that it was a gift that enabled me to become closer and closer to Him.
With my Rosary beads swaying at my side I tightly grasped the crucifix within the palm of my hand as I struggled to pray a "Hail Mary," with each labored breath. The isolation and abandonment that I felt was surreal, I could not believe that the same woman who welcomed me with a beaming smile almost two years ago had permitted pride and envy to conquer her heart. What happened to the beautiful feeling that I had when I first entered the convent; that of hope, joy, and knowing that I was surrounded by love?
I entered the religious life to give my life entirely to Christ, and to become His Bride, that was my true desire. I was eagerly awaiting the day to give my fiat to the Lord, my forever “yes” to Him for all of eternity as a consecrated religious sister. I had just been given my apostolic assignment, and a new summer habit, and within two weeks my entire world turned upside down because of someone who made the willing decision to become an instrument of the evil one instead of an instrument of the Holy Spirit.
It was a little more than a year ago that I made the conscious decision to forgive. I knew that forgiveness was the only way to allow the grace of God to heal my wounded heart, mind, and soul. It was not instantaneous though, and it took my heart awhile to catch up with my head. I struggled with the incredible hurt and pain that one individual, the woman who was supposed to be my “spiritual mother” inflicted upon me, especially since she admitted during the very last time that I saw her in the convent that she had been aware that she was committing wrongdoings against me, but could not answer as to why she maliciously treated me in such a way.
My whole world collapsed before my very eyes, and the vocation that meant everything to me was snatched from my fingers in an instant. With her head looking downward, and eyes gazing towards the floor my novice mistress begged me for my forgiveness and to pray for her. At that moment forgiving her and praying for her was the hardest thing that I had ever had to do. But as soon as the words left her lips to ask me the question I immediately chose to forgive her, and to continue to pray for her as I had always done prior to my departure at the convent.
I questioned her sincerity at first in truly having a contrite heart for what she had done to me, but ultimately decided that it was not for me to decide because God knew the disposition of her heart. And I hoped that one day she would be able to accept God’s forgiveness for what she had done, so that she could find peace just as I had found peace in forgiving her. I wanted her to be able to accept the love and mercy that I knew God was waiting to offer her in the sacrament of Confession because forgiveness truly sets us free.
The first Sunday I returned to my home parish I sat in the church with a heavy heart and glistening eyes fixed upon His Eucharistic Face during Mass. A tidal wave of emotion surrounded me, yet within remained a steady calm; a special peace because I knew that Jesus was present before me in the Sacred Host to offer consolation and to heal my wounds. It was by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, that I continued to strive with both my whole heart and whole mind to forgive my novice mistress, Sr. Eva, for the incredible hurt that she had inflicted upon me, and the Mother Superior, Mother Vincent de Paul, for never seeking to find the truth.
The Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Hidden Lord, is a complete and total love poured forth and gifted to us by our God, that which helped me to embrace forgiveness. It was by sitting down with my pastor, Fr. Neri, after Mass that melancholic day and feeling the love and support that he gave to me in those moments that helped me to better understand how God is the One Who sits in the seat of judgment, not us, and how God always is in control. If we do not find in our hearts to forgive those who have sinned against us, how can we then expect our Heavenly Father to be merciful and to forgive us? (Matthew 18:21-35)
"Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace." (Najwa Zebian)
I struggled with this question at first, “How can I control my natural emotions and prevent myself from having the tendency to lash out or retaliate against those who have trespassed against me?” I knew that I needed to act on a supernatural level by allowing the graces of the Holy Spirit to work within me, and to place my trust in my "littleness" before God. It was a priest that I know, Fr. Vianney, who encouraged me to keep up my prayer life, and to continue going to Mass even when it was at times difficult to do so because God heals us in the Eucharist.
By placing myself at the feet of Jesus I was able to surrender my pride and imitate Christ's example of mercy and love. As Christ hung from the Cross painfully laboring his last breaths with blood dripping from His sacred wounds He spoke the words, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) Having been forgiven by the Lord in His mercy and love, I knew that I could then lower myself, and be humble enough to do the same and forgive another.
I knew that I needed to allow the light of Christ to radiate from the depth of my soul, so that I could continue to unite my hurt and pain to the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. Christ would heal my wounds, if I let Him, by transforming them into a fountain of love poured out like a libation for the sanctification of His holy priests. It is by love alone that I was able to forgive those who had left me with these scars, and continue on the journey of following God’s Holy Will in my life. The gateway of my heart becomes more open to receive peace by going to Daily Mass and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament as I am set free from the yoke of bondage by choosing forgiveness over and over again. Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who helped to hide Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, once said, "Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."
It is through forgiveness that I am able to remember how much God loves me endlessly, as well as the individual who hurt me. As I trust in the infinite love of God I am able to continue on my journey moving step-by-step embraced in His merciful love, working each day striving to forgive as I have been forgiven for my transgressions. I remain filled with hope as I continue on with my life knowing that this path that I now travel on is one that began with forgiveness.
Photo: Neonbrand, Unsplash / PD-US