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Forgiveness touches women’s hearts

Posted By May 2, 2013 | 1:05 pm | Local
Allison Gingras 001WEB

By Constance Dwyer
CFP Correspondent

GRAFTON – A young mother reminded a group of women Saturday that “God loves you and the hardest lesson of all is to accept that God loves those who hurt you, too.”
Allison Gingras, a Catholic writer and speaker who lives in Raynham, founded Reconciled to You ministries in 2009. She shared her reflections on forgiveness at an all-day retreat for women April 27 in St. James Parish hall.
The timeless topic, which became timely with the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, had those in attendance paying close attention to what she calls “the heart of the Gospel.”
As the ultimate example of how we need to forgive those who have offended us, she cited Jesus’ prayer as he was dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
“We need to reflect on the day of the Crucifixion. He wore a crown of thorns; he was spat on, stripped, and taunted. He didn’t do anything wrong; did nothing but love. He was blameless,” she said.  And yet as he was dying, he was still able to ask for the forgiveness of his persecutors.
Mrs. Gingras invited the women to imprint upon their hearts that “the Crucifixion is not a one-day event. It’s every day. He took on our sin so we could be forgiven.  Mercy you have been given, mercy you must now give.”
The inspirational speaker shared her own story of struggling to forgive and how it took her a long time to get unstuck from the pattern of bitterness and resentment, to finally forgive. She recalled God’s healing grace in Jesus’ words, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In prayer, she realized that “unforgiveness freezes us in the moment we’re hurt, keeping us from moving on or loving fully.”
Mrs. Gingras, who is the author of “Three Persons, One God: Growing in Relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” emphasized that “we’re all human and we are never beyond hurting another — intentionally or unintentionally.” In our relationship with God we need to recognize that “the power to forgive is from God” and “one of his greatest gifts we have as Catholics is to take part in the sacrament of reconciliation. There, we are freely given grace.”
She noted that she was particularly struck by a woman at one of her talks who went to confession after an absence of 52 years. Afterwards, she told Mrs. Gingras, “I feel so free.”
In encouraging participants to consider going to confession, she said, “If you turn to him, he never leaves you empty.”  During the all-day retreat, three priests were available to hear confessions.
“For those who hurt you; pray for them,” she advises. When she said, “don’t pray to change them,” laughter filled the hall. “With the grace of God, I can see those who hurt me as wounded people,” she added.
Stressing that “forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling,” she posed the question to the group: “Why forgive others?”
The answer is simple, she said, but we sometimes complicate it – “it’s simply because God forgives us.”  Forgiveness requires we let go of a few things: 1) being right; 2) justice; 3) evening the score, and 4) expecting an apology.  Not that we let people off the hook for their behavior, but we don’t make forgiveness conditional to that, she noted. Only God can judge a person’s heart, so we leave the vengeance and the justice to him, she said.
As she was preparing to end her afternoon presentation, she brought up what has been on everyone’s mind: the bombing at the Boston Marathon. She spoke here, too, of forgiveness: “If we get wrapped up in our anger, then they have even more victims. Pray for them instead and forgive them.”  Through forgiveness, she added, we exemplify a higher standard which is what God wishes of us.  “He brought you here to be a witness to others; we are all called to evangelize.”  In these situations as well as when we face things such as cancer, trouble with children, job loss … any of these painful situations … we can get angry with God. We need to pray to not fall into that trap, knowing he loves us.
She asked the women to ask themselves: “How can I witness to hope and healing with my life?”
Some women from St. James Parish offered their thoughts on forgiveness.  Webster resident, Kathy Aberizk remarked that Mrs. Gingras’ talk reminds us “that God has an amazing message for us; that there is hope, healing and joy. Her talk touches your heart.”
Leticia Atamian said, “I loved being here and she’s an amazing speaker. We need more people like her speaking the word of God in a positive perspective. We need to connect with one another — we are all family and all different, of different color.” Her daughter, Uriel Atamian, 17, the youngest attendee, was enthusiastic saying, “I’m so happy I came and my Mom encouraged me in going.”

– Mrs. Gingras’ website is www.reconciledtoyou.com.