Monday, March 8, 2010

We are shaped by our past

Writing my stories about my time in the Legion of Christ and my personal experience with the Founder,  Fr. Marcial Maciel made me aware that our past never leaves us.  I think that the ability to reconcile myself with my past is an important part of psychological well-being. It is important to be able to celebrate one's past. My "past" is the warehouse of memories that have formed me, shaped me, and prepared me for worlds far beyond the one in which I grew.

The following quote from  a new book by Sister Joan Chittister and Archbishop Rowan Williams hits the nail on the head:

"The past is even more than its treasury of the yesterdays that marked us with their sadness and deprivations and struggles and lingering flashes of the first meanings of love. The past is all we know of the possibilities we each harbor within us. The past burns into our flesh, like a flaming brand, the awareness that what we have survived before, bested before, done before, we can do again.

The best proof we have against destruction and despair is our memories of having wrestled with life before now — and prevailed. These are what sustain the young woman, a long-ago incest victim, who begins to recognize as part of her healing that, whatever the trauma she’s been through, she is, after all, a survivor. These are what go with the man who withstood taunts about his thick glasses from the other children in school to become the class valedictorian years later, who knows that he has been freed of any allegiance to the emotional control of others. These are the mainstay of the young widow who was raised by her widowed mother and knows that she can do it, too, and that her children will be no worse developed by the specter of the broken family because she herself is not.

Why bother to remember the past? Because the past is the one proof we have that the present is possible.

In the final analysis, then, the past is an alleluia for graces then unknown and now full of meaning. “Even though you intended to do harm to me,” Joseph says to the brothers who, out of rivalry for their father’s love, sold him into slavery in Egypt, “God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.”

Every moment of life is an alleluia moment for the past. One of the major graces of life is to come to realize that."

from Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is by Joan Chittister and Archbishop Rowan Williams (Liturgical Press)

Like everyone else, some of my memories are painful. I have found that the only way to heal painful memories is through forgiveness. Without forgiveness there is no reconciliation.

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