Is forgiving someone always enough? - Catholic Courier

Is forgiving someone always enough?

Q. In Matthew 18:21-22, we are given a standard of forgiveness which I interpret to mean that we are to forgive always ("not seven times, but seventy seven"). I’m at a loss, though, as to how to apply that in my case. For a long time, I’ve had a terrible relationship with my mother, who lost custody of two of her three children (including myself) for continually putting us in unsafe and inappropriate situations.

I’ve never had a problem feeling compassion for my mother and I often pray for her. But I decided a long time ago that when I had children of my own, I would love my mother from a distance and not give her the chance to hurt or influence my children. A few times since then, I’ve tried giving her opportunities to redeem herself only to find out that I was wrong — to the detriment of my children’s well-being.

Despite this, I am forever being asked by friends and family to give my mother another chance by allowing her some controlled interaction so that she’ll know the blessing of grandchildren. What I’m struggling with is this: Is it enough that God knows I’ve forgiven my mother, or must I show it by giving her another chance with my children? (Rochester, N.Y.)

A. You are correct in thinking that the mandate for a Christian is to strive to forgive always. From the facts as you’ve explained them, I believe that you’ve done that. (Bringing the person before the Lord in prayer is a good first step to forgiveness, because it reminds us that all of us are flawed and in need of God’s help.)

I hope that your mother knows you’ve forgiven her, and I imagine you’ve been able to communicate that to her.

Forgiveness, though, does not demand that you put your children in peril, and you, as their parent, are in the best position to know what would cause them harm. It is difficult for me to make a clear call here with limited information: I have no idea what your mother’s original missteps were that caused her to lose custody, nor what damage you perceived when you tried giving her the chance to be an active grandmother, nor what sort of "controlled interaction" your friends and family are now suggesting.

In situations like this, you are probably best advised to have a face-to-face discussion with a priest or other trusted counselor where all of the circumstances can be reviewed.

Q. In our parish and in some other churches I’ve visited, I notice that the bells are no longer rung when the host and the chalice are elevated. Why would centuries of tradition be eliminated? The Mass is about sounds, the smell of the candles and the emotions that the laity feel during the service. Don’t those who make the decisions care how the rest of us feel about all of the changes that have taken place? (Utah)

A. Since the 1969 revisions in the Mass under Pope Paul VI, ringing of bells by the Mass server at the elevation has been optional. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says in No. 150 that this is left to the discretion of the priest. Most parishes today, I would think, do not use bells.

A quick history lesson might help. Ringing bells at the elevation began in the early part of the 13th century. At that time, few people received Communion regularly at Mass, so few, in fact, that the church had to mandate its reception at least once a year.

Most worshippers in those days went to Mass primarily to adore Christ rather than to receive him. Because of that, the central focus was seen as the elevation, when the consecrated species were lifted high to be reverenced.

Today, instead, reception of holy Communion is considered the natural fulfillment of the sacrifice and the act that unites us most intimately to the risen Christ. Bells at the elevation might be seen as misplacing the emphasis.

But bells remain an option, particularly if a great majority of the worshippers felt that their use would highlight the solemnity of the Mass and prompt deeper reverence.

Questions may be sent to Father Doyle at and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.


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