Papal Lesson

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Thus arrives the merry month of May. It seems that the crescendo of a parish's liturgical year reaches its highest pitch this month: Ascension Thursday (excuse the fact that it falls on June 1 this year), First Penance, First Communion, Confirmation, May Crowning, Marian Devotions, and numerous other special events. Along with the natural surroundings, the individual families that constitute the greater parish family bloom with spiritual activity.

Amidst the excitement and gaiety (as well as stress) attending the manifold celebrations of May, I find my thoughts lingering on this past Lent and the extraordinary act of Pope John Paul II in seeking the world's forgiveness for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages. A Rabbi from New York City called the Pope's statements an unprecedented effort to heal the wounds of the past and a call for all people to repentance. I concur with the Rabbi's feelings. It would be astoundingly inciteful of nations, faiths, races, organization, families, and individuals to take John Paul II's lead and examine their consciences in a spirit of reconciliation.

The art of contrition and healing may be required or certainly recommended as an essential part of the preparation for many an important family affair. This article noted some spiritual occasions common to the month of May, but there is also Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, graduations, birthdays, and other celebrations. The thought of a gathering involving immediate family, relatives and friends often is not a pleasant one. Even in the best of families, demands, expectations, and the need for cooperation are increased dramatically in the overall execution of these special happenings. In our age of family brokenness, these circumstances necessitate particular attention. I suggest that it might be wise to heed one man's admonition: "You who are letting miserable misunderstandings run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day; you who are keeping wretched quarrels alive because you cannot quite make up your minds that now is the day to sacrifice your pride and kill them; you who are letting your neighbor starve until you hear that he is dying of starvation; or letting your friend's heart ache for a word of appreciation or sympathy, which you mean to give him some day; if you would only know and see and feel all of a sudden that time is short, how it would break the spell! How you would go instantly and do the thing which you might never have another chance to do!" Whatever the time of year, forgiveness is always in season.

If the depth of our ability to forgive is the measure of the depth of our ability to love, let us then consider the quality of love in a family. The Lenten outreach by the Pope sought not only forgiveness from the world, but also to forgive the world. This was a declaration of profound love. I do not think that it would startle anyone to know that much confessional matter concerns failures and blunders in personal relationships. While deciphering the complexities of the human personality is beyond my talents, I am suspicious that the key is to keep loving enough until the barriers to trust and compassion are overcome.

Families are made up of dissimilar matter. This reality provides much creative energy, but also much friction. IT is the singular genius of parenting to awaken the recognition of the great work of nurturing a "loving spirit" in all the members of the family. One may conclude that it is evidence of the indwelling of the Divine when in the various processes and fluidity of family life there emerges consensus from conflict and healing from harm. Love in the world is rooted in love in the family. Therefore, let us greet the events of Spring with a pronounced sensitivity for opportunities to forgive and to be forgiven and to love and to be loved.

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