The Path to Forgiveness

 

Photo by Kayla Hrkach, used with permission

My latest article at Catholic Mom:

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Many of us say this prayer multiple times every day if we are saying the Rosary. It’s important to take these words to heart every time we say them.

I’ve heard many people say “I’ll never forgive him,” or “I’ll never forgive her.” However, Christ didn’t qualify it. It doesn’t matter what the person has done to us or the heartache they caused. We must do our very best to forgive the person. This is NOT an easy thing to do, especially if the person you’re trying to forgive isn’t sorry for the pain they’ve caused you.

For most of my life, I had a difficult time forgiving an older female relative who verbally abused me throughout my married life. I spent years avoiding this relative, but sometimes it wasn’t possible. And while I thought I had forgiven her, a few years ago when someone asked me what had happened, I let it all come out and began reliving all the difficult moments. That’s when I realized I needed counseling and/or spiritual help. Later we discovered that she suffered from a mental illness and I just happened to be the convenient target for her verbal abuse.

As a grade school student, I was bullied by one particular girl who made my life extremely difficult. The religious sisters at the school loved me and I was a good student. But I was also the shortest in the class and probably weighed 45 pounds soaking wet. The girl was not that much taller than me and I was an easy target. I spent years holding onto a grudge against this girl and found myself thinking, “I hope she’s had a hard life.” But that isn’t forgiveness. I suspect now that she was probably enduring her own abuse and projecting that onto an easy target.

After my father’s death at the young age of 49, I found out that he had been molested by a priest when he was a boy. Because of the shame, he never told anyone except for my mother. He suffered from addictions and mental disorders and these all seemed to make sense in light of this information. I spent years thinking, “I hope that priest burned in hell.” I have always wished that there had been some justice for my father and for our family, who suffered along with him in his struggles. However, the thought that this priest’s soul was burning in hell was not forgiving at all. But truthfully, I didn’t want to forgive him for all the heartache he caused my father and our family.

So how can you forgive? First, ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She stood by, quietly, with great sorrow as her Son was beaten, scourged and hung on a Cross to die a painful death. She cradled Him in her arms afterward. She heard Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Mary forgave them because that is what her Son asked.

Second, when I was in confession with a priest a few years ago, he told me to pray for every person who has ever hurt me. So that’s what I did. I prayed for them, offered up sacrifices and prayed a blessing on them. I also prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those that I needed to forgive. As well, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring to mind all those who needed to forgive me for any wrongs I’ve done, and I prayed for those people as well, that they would find it in their hearts to forgive me.

Then I began fasting, especially for those people I have had a hard time forgiving: the bully, the relative, the abusive priest. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I didn’t like sacrificing for those who had hurt me. However, because fasting invites the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls, He gave me the grace to forgive. Forgiveness didn’t happen overnight, but I was finally able to forgive the abusive relative, the priest and the bully and to love them unconditionally. I was finally able to think of these people in love, rather than anger. A burden had been lifted. I was also able to sympathize with what these two women and the priest must have gone through in their lives to treat others so badly.

Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t want justice if the person has committed a crime. It also doesn’t mean we should stay around and continue to be a target. However, embracing anger and holding onto a grudge hurts us and our souls. It doesn’t matter whether the person is repentant and/or wants to be forgiven. It’s important for us to be as merciful to others as we expect God will be with us.

If you find yourself in a position where someone is hurting you, offending you or being unkind, stop and say a quiet prayer of blessing on the person and the silent words, “Father, forgive him/her, for they know not what they do.” This is extremely helpful whether the offense is big or small.

To read an inspiring and compelling story of forgiveness, I highly recommend Immaculeé Ilibagiza’s book, Left to Tell. She was able to forgive the people responsible for murdering her family.

Forgiving others is one of the very foundations of Christian life. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we find forgiving someone too difficult, ask Our Lady to help, then pray and fast for those who have offended us. If we can’t forgive those who have hurt us, how will God forgive us for our sins?

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – May 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m also joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis: “Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.” — Jesus to St. Faustina.    Throughout her Diary, St. Faustina speaks of Jesus’ call for the conversion of souls. Through prayer and sacrifice, the Lord calls us all to strive for our own conversion, and for the conversion of the whole world. Perhaps you’ve tried everything to draw your friend or family member back to faith in God. In St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners, best-selling author Susan Tassone shows you how to place the lives of all you love into God’s merciful hands. Known worldwide as leading the “purgatory movement,” Susan invites you to learn how to live the message of conversion daily, to avoid purgatory, and to become more faithful in praying for others.

My review: Excellent book, as are all of Susan Tassone’s books.  “The Purgatory Lady,” as Susan is known, has written many books about the Holy Souls in Purgatory and the conversion of sinners. This book gives us ways not only to pray for our loved ones who are away from the faith, but it also helps us to grow in faith and to glimpse the mercy of God in action.  Highly recommend!

Heads Bowed by Lisa Mladinich

Amazon Synopsis: Catechetical thought leader Lisa Mladinich offers nearly 300 original prayers that will resonate with every Catholic teacher, principal, DRE, or catechist who has ever uttered the words, ‘Class, let’s bow our heads…’ Every teacher, catechist, or homeschooling parent appreciates a new collection of prayers to start the year. This book enables faith formation and prayer in a way that is easy to integrate into a busy class day. Mladinich provides prayers for the needs of both teachers and students, as well as Scripture verses and suggestions for use. Read these prayers in your classroom, by yourself before the start of the school day, in your religious education class, or in department and faculty meetings.

My review:  Beautifully written and powerful book of prayers.  This is ideal for teachers, homeschooling parents or religious education teachers.  Highly recommend!

 

Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World by Jean Heimann

Amazon Synopsis: Fatima. Few place-names in the Christian world conjure up such powerful images and associations as that of this humble town in Portugal. For it was there that Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children beginning in 1917 apparitions that are intimately linked to pious Catholic practices such as devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the five first Saturdays, daily recitation of the Rosary with the Fatima prayer, as well as miracles attested to even by non-believers, such as the day the sun danced. The Virgin s message, as it always is, was penance. But she also predicted world historical events such as the rise and fall of communism, the second world war, and the attempted assassination of Pope St. John Paul II. She promised refuge in her Immaculate Heart to all who approach her a promise extended, and urgently needed, today.

My review: This is a wonderful book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria.  It is well-researched, well-written and filled with beautiful color photos and images.  In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima predicted many world events. After appearing monthly to the three children, devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the new Fatima prayer, and the first five Saturdays were spread throughout the Church and continues to spread throughout the Church even in the 21st century.  Although it’s been 100 years, Our Lady’s message continues to be urgently needed today.  Highly recommend!

 

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World

Today I’m hosting Jean Heimann’s Virtual Book Tour for her new book, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World.

My review:  This is a wonderful book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria.  It is well-researched, well-written and filled with beautiful color photos and images.  In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima predicted many world events. After appearing monthly to the three children, devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the new Fatima prayer, and the first five Saturdays were spread throughout the Church and continues to spread throughout the Church even in the 21st century.  Although it’s been 100 years, Our Lady’s message continues to be urgently needed today.  Highly recommend!

Tell us about your new book, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World.

Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World (Tan Books, 2017) is the true story of three shepherd children who, in 1917, had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal and met with her on six different occasions. Our Lady asked them to pray the Rosary daily and to offer penances and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for world peace.

In my book, I present a comprehensive look at the Fatima apparitions; offering a chronological timeline, describing each of the apparitions in detail, tracing the lives of the three visionaries as well as the death and beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and revealing the ongoing message of Fatima for the past one hundred years. I also share a history of the various popes from 1917 to the present and describe their relationship with Fatima as well as some of the modern day miracles that have happened since then. In addition, I explain why the Fatima message is relevant to us today and how we can put it into practice.

What prompted the writing of Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World?

I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary about twenty years ago. I was just beginning to grow in Marian devotion at that time, although when I was a child, we prayed the Rosary daily and my mother was always turning to her heavenly Mother in time of trial. The Brothers of St. John attracted me to their community through the Marian consecration via the St. Louis de Montfort method which they taught in a group setting, providing spiritual guidance. I was then drawn to become an oblate with the Community of St. John in Princeville, Illinois and to entrust my life even deeper to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As a child, I grew up in a small French-Canadian town in northeastern IL and was well-acquainted with Our Lady of Lourdes. Every day after school I visited the Lourdes grotto behind our parish church and prayed there, sharing my concerns with the Blessed Mother. I learned about the Fatima apparitions, but they did not stick with me the way the apparitions at Lourdes did. I do, however, remember watching the 1952 movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, which left an impression on me. As an adult, I became re-acquainted with Fatima by watching EWTN. I decided to join the Blue Army and through this organization began practicing the First Saturday devotions and praying the Rosary daily. About a year ago, I realized that 2017 would be the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and thought that this would be an interesting topic to write about. Last fall, I founded the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary and Study Group in my parish and we began meeting in my home, where we studied the Fatima apparitions and prayed the Rosary.

What did you learn from writing this book?

I learned what a powerful apparition Fatima is! The conversion of the world and world peace are dependent on our fidelity to its prayers and devotions. It is through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart as well as through the recitation of the Rosary that we will experience an end to the culture of death and obtain world peace. Pope St. John Paul II has stated that the message of Fatima is even more relevant today than when it was first given to the visionaries in 1917. I also learned about the details of the wonderful miracles that have taken place in connection with Fatima since the initial apparitions in 1917.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed using my imagination and my five senses in depicting the apparitions. I enjoyed viewing things from the vantage point of the children, the Angel of Peace, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other characters in the book. For example, I loved writing about the spectacular miracle of the sun, describing the wide array of colors of the sun and the earth, how the sun was seen as a silver disc and began spinning around. I imagined how beautiful and frightening it must have been at the same. In my mind’s eye, I put myself in that crowd of spectators, watching the sun fall from the sky, fearing that this was the end of the world, hearing those around me confessing their sins aloud and begging for mercy.

Who is the target audience for your book?

I wrote this book for adolescents and adults, both Catholic and non-Catholics who want to learn more about the Fatima apparitions, put its message into practice, and have a beautiful family keepsake to treasure for years to come in honor of the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions.

Why would readers want to purchase this book? What does it have to offer them? How can it help them?

This book helps the reader learn to live the message of Fatima: prayer, penance, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It draws everyone who peruses it into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Mother of God and helps them perform a crucial role in changing the world from a culture of death into a culture of life.

Other stops on the Blog Tour:

May 1 – Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart http://www.carolynastfalk.com/category/my-scribblers-heart-blog/

May 2 – Ellen Gable, Plot, Line, and Sinker https://ellengable.wordpress.com/

May 3 – Virginia Lieto, Virginia Lieto, http://virginialieto.com

May 4 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love, http://marianninja.blogspot.com/

May 5 – Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom, https://franciscanmom.com/

May 6 – Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More, http://www.bookreviewsandmore.ca/

May 7 – Lisa Hendey, Catholic Mom, http://catholicmom.com/

May 8 – Jeannie Ewing, Love Alone Creates, http://lovealonecreates.com/fatima-apparition-changed-world/

May 9 – Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists,  http://amazingcatechists.com/

May 10 – AnneMarie Miller, Sacrifice of Love, http://marianninja.blogspot.com/

May 11 — Barb Szyszkiewicz, Catholic Mom,  http://catholicmom.com/

May 12 – Allison Gingas, Reconciled to You,  http://www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html  and Marge Fenelon, Marge Fenelon, http://margefenelon.com/

May 13 – Esther Gefroh, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, http://hicatholicmom.blogspot.com/

Author’s Bio:

JEAN M. HEIMANN is a Catholic author and a freelance writer with an M.A. in Theology, a parish minister and speaker, a psychologist and educator, and an Oblate with the Community of St. John. She is a member of the Blue Army and founder of Our Lady of Fatima Rosary and Study group. Jean is the author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues (Servant, 2014) and Learning to Love with the Saints, A Spiritual Memoir (Mercy, 2016). Visit Jean at her website http://www.jeanmheimann.com/  through which you can access her award-wining blog, Catholic Fire. Her new book Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World is available for pre-order at Amazon.com or at TAN Books online.

 

 

Happy Easter!

A Blessed Easter!  Alleluia!  He is Risen!We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

We have had a very busy Triduum with my husband as Cantor as all the Masses and me as Lector.

Easter is somewhat different from the way it used to be when our boys were very small. But we still fill a huge Easter basket to be shared by everyone!

Favorite Easter Hymn:

Jesus Christ is Risen Today

Favorite Chocolate:

President’s Choice Dark Chocolate Peppermint Melts

Favorite Easter Memory:

In 1967, when I was nearly eight years old, my mother was in the hospital in critical condition. Back in those days, children were rarely allowed to visit patients in critical care. I wrote her many letters (like the one below), but rarely could she answer any of our letters because of her illness. A few days before Easter, my father had arranged it with the nurses to allow my three siblings and myself to visit her on Easter Sunday because it was the end of March and also was very close to her birthday. We hadn’t seen her in over a month so I was thrilled to be able to be with her and talk to her again. My first view of her was sitting in a wheelchair, her complexion very pale and I remember being surprised at how thin she was. In fact, my oldest brother could put his fingers around my mother’s wrists they were so small. Mom, at five feet six inches tall, was normally about 110 pounds. When we saw her that Easter day, she weighed about 85 pounds. I didn’t care how she looked, though. I was so excited to see her again after so long. Later, whenever my mother would recall that day, she said that while she was happy to see us, just a few minutes with us tired her out so much that she wound up sleeping most of the rest of the day! Thankfully, Mom made a complete recovery from that illness (and, in fact, gave birth to another child!). She eventually passed away nine years ago. In fact, tomorrow is her birthday. Here is an article I wrote about her several years ago.

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

Favorite Easter Photos Collage:

Top Left: James and I, our first Easter together, 1980

Right: Easter 2003, with my boys dressed (as they used to like to say)

like the brothers in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Bottom Left: My sibs and I, Easter 1962

Easter collage

 

 

 

#FREE on Kindle: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

FREE On Kindle Until Thursday!!

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” contains 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”  I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

The complete versions of each story are included in the book, along with family photos of all the couples. Here are excerpts of some of the stories.

David and Posie

Leon and Mary Lou

Robert and Sarah

Chris and Micki

James and Ellen

Mark and Kathy

Andrew and Regina

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

James and Pati

Damon and Melanie

Mark and Yvette

To download your FREE Kindle copy, click here.

Synopsis: Come My Beloved is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating storiesthat will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Included are the following stories: A widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later, finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “What if we stopped having sex?” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a couple meet through a Christian introduction service; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

To read reviews, more excerpts and watch the book trailer and interview on Son Rise Morning Show, click here.

Text and photo copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

An Open Book – January 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month:

joy-to-the-world

Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) by Scott Hahn

From the Amazon summary: The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context.

Bestselling author Scott Hahn who has written extensively on Scripture and the early Church, brings evidence to light, dispelling some of the mystery of the story. Yet Christmas is made familiar all over again by showing it to be a family story. Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child–their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their common life. To see the life of this “earthly trinity” is to gaze into heaven.

My review:  Excellent book, a kind of “behind-the-scenes” narrative. I was able to buy the Kindle edition for 1.99 when it was on sale a few weeks ago.

unsinkable

Unsinkable: a Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

From the Amazon summary: Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds. Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

My review: Like most people, I was shocked at Carrie Fisher’s death last week and then just one day later, equally saddened by her mother’s death.  I’ve always liked both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but this book gives the reader a better idea of all the heartbreak and financial challenges Debbie has had to face in her life. The Kindle edition was reduced in price a few days after Debbie’s death so I took advantage and downloaded it. For mature audiences only.

heart-div

A Heart Divided: A Novel by Kathleen Morgan

From the Amazon summary: It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them? Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

My review:  Just started reading this one, but if it’s like other Kathleen Morgan books, it will be a clean, Christian romance that I will thoroughly enjoy.

 

2016 Highlights

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year!  Tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  Happy Feast Day!

Here are a few of the most popular posts during 2016!

Like Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

FQP Books Sweep CALA Awards

The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae and the Joy of Being Open to Life

The Importance of Theology of the Body in the Year of Mercy