During one of our Benedictine Oblate meetings at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Sister Edith handed us sample copies of a new publication from the Liturgical Press. “Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic” is a treasure for those of us seeking to live a deeper life of prayer. Morning and Evening prayers include Scripture and intercessory prayer and features models of holy living in a daily reading called “Blessed Among Us.” Mass texts include reflections by well-known spiritual writers.
Today, the reflection for the mass was taken from “God, Christ and Us” by Father Herbert McCabe, an English Dominican, theologian, philosopher and preacher:
“You do not have to be good before God will love you; you do not have to try to be good before God will forgive you; you do not have to repent before you will be absolved by God. It is the other way around. If you are good, it is because God’s love has already made you so; if you want to try to be good, that is because God is loving you; if you want to be forgiven, that is because God is forgiving you.”
I was especially moved by the words: “You do not have to try to be good before God will forgive you . . . if you want to be forgiven, that is because God is forgiving you.” It brought me back to the day I saw my daughter Francesca for the last time. When Francesca came to see me that day, it was September 11, 2001 and the attack on the World Trade Towers in NY had just hit the news. She’d called to tell me she was on her way from Minneapolis to our home on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. “I need you, Mommy,” she said. “I need to be with you.”
Francesca was a wildly loving, intensely vulnerable, and tormented young woman whose lifestyle placed her at great risk. When she came to see me on September 11, it was to tell me how much she loved me and agonized over all the pain and worry she’d given me. When I pulled her into my arms and told her I’d loved her through all her choices, she asked about God and God’s forgiveness.
“What about God, Mommy. Can God forgive me for the way I’ve lived my life?”
“Oh Fran, honey,” I reassured her, “God has already forgiven you; you’ve always had God’s forgiveness; even in your darkest hours God’s been there, loving you”
I hope Francesca believed me for on September 18, one week later, my lovely girl – all of 24 years old -- was shot and killed. I pray that Francesca died knowing how greatly she was loved . . . and forgiven. Seeing Father McCabe’s words this morning brought me to tears. This was the message I’d hoped to give my daughter. That is the message I hope to take into this day and the rest of my life. The knowledge of and belief in God’s “besotted”[i] love for us.