Friday, January 13, 2012

Not a mistake

Forgive and remember differently. Forgive and be transformed.
Father Kevin, Mt. St. Francis Retreat Centre, January 12, 2012
The invitation came over dinner. "I'm going out to Mount St Francis for a women's twilight retreat," my friend Rosemarie said. "Would you like to come."

I was excited. I've known about the retreat centre run by Franciscan monks for many years, had always wanted to go, never gotten there.

Last night I did. And though it was dark when we pulled in through the gates of the centre, the silence and peace of its rural setting embraced me as I stepped out of the car. And the welcome inside was equally as comforting.

But it was the twilight retreat process that left me feeling peaceful and enlivened. Joyful and renewed.

Father Kevin, the speaker, was funny and engaging. He gave a delightful and inspiring 45 minute talk and then we moved into a half hour of meditative silence followed by a reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1, which were the words of the opening song he'd used to establish the 'Transition' theme of the evening, (the Byrds singing "Turn. Turn. Turn.") A brief prayer, a song (Susan Boyle singing the Prayer of St. Francis), a statement of gratitude and the evening was over.

But not really. Over. It kept resonating as Rosemarie and I drove back towards the city. It kept vibrating along my heart chords as I meditated before bed and it is still creating harmony in my world this morning.

Transitions are frightening and necessary, Father Kevin told us. We must look to nature for inspiration. And he spoke of how the beauty of fall is followed by the death of every leaf. It isn't about being perfect, he said, it's about the willingness to acknowledge our human imperfections, make amends and forgive so that we can transform our hearts and lives.

It was the forgiveness part that was surprising. How he wove it into transitions and made it relevant and integral to the theme. To let go, to allow change to happen, to embrace its presence, I must forgive what isn't, what was, what wasn't, in my life that hurt me, caused me angst, caused me pain.

And in that forgiveness is the gift of more. More peace. More gratitude. More possibility. More grace.

It isn't that forgiveness negates justice or the need for justice. It is that forgiveness sets the forgiver free -- and possibly the forgiven too. It is that forgiveness opens our hearts to possibility. Renewal. Hope. Peace. Love and Joy.

Forgiveness makes me whole. Because no matter what justice I deem necessary, or the law determines right, there is and always will be room for Divine mercy.

Mercy is the right of the Divine, Father Kevin said. and forgiveness the deepest mystery of all.

A mystery is not something that cannot be solved or to be frightened of. Mystery is something I do not understand enough. And in the quest to understand the mystery of forgiveness, I am strengthened in my quest for inner freedom.

It was an evening of wonderful company, insight and peace. It was an evening that continues to resonate as I explore what it means to be human on this journey of my lifetime.

A human being who makes mistakes but is never a mistake.


Maureen said...

I admire the Franciscans. I can imagine how wonderful that retreat was. Your words today hold a lot of meaning for me.

Hope said...

it's about the willingness to acknowledge our human imperfections

forgiveness sets the forgiver free -- and possibly the forgiven too. It is that forgiveness opens our hearts to possibility. Renewal. Hope. Peace. Love and Joy.

your closing line says it all
A human being who makes mistakes but is never a mistake.

thank you louise!

Louise Gallagher said...

thank you for telling me that Maureen. You strike a beautiful chord in my heart with your words.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Hope!

It is a beautiful day out there and I think it's now time for Ellie and me to get out and explore nature for inspiration.


Rosemarie said...

Wow Louise -- you did a beautiful job of re-capping Fr. Kevin's talk! What a gift for me to "hear" it again today! Enjoy your day, and I would love to hear more of your insights as you continue to reflect on this...........

S. Etole said...

I was just pondering forgiveness last night ... for myself. Why is there this ongoing need for perfection?!

Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Rosemarie -- I appreciate your gift of light and the gentleness of your nature. Our conversation on the way home helped illuminate my path of understanding.


Louise Gallagher said...

That question was part of our conversation on the way home, Susan. Fr. Kevin began the evening with a comment about our fear of transition as an impetus for our desire for perfection -- we want it 'to be' NOW. without going through the dying of one moment giving birth to the next.

sharmishtha said...

i truly admire people who can forgive from those who have terribly wronged them and can repeat themselves again and again.

most people do it superfluously or wait for a chance to settle the score.

Brian Miller said...

i think that we have given forgivenes an unfair shake honestly...i have always been taught the forgive and forget but it does not work that way...we harbor resentments when we are taught just to let it go...i really like what NT Wright talks about with forgiveness marrying it to MAtthew 5 and the going to the person so they understand the wrong and looking to find resolution to what happened so that true forgiveness is possible and leads to growth in both parties...

Claudia said...

wow..sounds like a great evening... coming to rest.. i agree that forgiveness is a great mystery and probably the most powerful force i can think of..

Jennifer Richardson said...

"a human being who makes mistakes but is never a mistake." profound.
thanks for this.
forgiveness is a mystery, isn't it.
fierce and gentle at once.
thanks for breathing went slow and sweet
as you described the retreat.
thanks for whiskin me away
into the stillness for a bit,

Anonymous said...

The retreat sounds lovely. I've never done anything like that, but I think all of us can use an opportunity to really stop, get out of the whirl of our own lives, and think about the serious stuff. Maybe someday...