Forgiveness Is the Answer

News: Commentary
by Fr. Paul John Kalchik  •  •  June 2, 2022   

For those who ask, God mercifully showers down His peace

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The recent Texas school shooting has shocked and saddened the world. In the aftermath of this atrocity, many attempt to determine a motive for the shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who killed 21 people. Some speculate it was because he was bullied when younger, others say it was because he was a loner, and still others claim it was because he played violent video games. At the end of the day, all of this is just conjecture. No amount of speculation is going to bring those killed back to life, and the shooter, Salvador Ramos, is now also dead.

Salvador Ramos

To quote a good priest, Fr. Clay Hunt: "There is no explaining crazy! Bring the crazy to God in your prayers and let Him make sense of it all." As Father so aptly states, there is really no good explanation for such evil atrocities apart from the Faith. As men and women of faith, we blessedly have hope and belief in life eternal for the just.

This recent senseless killing of schoolchildren and teachers in Texas is evil, just like the killing of millions of babies in the womb or the rape of a young child. God neither intends these evils nor brings them about. They happen because fallen men with intelligence and volition freely will these evils on the world. Tragically, these horrors will transpire occasionally until the world's end.

The natural knee-jerk reaction for people in the aftermath of a tragedy of this sort is to get revenge and seek some sort of justice. But in this instance, Ramos' death is the only justice to be found in this fallen world. Ramos cannot be put on trial, found guilty of these multiple deaths or sentenced because he is already deceased — killed in the very massacre he instigated. In the end, the only justice in this fallen world is found in God. My prayer is that the people of Uvalde will seek this from the Almighty and put aside all thoughts of vengeance.

 In the end, the only justice in this fallen world is found in God.

In an effort to obtain peace and justice for the victims and their families in Uvalde, I've begun offering an octave of Masses for each victim. My prayer during the next eight masses is for the repose of the victims' souls and for God's peace and consolation for their families.

I encourage all Church Militant readers to likewise offer prayers to God for the victims of this massacre and for all those who mourn them. God, Who is merciful, will hear all these prayers and bring His peace and consolation to our world.

Seek the Grace of Forgiveness

I also want to encourage the community of Uvalde to take to heart Jesus' mandate for His disciples to forgive those who've hurt them. They should try their best to forgive Salvador Ramos amidst the circumstances that led to this tragedy. We pray for Ramos' missing father, his drug-addicted mother and his poor grandmother, who tried to rein in her wayward grandson and who got shot in the process. Of all Our Lord's mandates, the one to forgive is the hardest to fulfill, as it takes a boatload of grace to forgive those who have seriously hurt us.

In Matthew 18:21–22, we hear Our Lord talking with Peter about this commandment: "Then Peter, approaching, asked Him, 'Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I say to you, not seven times but 77 times.'"

Jesus made it clear to His disciples that His request to be forgiving as God is forgiving was not to be taken lightly but repeated throughout each disciple's lifetime.

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Our Lord Himself, even as He suffered his passion on the Cross to redeem humanity, demonstrated clemency for those who executed Him: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Even though on a human level it's impossible for us to forgive, with God's grace, forgiveness can be accomplished, and we can move forward in our lives.

Centuries ago, the English poet Alexander Pope, when reflecting upon this challenge in the gospel, wrote, "To err is human, to forgive divine."

On a human level, the natural response to those who hurt us is to hurt them back — to get even. But, as individuals made in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed in Christ, God will give us, if we ask, the grace to follow in our Redeemer's footsteps and forgive all those who hurt us. Do not take my word for this, but rather, the examples of His disciples, who have taken this gospel challenge to heart.

If They Can Do It, You Can Too

Pope St. John Paul II — early in his pontificate, on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square — was shot multiple times by a Muslim assassin. Just days after being shot, the saintly pontiff from his hospital bed was miraculously able to offer his assailant forgiveness. For those who witnessed this, John Paul II's example raised the bar for the rest of us disciples to follow. Many of us who, despite daily reciting the Our Father, forget to take to heart the part about forgiving "those who trespass against us."

Pope St. John Paul II forgave his shooter, Mehmet Ali Agca

As profoundly moving as St. John Paul II's lesson of forgiveness was, closer to home, the Lancaster County Amish community's example of following Christ's mandate of forgiveness was stupendous. In the fall of 2006, 10 young Amish schoolgirls were killed by a gunman, Charlie Roberts, who, at the end of his siege of the small school, took his own life.

In the aftermath of this shooting, the Lancaster Amish Christian Community reached out to the shooter's mother, Terry Roberts to offer her their forgiveness for what had transpired. As Terry afterward recounted, their forgiveness and their sincere love changed her life for the better. Instead of having to live the remainder of her life in shame and disgrace for what her son did to hurt so many, she knew she was still loved and accepted by them.

The Lancaster Amish Christian Community epitomized the biblical understanding that only God, Who alone has the capacity to see into the hearts of men, can judge. For us as fallen human beings still living in this vale of tears, our duty is to follow Christ's example of forgiving those who hurt us if we expect to be forgiven by God for those we hurt.

Receive the Gift Christ Offers

For too many years, I harbored hatred and anger in my heart toward the two men who abused me in my youth. I now encourage fellow disciples to take to heart Christ's mandate of forgiveness and to do it earlier rather than later. Ask God for His grace to move on in your life and to put your victimhood and stored rancor behind you.  

Fr. Lawrence Cozzi's gravestone

One of the men who abused me, Fr. Lawrence Cozzi, died of AIDS decades ago. But until a few years ago, I entertained in my mind the perverse thought of busting up his gravestone at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, where his body lies. It drove me mad that this monster of a man — who was buried with much fanfare by the Church — lies in consecrated ground at one of Chicago's most beautiful Catholic cemeteries.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with Chicago's former archbishop, the late Cdl. Francis George, about my vengeful fantasy of pulverizing Fr. Cozzi's headstone. I'm certain I could have gotten away with this crime. The Catholic cemeteries in Chicago have next to no security at them; over the years, numerous mourners have been robbed by thugs when visiting the graves of loved ones.

Cardinal George, in response to my musings, just laughed at me. He agreed it was likely I could get away with my rageful plan. But doing this would give me no peace. As he wisely observed, "True peace comes from God. Seek this grace from God, and it will be yours."

True peace comes from God.

Cardinal George, as well as my father, Victor Kalchik, were both good men who encouraged me in the aftermath of sexual abuse to forgive my abusers and to get on with my life. On this topic, my father, a stalwart Korean War vet, said, "You can let these evils that have hurt you destroy you, or with God's grace, you can move on and become a better man because of what you have endured. Forgive as God forgives." It was unfortunate that I delayed so long in taking my own father's advice.

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It took me years to forgive my abusers, but at this point I can say I have forgiven them both. My only regret is that I was so slow to do so. And because I held on to my anger and hate for these men for so long, I did not know God's peace until fairly recently. My loss!

So, to the hundreds, if not thousands, of people affected by Salvador Ramos' evil actions, pray for God's grace to forgive this lost young man no matter how much he has hurt you. Pray that those still wounded heal rapidly in both body and spirit. And pray that we don't have more school shootings by crazy copycats.

We cannot stop all the evil that's playing out in this fallen world, but we can determine how we live our lives and what our final destination will be. Heaven on earth will never happen. Even Eden was sabotaged by our ancestors millennia ago. But Heaven, where the just will reside with God, is a choice. I choose Heaven; I pray you do as well.

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