Flowers of Forgiveness

“How can you be friends with him after he hurt you?” another friend asked me recently.

I could tell she was looking for peace, and so I gently assured her with my smile that it is indeed possible to genuinely enjoy and love someone even with a history of pain between your heart and theirs.

I replied simply saying, “It is just no longer worth it to me to spend even one day not loving.” 


I have been reflecting on the story of manna; and in my own desert life, I see the moments when I was busy storing up instead of spending my day simply being grateful for the daily bread God was giving to me. The Lord told Moses,

“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”

Exodus 16:4

God wants me to cherish the people in my life just for today. I am not promised any other future except a life with Him, where pure love will be the law, and I will never hesitate to follow its perfect commands. And until I arrive to that eternal home, the purpose for my journey through this world is to prepare me with various tests to see if I can receive each day’s graces and respond with love, gratitude and forgiveness, just as My God has demonstrated for me time and time again after I have hurt Him. 


Love also reminds me of the servant who owed a large debt. His Master forgave his offense, even after there was an obvious sever of trust. Who among us has a boss that would let us off the hook for not coming in for a shift, let alone supply us more hours if we continued to fail in following through, especially with matters of money?

Yet here, this Lord removes any guilt, any shame or embarrassment, and allows his servant to take more time preparing what was owed. I imagine this servant to be feeling the most relaxed he has ever been, having basically just escaped imprisonment. Yet, his appreciation bears no fruit: when he in turn is financially slapped by one of his own slaves who had also forgotten that it was payday, he did not show the same Mercy to one whose debt was much smaller than his own offense.

I, too, am posed with the question of my own handling of offenses. How can I not share the great love given to me, day to night, for every stumble and sin, at every stopping point, constantly poured out after I have pierced the Heart of My Beloved? If He continues to overflow with graces of healing for my thirsty soul, then I refuse to be a dam preventing His Mercies from reaching those who are most in need of water. 


But on my own, I cannot love anyone. I am merely dust. Only God can love and then use me for His purpose of love. It is my brokenness that nurtures the demand my human heart has for His Love. Without the example of Grace from my Master, my encounters with another’s offenses would bear no fruit of forgiveness.

His Grace is the water. My sins are the seeds, and from their evil, His Goodness is manifested and His Flowers of Mercy are delighted in. These sins and grievances set in motion for my soul’s garden a necessary death, and I return weeping after having rejected His Goodness. In this death, Love raises me out of My Pride to His Selfless Heart—this is where I learn how to be forgiven and forgiving.

His Heart is where I learn how to love with no agenda. His Heart teaches me how to love someone after both of our human hearts have caused damage. In the classroom of His Heart, I come to know where my own choices have made my Savior Sorrowful. But also in this sorrow, I enter His Mercy. And my heart can only pray, “Dear Jesus, teach my heart how to love and forgive like you.”

Entrusting the Past to God’s Mercy

By Rebekah Hardy

I was watching a college basketball game the other day, when I was struck with a vivid flashback of shooting a basketball over the backboard during one of my high school games.

I immediately cringed remembering how laughably terrible that moment felt as everyone watched my over-calculation. The referees didn’t know what to do, the opposing team was in shock, and my whole team immediately started cracking up. Our coach had to call a timeout to settle the team down. My teammates affectionately called me “rocket arm” for the rest of my high school career and we belly-laughed about it more than a couple of times. Looking back on this moment almost ten years later, I can safely say that my pride still crumbles when I think about it.

Unfortunately, the past can be a difficult place to revisit. Shame, regret, fear, hurt, betrayal… these are all feelings that play a part in our stories. Our relationship to our past can corrupt our present and future if we aren’t willing to submerge our every experience in the ocean of God’s mercy.

We see examples of this time and time again throughout history, literature and art— the tragic past that corrupted the villain is an all too common theme. From the jealousy of Cinderella’s stepmother, to the resentfully vindictive lifestyles of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations and of Michael Goob in Disney’s Meet the Robinsons, to our own difficulties to move on from things that have happened, we see how this can be true. We see that our pasts need God.

When I taught middle school, there was a religious sister whose classroom was a couple of doors down from me. I’ll never forget the words she had written above the chalkboard in neat penmanship:

“My past, O Lord, to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your providence.”

If you’ve ever struggled to reconcile with your past, I recommend taking these words of Saint Padre Pio to be your own. Sometimes the temptation to live in the past will arise, fear or guilt or shame will try to overtake you and steal your joy and put you down. Please know that this is not from God. God exists in the present moment. Do not buy into the lie that your past is unforgivable or that your past hurts are indicators that your future will also be full of hurt.

Whether the damaging or shameful things happened years or minutes ago, don’t try to carry them any longer. Our loving God didn’t suffer and die so that you would have a life of misery. God’s promise to Jeremiah the prophet is also a promise to us:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

My embarrassment in that story I described earlier wasn’t the only thing that came out of that awful display of athleticism. While that play may not have been my brightest moment, it sparked an inbounds play that no other team in our conference had. My co-captain and I decided to put that strength to use and while everyone on the other team was worried I’d bounce the ball in, my sights were at the opposite end of the court where she was waiting to catch the ball I was about to launch. It worked every time— no one ever saw it coming. We took a certain sense of pride in our “rocket arm” play. God wants to transform your shame into victory in this same way.

The hard question for us to answer in all of this is— are we willing to surrender our grips on the past in order to live in unimaginable joy? I pray that we can say yes to that.

Help us, O God, to entrust our pasts to Your mercy.

Responding to a “Triggered” Culture

By Ava Hill

Trigger warning! Not necessarily, but let’s take a look at the meaning of “being triggered.” The concept actually originated in the field of mental health with the intention of aiding victims of trauma or disorders such as PTSD. For instance, a “trigger warning” may be placed on content involving suicide to prevent those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or have experienced loss as a result of suicide from reentering into an unhealthy state.

Now, most of us who are familiar with popular culture know that this is not how the concept of being “triggered” is often used. In fact, the popular usage diminishes the real purpose of what it truly means to become triggered. Just scroll through the comments of any Instagram post—it does not even need to be politically controversial—and it is very likely that you will find someone who has been “triggered.” It is almost impossible for anyone to share their thoughts online without allegedly offending others. This may not be news to anyone, but this offense I am speaking of is more nuanced than your old friend from high school unfollowing you because you tweeted about your support for a particular candidate. As this habit of being triggered occurs most often on the political left, it often involves an accusation and questioning of the other’s morality merely because of their religious or traditional viewpoints.

I attended a liberal Catholic Jesuit high school. I met many wonderful people and, most importantly, received a stellar education. I could not, however, simply speak my mind or think out loud in any of my classes. It was not for the fear of others disagreeing with my viewpoints, but the worry that I would be deemed as a less-than-charitable Catholic. Yet, this is precisely what happened. In a very social justice focused Catholic school, I could not speak openly about how birth control distorted the theology of the woman’s body because classmates and teachers claimed that my privilege kept me from understanding why birth control is supposedly so necessary. Furthermore, students would stand up claiming to be triggered because of their personal experience with birth control. Now, contraception is another topic, but I assure you that the Church’s stance is one of the utmost charity and beauty. Like other topics that people become “triggered” by, it must be taught, discussed, and understood properly—which is rarely done.

Another distinction between finding offense and being “triggered” is when one is supposedly triggered and shuns the other person because of the apparent infraction. The response to the offending statement is no longer, “I am offended so I shall have polite discourse or leave the conversation until this blows over,” but rather, “I am offended so I shall create a permanent rift between this person and I.” Many of us have seen this when our long-time friends unfollow us or start social media arguments because we shared our thoughts on a controversial topic, and it is a sad reality.

Let us make one thing clear, when people become triggered, it is most likely because they have a personal tie to the topic at hand. This is vital to recognize, and it is one’s Christian duty to be present to simply listen to someone’s testimony of hardship. Our responsibility, however, does not end when we listen.

Additionally, social media is hardly ever a place for productive dialogue. Therefore, we cannot sit back passively as we watch the morals of our world crumble down and the souls of our brothers and sisters be lost. We must continue to speak for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Furthermore, as social media is a realm that seems to emit a great amount of darkness into our world, we ought to be the light source. If all Catholics were to delete their social media because they believed it to be a source for evil, it would only be because they let it become one. Thus, all the lost souls left on Instagram, Twitter, and the like would be left with no illuminating presence.

Ultimately, it is paramount that our prayer lives fuel our words. It is useless to babble on about God, the Church, and politics on our social media timeline if the Holy Spirit does not have time to fill us with His words. Then, if we feel passionate about and called to highlight a particular truth, we can feel confident that we are doing so out of Spirit-filled inspiration and charity, rather than arrogance. If people are “triggered” by our words, we can discern the true intention behind their meaning and act accordingly with kindness. As Christians, it is a grace, for we cannot go astray if we remain in the Lord and speak boldly and in love.

Friendship: A Sturdy Shelter

By Kaitlyn Hogg

My friends mean the world to me. The Bible describes friendships as a “sturdy shelter” (Sirach 6:14), and I would not be the woman I am today without the sturdy shelter of my friends. They support me, love me, comfort me, encourage me to be virtuous, and care for me. Whether it is having a spa night and watching movies, or having deep late-night talks and singing praise and worship, my friends are always there for me. But this wasn’t always the case, for my friendships as well as my romantic relationships.

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You Are Worthy

By Donna Columba

Can you remember your first day of high school? I can most accurately describe my experience by the distinct “school smell” and how I tried to avoid eye contact while power-walking to my next class. I remember coming home with a sore jaw, not from getting into a school fight but from not saying a single word all day! I avoided any and all social interaction possible and was undoubtedly shy.

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