Bishop Swain’s Principles for reconciliation1. It’s not about me.
“It’s not about me, trying to justify myself and my mistakes and sins with others, so much as it is seeking reconciliation with our God.”
2. I’m a sinner.
“Do I accept responsibility for my ways?”
3. Healing and reconciliation are possible.
“We, as Christians, are people of hope. We can see the sun rising in the distance, even though it’s a bit gloomy today.”
4. There’s a difference between reconciliation and justice.
“There are consequences with opportunities to move on. Justice can be paid, but forgiveness can be achieved.”
5. Beware the subtle lure of the world.
“Things become ‘acceptable’ because they’re accepted in the culture.”
6. Be realistic and face facts.
“When there are challenges, we change the subject.”
7. I may be wrong; others may be right.
“. . . or we may just have legitimate differences of opinion that we can move beyond. . . . People of goodwill can differ, and we must accept that.”
8. Ponder the crucifix.
“The mystery of the Cross can allow us to move beyond the immediate pain or pressure we feel.”
9. What would Mary think about what I’m thinking?
“What a high standard she calls us to!”
10. It’s about Christ and me.
“Mother Teresa said, ‘see Christ in everyone’; and if we do, we do want to reconcile as best we can.”
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MADISON -- Priests, parish staff, and parish leaders gathered October 21 for the annual Diocesan Leadership Day, which this year bore the theme “Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Church and in the World.”
The day featured talks by Bishop Paul J. Swain, bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S. D., and Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc., as well as question-and-answer sessions and an open panel discussion that also featured Bishop Robert C. Morlino.
“The purpose was to come together as a diocesan community, pastors and people working in the parishes, to reflect upon things we hold in community,” Brent King, director of communications for the diocese, said of the event. “Today, that was the need for forgiveness in the Church community and in the world.”
Watch and listenAudio and video is available from the Diocesan Leadership Day October 21 on the Diocese of Madison Web site. Go to www.madisondiocese.org; select from drop-down menu under the red “Audio & Video” bar halfway down the page.
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Bishop Swain’s talk encouraged thoughts on the sacramental need for reconciliation with God; Dr. Enright led attendees in thinking about the societal needs for forgiveness; and the panel discussion addressed questions inspired by those talks and Bishop Morlino’s homily at the Leadership Day Mass.
These opportunities to reflect on the need for reconciliation and forgiveness come at a time when tensions are high after two recent advertisements in the Wisconsin State Journal offered differing views of Bishop Morlino and the Diocese of Madison.
But division in the church is nothing new, Bishop Morlino said in his introduction to Bishop Swain’s talk on the sacramental need for reconciliation. He drew especially on St. Paul’s reading of the day, which addressed divisions in the early Church.
“The same is true today,” he said. “There are Catholics who will say ‘I’m a John XXIII Catholic,’ or ‘I’m a John Paul Catholic,’ or ‘I’m not a John Paul Catholic,’ or ‘I’m a post-Vatican II Catholic,” or ‘I’m a spirit of Vatican II Catholic.’
“We all belong to Christ and we all belong to his universal Church,” he said. “So when there are divisions — and there certainly are — there is need for healing, there is need for reconciliation, there is need for forgiveness. We have to sometimes forgive the reality of life in general and forgive the reality of life in the Church for being tough on us. Sometimes that’s tough to do.”
Struggling with reconciliation
In the first keynote talk in the morning, Bishop Swain addressed the sacramental nature of forgiveness and reconciliation. He spoke on the need for Confession and how one can prepare oneself for the sacrament, sharing his “principles for reconciliation” and a basic step-by-step of the process.
The bishop said that, especially speaking as a convert to the Catholic faith, Reconciliation is a challenging part of the journey.
“Most converts, I think, would say the two issues that we struggle with — obviously there are many — but it’s the role of Mary and the sacrament of Confession,” Bishop Swain said.
“When I first started, I was fearful. And then I had the privilege of becoming a priest, and I was able to sit in the other chair behind the screen and experience those beautiful moments when reconciliation truly takes effect. And now that I’m a bishop, I’m back to fear, I think,” he said, inspiring laughter from the crowd.
We might begin by suggesting that we all lighten up a bit, he said. “These are heavy times. These are always heavy times, and we are influenced by the heaviness. But as people of faith, we are people of hope and we see something beyond the heaviness of our times. And that’s what I think the sacrament of Reconciliation can help us with.”
Forgiveness can be healthy
With the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc., Enright has studied the effects of forgiveness on individuals in a societal context. He said that the science has shown how much the simple act of forgiveness can have an impact on our lives.
“Resentment is a deadly thing; resentment is a toxic poison of the heart that can spread like a disease until we have to do something about it,” Enright said. “I’m a person of faith and I’m a scientist, and I’ve put forgiveness to the test . . . for 24 years. And I can tell you that it works. Forgiveness is the most powerful antidote to injustice and the wounds of injustice, specifically the resentments of injustice, that I could ever imagine.”
The act of forgiveness can be controversial, he said. It needs to be unconditional — no moral value has a contingency to it.
“We need to sharpen our thinking on forgiveness,” Dr. Enright said. “Forgiveness does not walk the path of justice. It walks the path of mercy.”
Unity in the Church
In his homily, Bishop Morlino spoke on intimate terms to his priests and parish leaders — his “close associates.” He referred to the recent letters to him in the Wisconsin State Journal, and spoke about the wounds he feels because of his responsibility for the unity of the Church in the Diocese of Madison.
“The unity that we’re called to have as Church is a unity in love and a unity in truth,” he said. “The alternative for me would be to say, let’s just get along at whatever cost. . . . But that’s not an option. Our unity in the love of Christ is a unity in the truth, a unity in the doctrine and the discipline of the Church.
“I’ll admit to being wounded, a little worn down, but I’m not discouraged at all,” he said. “I may get tired, but I will remain tireless in moving us according to the doctrine and discipline of the Church, which reflects the truth of Jesus Christ.
“If I’m trying to go forward . . . the grace of my being a bishop will enable me to do that, but far better with your enthusiasm and support,” he said.