Friday, January 24, 2014

30 Days of Forgiveness - Day 23 - Wisdom from ACIM - Forgiving the Catholic Church


"Forgive and you will see this differently." --ACIM

Last Saturday night my husband and I had a long-overdue date night. We knew what we wanted to do - the old standby, dinner and a movie - but what movie?

We had two choices: the Oscar-nominated indie film Philomena, about a woman's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption or American Hustle, the Oscar-nominated Hollywood film about con artists in the 1970's. Both came highly recommended.
 
Ultimately we decided on Philomena because we were in kind of a melancholy mood and it had been around longer and was more likely to leave the theaters soon. We couldn't have made a better choice for forgiveness month.

***SPOILER ALERT: If you have never seen the film and think you might want to, stop reading now.

The story in a nutshell is about a young woman who gets pregnant, is kicked out by her parents and taken in by the Catholic Church who help her give birth and then force her to work in their laundry room all day, only allow her to see her son one hour per day and eventually adopt him out to a rich American couple without her knowledge. (This isn't even the worst part.)

Fifty years later she decides she wants to find her son and enlists the help of an out-of-work journalist. Their first stop is the convent where she had the baby. There they are greeted politely, given tea and cookies and told that no information is available on her son. She is not allowed to see the one old nun who was there at the time she gave birth.

As the story progresses, she and the journalist persist in their efforts to find her son, eventually locating him in the United States. Unfortunately, he has died. They manage to find his partner (he was gay) who shows him the film from her son's funeral. In it we see her son at the convent where she gave birth to him waving to the camera and surrounded by the nuns who told her they had no information about her son.

Ugh.

At this point in the film I felt like I had been kicked in the gut and was wishing we had chosen American Hustle.

Towards the end of the movie, Philomena and the journalist go back to the convent to visit the grave of her son (who was buried there) and the journalist, full of anger, confronts the old nun. Philomena stops him, stands in front of this nun who took her son from her and kept her son from her and says, "I forgive you."

Argh.

I was sickened. I was enraged. I wanted to yell and scream at this old nun just like the journalist. And I didn't see anything wrong with it. She deserved it. She deserved worse.

And then I remembered. Oh, yeah. 30 Days of Forgiveness....I should probably be thrilled that Philomena was offering her forgiveness. This is what I have been advocating for all month. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

And I couldn't do it. Not in that moment. Not even a little bit.

We left the theater and I was raging. I wanted to shake off the way I felt. I wanted to get it out of me. I didn't want to have spent our first date night in weeks confronting the demons of the Catholic Church.

I thought about all of the other evil, horrible things that have been done by the Church over the years and I started to spiral down into a very bad place. A place that forgot all about forgiveness, or maybe never knew about it at all.

So that night when we got home, I did a forgiveness letter to the Catholic Church for all of the transgressions against humanity it has perpetrated over the past two thousand years. It was a hard letter to write and I didn't want to write it, but I did.

The next day I felt somewhat better. Less nauseated. Less angry. More at peace with the whole thing and grateful for the new Pope who is kicking ass and taking names and, hopefully, undoing some of the damage that has been done in the name of the Church.  

[REMINDER: My FREE class on The Violet Flame Meditation is TUESDAY! Would love to see you there!]

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Lynne. And thanks for reading!

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  2. Lara, your posting today is beautiful and courageous and raw. It takes guts to expose your heart when it's full of rage, and it takes even more courage to step into the fire of that rage--feeling it fully--and still know that the direction to go is toward forgiveness.

    I love that you respected your anger enough to hold it carefully and responsibly while it flamed hot, and I love that you understand the way anger can fuel positive change (i.e., appreciating the new pope's willingness to "kick ass and take names"). Righteous indignation is worth its weight in gold when it's harnessed to work against injustice for the sake of the greater good.

    Late this afternoon, before reading your post tonight, I went to see "Philomena." I had no idea beforehand what the movie was about. What an incredible story! By the time the climactic scene began to unfold, it was clear to me that Philomena (aka Judi Dench) would forgive the nun who kept Philomena and her son apart by lying to them both.

    Even though Philomena's act of forgiveness was true to her character's style, it was still breathtaking to watch her speak the words. It was also powerful to see the look on the nun's face when she realized that Philomena—by offering forgiveness—was therefore acknowledging and holding the nun accountable for immoral acts, even though she—the nun—obviously believed she had never done anything wrong.

    It was perfect that Philomena forgave the nun, perfect that the journalist held fast to his anger, perfect that the nun was bewildered, and perfect that the onlookers had a mix of feelings. To me, the group as a whole expressed the wide array of messy feelings that often arise during the process of real forgiveness work—the kind of work that does not gloss over the shadow parts, but steps into the fire and lets it burn the heart clean.

    Thank you, Lara, for your beautiful heart and for your commitment to real forgiveness, not the cookie-cutter kind.

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  3. Thank you Cat for your thoughtful comments and for being one of my forgiveness gurus! Lots of love, Lara

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