When my son was in preschool, I often brought him into the Church after class to pay Jesus and Mary a visit. With a hushed voice and galloping feet, he made his way down the aisle to the tabernacle to blow a few kisses to Jesus in hope to make His sacred boo-boos feel better. The Church at this time is always empty, except for this day. A woman, who was praying in a dark corner of the church, suddenly said, “SHHHHHH!” I quickly scooped the baby up to halt his happy, but noisy trot. I found myself deeply offended by the rude reprimand and was considering a not-so-polite response when I remembered St. Bernard’s admonition: “If you can’t forgive the action, forgive the intention.”
I learned of St. Bernard’s advice many years ago, and it has been instrumental in the life-long school of forgiveness I find myself perpetually attending. So many times, especially during the years leading up to and following my divorce, these same words came to me and saved me from a lot of heartache. I found that most of the time, even when the comment, action, or insult appeared to be a direct assault, I was able to look a bit deeper at the probable intention and then it didn’t hurt so much. I began to reason that the comment was coming from a source of fear, a possible lack of control of a situation, or from someone who felt backed into a corner. Nonetheless, it made the process of forgiveness a bit easier as I was able to look at my own bad behavior and understand what propelled me to do or say some of the things I wish I could take back. In the case of this woman in church, surely she was trying to pray. She was probably suffering in some way and really needed the peace and quiet that a church should provide. I sympathized with her, having been there myself many times. My anger was transformed into mercy.
“Forgive them, they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34