Q: When my adult daughter was visiting
me last summer, we got into an
argument about, of all things, my potato
salad. She has a hair-trigger temper, and
something that I said set her off. Although
I tried to defuse the situation by asking
her to calm down, she cursed me and ran
out of the room.
I was so shocked that I put on my walking
shoes and went out to be alone. After
a three-mile walk, I found a small park
where I sat down and asked God what to
The answer came that I had to be bigger
than she was, that I had to rise above
what she had said and forgive her.
When I returned home, I found her in
the kitchen. I hugged her and told her that
I forgave her and that I still loved her. She
did not say anything.
Before she returned to her home a few
days later, I hugged her again and told
her that I forgave her. Still she gave no
I have seen her several times since that
incident, but she has never apologized for
her outburst. When I call her, it's like talking
to a stranger.
My confessor told me to pray for her,
and I do, but the fact that she has never
said she is sorry is like a wound in my
soul. I would give anything if she would
only say she is sorry. Then I could hug her
and we could have a good cry together. The
problem would almost take care of itself.
How can I handle this situation? Even
though I've done all that I can do to remedy
things, she remains distant and unrepentant.
This breaks my heart.
A: I am sorry for your pain, which
comes through loud and clear.
It sounds as though you have already
done everything that you need to do:
You have forgiven her, yet you ache
for a true reconciliation.
Although you have twice verbalized
to your daughter your forgiveness, she
has not responded either time. Those
facts suggest that she does not feel she
did anything that needs to be forgiven.
Further offers of forgiveness may not be
Once spoken, words have a life of
their own. We cannot take them
back or give them a different meaning.
The Bible affirms that controlling
one's tongue is necessary for wisdom.
According to the Book of Proverbs,
"The tongue of the wise is healing"
Although we sometimes speak of
them as the same thing, forgiveness
and reconciliation are, in fact, quite
different. Forgiveness is risky precisely
because it is one-sided; the other person
may refuse to admit that he or she did
anything that needs forgiveness.
Reconciliation, on the other hand,
must be mutual in order to be genuine.
We can no more imagine a one-sided
reconciliation than we can imagine a
one-sided piece of paper.
Consider the prodigal son's father
in Jesus' parable (Luke 15:11-32). In
verse 20 we read, "While [the younger
son] was still a long way off, his father
caught sight of him, and was filled with
compassion. He ran to his son,
embraced him and kissed him."
The father's forgiveness might have
been instantaneous, but isn't it much
more likely that he forgave his younger
son long before that son returned? The
parable does not tell us how long the
prodigal son was away. It was probably
long enough for the father to experience
What we mostly love about this parable
is the reconciliation. The father,
however, almost certainly forgave without
the assurance that his younger son
would ever repent and seek forgiveness.
The unforgiving older brother may
yet seek reconciliation, although, when
the parable ends, he has focused so
much on his brother's mistake that he
ignores the later repentance.
Would the father's forgiveness have
been wasted if his younger son had
never returned? Not at all. The father,
however, would have been denied the
reconciliation and consolation that he
You find yourself in that father's
position. We can hope and pray that
the reconciliation will occur, but it
might not. Your aching for it may be
relieved. Or it might not.
In 35 years of priestly ministry, I have often told people that they have
indeed forgiven someone when they
hope for that person what God most
wants for that individual—a life worthy
of someone made in God's image and
likeness. Is that your deepest hope for
Is repeating your forgiveness driving
a deeper wedge between you—from
your daughter's point of view?
Even though your daughter has
not requested it, you have taken the
risk of forgiving. I encourage you not
to allow your life to be controlled by
her unwillingness to seek reconciliation.
She could be at the stage of the
prodigal son before he came to his
senses and repented. In any case, you
cannot put your life "on hold" indefinitely.
I urge you to continue following
your confessor's advice to pray for her.
She too may ache for reconciliation
and may yet apologize. You have
already done the right thing. Please
pray that she may do the same.
Q: In the process of canonizing someone,
what is the difference between
Blessed and Venerable? I am very fond of
Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925), who
achieved sobriety after years of battling
alcoholism. Do you have any information
about the status of his cause?
A: The progression of titles is Servant
of God (cause has been
completed on the diocesan level and
accepted in Rome), Venerable (a person's
life and writings have been investigated
and found to reflect heroic
virtue), Blessed (can be venerated liturgically
in certain places or by certain
groups of people) and Saint (can be
venerated liturgically throughout the
A person moves from Venerable to
Blessed in one of two ways: he or she is
judged to have died because of "hatred
for the faith" or he or she is judged to
have been involved in the miraculous
cure of an individual. A second miracle
is needed to be declared a saint.
In our world of instant communication,
the local-versus-worldwide distinction
regarding veneration has
become harder to maintain. Blessed
Padre Pio (1887-1968) was venerated far
beyond Italy and the Capuchin family
before his canonization in 2002.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
(1910-1997) inspires some people much
more than many canonized saints.
Both were widely admired before they
Matt Talbot was declared Venerable
in 1975. A miracle is needed before he
can be beatified. A Venerable Matt
Talbot Resource Center is available on
Q: I am 87 years old and a lifelong
Catholic. Two years ago, I became
ill but have mostly recovered. I gave up my
driver's license for the good of the people
I could encounter while driving. I cannot
walk as far as the nearest church and there
is no public transportation that could get
My generation built many churches, but
now I feel abandoned. The weeks run one
into the other without purpose.
A: Have you called the pastor of
the nearest Catholic parish? He
probably cannot transport you to Mass
each weekend, but he may be willing to
put in a bulletin announcement that an
elderly woman in a certain neighborhood
is seeking a regular ride to Mass
on Saturday night or on Sunday.
Over the years, I have seen such
requests in parish bulletins. There are
probably already people at that parish
giving rides on a regular basis to people
who cannot get there any other way.
Eucharist means "to give thanks."
Someone may be willing to help you
give thanks with members of the parish
Q: Is there any difference between Our Lady of Good Help and Our
Lady of Perpetual Help? Do they have different feast days? Our
church is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help, but there is confusion
about the feast day.
A: These are different titles of Mary with separate feast days and
meanings. In 1673, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys brought from
France a statue of Our Lady of Good Help for Montreal's
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, where it remains. Her feast is celebrated
on March 5.
Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help goes back to an icon that has
been in Rome since the late 15th century. For more than 100 years, it has
been at the church of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Her feast is celebrated on June
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