|The inevitable hurts and hard knocks of life give all of us ample opportunities to forgive. As Catholics, we may have good intentions of being forgiving people, but are unsure about what forgiveness really is. We may not know how to begin to forgive or, in our anger and pain, might not be convinced that we can or even should try to do it.
In Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach, I present a Catholic understanding of forgiveness, consider how and why Catholics can forgive, and I offer encouragement and hope for those who are struggling to forgive.
The opening chapters of the book clear up common misconceptions about forgiveness by answering questions such as: For whom do we forgive? Does forgiveness let people off the hook? Does forgiving someone more than once make us a doormat or a punching bag? Are there some things that just can’t be forgiven? Is an apology necessary before forgiveness is given? Can we, or should we, forgive and forget? Is there a limit to how much we can be expected to forgive?
Forgiveness is unpacked in later chapters as a decision, a process, and a gift. It’s a decision we make to let go of any desire for revenge or retaliation, which frees us of the bitterness and resentment that can harden our hearts.
Forgiveness is a process because it requires time; we may find ourselves making the decision to forgive over and over again.
Finally, forgiveness is a gift that’s not earned and deserved, and it is freely given without expectations, exceptions, or limits. We are able to give others the gift of forgiveness thanks only to the grace of God, who has first forgiven us.
A final section considers practical steps to be take on the journey toward forgiveness, such as receiving God’s forgiveness, forgiving ourselves, finding help from a friend, appreciating anger’s purpose, seeking to understand the one who has hurt us, persevering through pain, and opening ourselves to God’s healing and grace through prayer and sacrament.
Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach is my first book—the fruit of personal experience, pastoral experience, and years of preaching about forgiveness. It is my hope that this work of my heart will also touch yours.
Reverend R. Scott Hurd is a priest of the Archdiocese
of Washington. He currently serves as Executive
Director of the Archdiocese’s Office of the Permanent
Diaconate, assists at St. Hugh of Grenoble Church in
Greenbelt, Maryland, and is liaison with the USCCB for the
implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum
coetibus. Fr. Hurd began his ordained ministry as an
Episcopal priest and entered the Catholic Church in 1996.
He holds degrees from Oxford University and the University
of Richmond. He and his wife Stephanie live in Virginia with
their three children.