Columnists Life will be victorious

Make Advent a time when you both give and receive mercy

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Recently, while leaving an event that supports one of our pastoral ministries, a woman approached me asking if I had time for a conversation.

She shared with me that a decision I had made several years ago had caused significant pain and distress for her and several members of her family. She wanted me to know that she had worked hard to forgive me. 

She obviously thought my decision was wrong and wanted me to be aware of how it negatively impacted her and the faith life of many of her family members.

She shared why she thought my decision was wrong. Part of what she needed to do in her sincere efforts to forgive me was to communicate directly to me the pain my decision had caused in their family.

I was grateful for her honesty. I acknowledged that it was important for me to hear the negative repercussions of my actions. I have a great respect for this woman. It was obvious that it gave her no pleasure to share her negative experience with me.

I hoped that I listened to her concerns with respect and empathy. I was edified that, even though she had been upset with me, she was present at this event, supporting one of our church’s ministries. Throughout the Advent season, I will be praying for her and her family.

This past Saturday morning, I celebrated Mass at Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. After Mass, we processed together to pray outside the Planned Parenthood facility that opened recently on Leavenworth Road. We prayed a bilingual rosary as we walked to the Planned Parenthood site.

Once we arrived at Planned Parenthood, abortion advocates made it difficult to pray communally. They had a loud speaker system which they used to spew vulgarities and mock our religious faith.

A group of Hispanic pro-lifers began to sing beautiful hymns praising God and invoking his mercy on our country and community. One particularly obnoxious pro-abortion advocate attempted to insert himself into the pro-life choir in order to disrupt their singing. He appeared determined to provoke an altercation.

I was proud of our pro-life advocates. They remained serene and prayerful despite the verbal attacks. Before processing to Planned Parenthood, we had counseled our pro-life advocates to pray for God’s protection of pregnant mothers and their babies from the tragedy of abortion, as well as for God’s grace to touch the hearts of the Planned Parenthood staff and those advocating for abortion.

I found myself wondering what type of wound could motivate abortion advocates to engage in such verbally violent behavior.

This past Saturday night, I attended the 38th Viviano Holiday Variety Show that was held at Rockhurst High School’s Rose Theater.  Jerry Viviano, a parishioner of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park, began the variety show as a way to celebrate the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas holidays, while also raising significant financial support for Catholic charitable ministries in both Kansas and Missouri.

It was a bittersweet evening because this was the final Viviano Variety Show! During the past 38 years, the Viviano family has raised nearly $2.5 million for worthy charities. From this finale event, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas received a $100,000 donation.

Jerry Viviano concluded the evening by thanking the talented performers, the backstage workers, the financial benefactors and the audience for making the final show a huge success. Jerry shared with the performers and the audience his love for Jesus, his Catholic faith and the sacrament of reconciliation.

Jerry acknowledged that there was a time in his adult life when he did not frequent the confessional.

Jerry recalled a conversation with a non-Catholic therapist who expressed his admiration and respect for the sacrament of reconciliation. The therapist acknowledged that a sacramental confession is often able to assist individuals in finding peace and the power to forgive themselves, where psychological therapy often fails.

As we approach the Advent season, I encourage you to make receiving the sacrament of reconciliation a huge priority. This sacrament of mercy has the power to relieve penitents from the burdens of guilt and sorrow.

Confession also motivates and empowers us to bring the mercy we have received to others: spouses, children, relatives, co-workers and neighbors.

I also encourage you in your Advent prayer to ask the Lord to reveal to you individuals whom you need to forgive or from whom you need to ask for mercy. Make Advent a season where you seek to give and receive mercy.

In the Gospel, Jesus was constantly forgiving people. It should not surprise us that Our Lord empowered his church to continue his ministry of mercy through all time.

In the confessional, it becomes clear that Jesus came to liberate us from the enslavements of our sins. He also wants each of us to be ambassadors of reconciliation, lavishly offering forgiveness to others.

I have been told that Irish Alzheimer’s is a condition in which you forget everything except your grudges! I know a few with German ancestry that have a similar affliction.

During Advent, let us forgive those who have hurt or harmed us in order that we might experience the peace that the Prince of Peace wants to bring to our hearts.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Leave a Comment