Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach


by R. Scott Hurd


Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.


The introduction of this book begins with an essay by Cardinal Wuerl. I met him over a year ago at Georgetown University where he facilitated a presentation on Catholic Social Thought concerning polarization. The scholars who spoke about the issue seemed to include the need for forgiveness in this heavy dialogue. Wuerl calls us to forgive in the way the author Father Hurd writes of the spiritual, psychological, social benefits of learning how to forgive and find peace. The first section of the book is entitled: “Why Forgive?” I think the purpose of this first essay is to establish a definition so he begins with a quote by C.S. Lewis “Everyone says that forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” Father Hurd, the author, writes that forgiveness can be a difficult and painful process that requires large doses of humility and grace. He next tells the story of giving a retreat and the participants didn’t know the focus was on forgiveness—as the retreat progressed many were inspired, many challenged and it seemed that everyone learned something. In the process of the retreat, the participants knew that they needed often to forgive themselves.


In section two of the book, Father Hurd begins with an essay in which he encourages us to forgive for others. When we forgive others we benefit ourselves. We also benefit those we forgive as in the story he tells of Dativa Nyangezi Ngaboyisonga. By refusing to forgive, we are likely to become embittered, cynical, resentful people. We create a climate of negativity around us. Kids sense the tension and become agitated or withdrawn and they pick up the negativity of the lesson. We need to model forgiveness so that our children can become forgiving adults. We need to forgive for God as children begin to see that the way we forgive is the way God forgives.


Section three of the book, deals with how to forgive. The first essay deals with the issue of praying through to forgiveness. First of all, we can pray for the grace to forgive. The author points out that we can pray for others to learn to forgive. We can pray that God will bless them and fill them with happiness and peace. Personally, I pray hardest for those who have hurt me and I need to forgive. It helps me to forgive quicker! When praying after being hurt, we can find inspiration from Mary, our Mother. We killed her son! She accepts us as her children and she prays for us, so that we might be able to pray and forgive as she did. In the next essay, the author discusses the point that Jesus wants to forgive us and it Is not hard for him to do so. People who know they are forgiven much, love much. We can be grateful that we have a God who loves to forgive. God wants to forgive us more than we could ever want to sin. Jesus came to save the world not to condemn us, he longs to forgive. When we’ve been hurt by another, we’ve been broken in some way. We may have a broken spirit, a broken body or a broken body. At Mass we can come to Jesus and say: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word and I will be healed.” When we receive the Eucharist, he fills us with healing graces. We then go forth together, to share that gift with the world with compassion, love and forgiveness.


In the Appendix of the book, “A final word…about where to begin” the author provides us with a step by step program in forgiveness. Forgiveness may be understood as a journey, It has a starting point (our experience of hurt) and a destination (achieving forgiveness).We need to take each step he recommends in order to complete our process of forgiveness. This book is certainly written for all of us…the common everyday person who sits next to us in the pew. This is a great gift for a person who is struggling with forgiveness. It would be also beneficial to read in a group for Lent as it provides the bench marks that help us to think about forgiveness in a new light.


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