A year ago, my older sister got married. The day before the wedding, there was a bit of drama with a local priest, who “held her marriage license hostage.” To make a long story short, my uncle — who is a priest working in Mexico — was flying up to perform the ceremony, and at the last minute, the local priest decided he wasn’t comfortable with that (even though he’d given his consent months earlier when the wedding was in its planning stages.) The day before the wedding, he told my sister he wouldn’t give her the license and that “she’d been doing everything wrong.” My sister was in tears, my brother-in-law-to-be was threatening to call the cops (“that marriage license is our property!”), and everyone was wondering whether the ceremony planned for the next day would just be a matter of “going through the motions” without a legal marriage occurring. We don’t know exactly what was said between the two priests, but my uncle eventually came to our house looking weary but with marriage license in hand.
Before that point, my family had been pretty ambivalent about this particular priest. After that, our resentment led us to a “boycott” of his services, and we’d carefully arrange our schedules so that we only attended masses said by another, “preferred” priest.
I’m in a long-distance relationship and out of town many weekends, so I’ve completely lost track of my “preferred priest’s” mass schedule back home. Last week, I went to a mass the “boycotted” priest was performing. I found that a lot of the anger I’d been holding on to for the past year had evaporated. At that service, I also learned that he was giving a Bible study on the Acts of the Apostles. The study fit into my difficult schedule, and I hadn’t done any focused work with the Bible in nearly four years. I admit that the fact that he was teaching the class made me hesitant — I reasoned that it would be so much more enjoyable with a priest that I liked. But I signed up.
Tonight was my first session, and I’m still not sure how the course will pan out over the next 20 weeks. But it felt so good to be doing something to dig into my faith again, and I was glad I didn’t let something like the instructor interfere with the opportunity. With a lot of those strong emotions long behind me, I feel a little embarrassed about the whole thing. Despite forgiveness being at the center of Catholic teaching — and despite Catholicism being one of the only denominations that has a ritual for it — it’s not a teaching I take to heart as often as I should. It makes me wonder what else I may have missed out on due to stubbornness or an inability to forgive in my life. It makes me wonder what blessings may be waiting now that I’ve “gotten over myself” and opened my heart a crack more, too.
I’m not done with this topic — as if one could ever be “done” with forgiveness! — but I’ll hold on to the rest of my thoughts for a couple weeks. I’d love to hear yours in the meantime.