The freedom found in ‘true sharing’

| March 7, 2019 | 0 Comments

My predecessor many times removed, Bishop Joseph Cretin, a good Frenchman by birth and breeding, once complained in a letter about the quality of chocolates here in St. Paul. I can personally testify that this situation has been remedied — making Lent a challenge for many.

Too many, according to some! One of the finest chocolatiers in our community wrote me last month to encourage me to suggest other penances for Lent this year, given that the traditional fallback — no chocolate — has a significant negative impact on her business.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

She would find an ally, I think, in St. John Paul II. In the first year of his pontificate, he suggested that our Lenten sacrifices shouldn’t consist only of giving away what we do not need. (Dare I put chocolate in that category?)

“Sometimes,” he said, “it also consists of giving away what we do need, like the widow in the Gospel who knew that what she was giving away was already a gift to her from God.”

He returned to that theme the next year, in emphasizing that Lent is most appropriately a time for giving. “True sharing,” he noted, “helps us to free ourselves from those bonds that enslave us.”

That connection between sharing and freedom was very apparent to me when priests of our archdiocese gathered Feb. 22 at St. Peter in Mendota to listen to two members of our flock, Ben and Joy Hoffman, a young man and his mother, share with us how their lives have been forever impacted by clergy abuse, but how they have both found greater freedom and peace as they opened their hearts to grace and forgiveness. (See related story.)

It has always intrigued me that the words “forgive” and “pardon” — one from our German roots and the other from our Latin — both include root words signifying “gift.” Forgiveness is never “owed”; it is a gift freely given. For both Ben and Joy, it seems that the gift of their forgiveness has brought an abundant measure of the freedom promised by St. John Paul II. God be praised!

The evening was timed to coincide both with the feast of the Chair of Peter and with the clergy abuse summit convened in Rome by St. Peter’s successor, Pope Francis. That gave us an opportunity not only to go deeper in our personal understanding of the scourge of abuse, but also to join as a presbyterate in prayer before the eucharistic Lord to pray for those gathering in Rome, as well as for healing, wisdom, strength and discernment right here in Minnesota.

It was a real encounter with God’s grace. As Ben and Joy shared how and where they have found healing and strength in the Church, I knew that I was seeing the handiwork of the God for whom nothing is impossible, the God who can snatch victory from the jaws of death. It sure was easy to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that evening!

I was encouraged to hear both our speakers describe the important role that “good priests” have had on their journey to healing. Understandably, many of those affected by clerical abuse find it next to impossible to approach a priest. This unfortunately separates them from the very sacraments that are intended to be the source of our strength, healing and comfort.

The survivors who have bravely and generously come in to speak with me have often mentioned the importance of sensitizing our priests to this dynamic. They point to a need for greater training for our seminarians in this area and continuing education as well for our priests. We are blessed that local psychologist Paul Ruff was present that evening to facilitate the event at St. Peter, and he is assisting with our efforts to prepare our priests and seminarians for more effective outreach to those who have been harmed.

I have to confess that I was deeply proud of our priests that evening who, in their vulnerability, received and honored the Hoffmans’ testimonies. It is a privilege to serve with them. I hope that you will continue to keep them in your prayers at this difficult time.

I also hope that you will continue to pray as well for Pope Francis and all those working with him to address the crisis caused by both abuse and the failures to deal with abuse. Although the summit’s length and broad focus made it difficult to arrive at concrete reforms, I was very much encouraged to hear of the commitment to continuing the work at the national level, particularly in the area of bishop accountability.

There is much that remains to be done. May our Lent be a real season of grace that unites us with the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us, his sheep.

La libertad encontrada en ‘compartir verdadero’

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Category: Only Jesus