|St. Philomena statue in process from Chris Hart Studio.|
Many years ago I had read a news story about a snake who mistakenly ate a heating pad thinking it was a rodent. After all, it was soft and furry with an infrastructure resembling the feel of a skeleton. It was warm with a nice long tail which provided the appropriate resistance because it was plugged into the wall. Even if the snake had a momentary doubt about eating the prey, it's teeth curve backward toward it's body, making it nearly impossible to pull out. I had become that snake, choking on the heating pad. For years I was absolutely certain that I was tightly holding onto a rat, with my teeth curved inwards, unable to let go. I clung to my indignation like a sheriff's badge and righteously flashed it whenever the criminal got too close. Every single word, every silence, look, turning, breath, sigh, sneeze or blink was filtered through my anger, fear and feelings of rejection all the while missing the truth. I was so sure I was right that I couldn't even begin to think there could be any other way to be. Then in a flash, my heart cracked open and I saw the infinitesimal possibility that my reality wasn't the reality. The heating pad was just a heating pad and not a rat after all. In that moment, like splitting the atom, I was turned inside out, unable to see things the same again. That's when I understood forgiveness.
It didn't matter how many times I prayed to be able to forgive others or how many stories I read about how martyred saints had forgiven their persecutor even at the moment of death, I still couldn't apply it when it came to my own life. It amazed me that St. Maria Goretti could forgive her murderer as she lay dying from her stab wounds. St. Philomena, Daughter of Light, could steadfastly stay true to her beliefs while being tortured and finally beheaded, miraculously able to forgive her persecutors. What about St. Sebastian, martyred twice and still able to forgive. I am grateful to have not been beheaded, stabbed or shot through with arrows in order to let go of my iron grip on being right about being wronged.
|Detail of the serpent on base Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Statue|