Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise says he is still struggling over whether to forgive the man who shot him two years ago. “I’ve never, internally, formally forgiven the shooter from the baseball shooting,” he said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with as a Catholic.”
It would be hard for many, including me, to forgive such a transgression. I’m still personally quite bitter over wrongs that happened to me some years back. So I understand the reluctance to forgive.
But what about turning the other cheek, and forgiving one’s enemies as we read in scripture throughout the New Testament? Can we suffocate our bitterness and a feeling that some form of retribution is unnecessary? Does continuing anger and hostility become tantamount to suffocating oneself emotionally? “The effects on one’s health from bottled up anger and resentment can range from anxiety and depression to blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks,” says professor of medicine Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic. “Forgiveness, by contrast, allows one to focus on more positive thoughts and relationships. It allows you to free up the real estate in your brain taken up by negative thinking.”
Forgive and forget, so goes much of the conventional wisdom. Move on with your life and just chalk it all up to tough lessons learned. But isn’t it possible to continue with the positive aspects in one’s life, learn from past mistakes, and continue to grow, putting aside the bitter feeling that you suffered a terrible wrong? Simply put, don’t maintain continuing anger, but don’t forget.
In the fall of 2015, Pope Francis sent the body of St. Maria Goretti on a limited U.S. tour. The youngest canonized Saint has a compelling story of suffering and forgiveness. St. Maria was born into poverty and raised in Corinaldo, a beautiful medieval village in central Italy. Maria, whose father died when she was nine, raised her five siblings when she was only eleven while her mother worked in the fields. One day, a twenty-year-old neighbor accosted her and, as she fought him, he brutally stabbed her repeatedly.
Maria died the next day, but her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli (her attacker) and I want him with me in heaven forever.” Alessandro was so overcome that he lived the converted life of holiness in prison and eventually became a Franciscan lay brother.
One of the stops on St. Maria’s U.S. pilgrimage was Baton Rouge, where the coffin with her remains was to be displayed in veneration at Lady of Mercy Catholic Church for three days. Crowds of worshipers were expected to visit the Saint from a number of states. The pastor there, Father Cleo Milano, has been a good friend and I called him to see if there was a possibility of any quiet time with St. Maria. He suggested I come by the church close to midnight after the doors were locked down for the night.
As the sanctuary was about to be bolted and the lights were dimmed, I made my way down the center aisle of the church and sat beside the remains of St. Maria. I touched her coffin and prayed for my family. And then, I thought to myself, this beautiful child, now a Saint, was brave and open-hearted enough to forgive the cruel demon that took her life. Although I too was wronged in ways that I felt were so unjust, should I not be empathetic and compassionate enough to forgive those who so aggrieved me?
I thought about it for good while. I guess I even prayed over the decision. After much contemplation, I quietly got up from my pew and walked out of the church. So what was my decision? Could I forgive those transgressions?
Often, your adversaries, by their impertinence, bring themselves down and destroy their own reputations. In my case, nemeses that caused me harm have themselves been damaged and suffered humiliation. So what to do? Forgive them? In my case, I decided just to wait them out. They ended up destroying themselves. What’s the old saying: If you stand by the river long enough, your enemies will come floating by.
I’d urge the Congressman to take his time and be sure that forgiveness is something he really wants to give. If not, just bide his time. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.
Five people were injured when a gunman opened fire on lawmakers practicing for an annual congressional baseball game. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police.
The shooting took place at about 7:00am at a park in Arlington, VA, during practice for the annual event that pits Republicans against Democrats in a baseball game that raises money for local (Washington D.C.) nonprofits. The gunman has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a previous volunteer for Sen Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Hearing this news, Sen. Sanders immediately issued a statement: “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
A profile for Hodgman began to emerge -- a Facebook page believed to be Hodgkinson’s includes a lot of damning rhetoric against President Trump, including posts like, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
Who was injured during the attack?
First of all, thankfully, Hodgkinson was a terrible shot and no one was fatally wounded in the shooting. Secondly, police were close enough to get to the event before Hodgkinson was able to get closer to the victims.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, shot in the hip, is in stable condition after undergoing surgery. Zachary Barth, a staffer for Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and two police officers were injured and are all in stable condition.
Mike Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods, was also shot -- the company released a statement saying, “Mr. Mika has been taken to a local hospital and we’re awaiting word on his condition.”
Sen. Rand Paul, who was at the practice, describes the scene as it unfolded, “After the gunman fired 50 or 60 shots, hitting Scalise and others … Everybody probably would’ve died except for the fact that the Capitol Hill Police were there, and the only reason they were there is because we had a member of leadership on our team … If Scalise wouldn’t have been on the team — unfortunately he was hit and I hope he does well — but also by him being there it probably saved everyone else’s life, because if you don’t have a leadership person there, it would’ve been no security there … (and) … if the shooter’s got several hundred bullets, and we had no weapons, and no place to hide ... he would’ve advanced on the rest of us, there would’ve been no chance. The only chance we had was that the shots were returned by the Capitol Hill Police.”