Franciscan Spirit Blog

Healing the Wounds of America

Man holds American flag

Let’s face it: We’re exhausted. It is a profound fatigue that envelops people from the far right to the far left, and no matter the changes in personnel and policy made at the federal, state, or local level, nothing seems to remedy it. Just when we think we can rest for a spell and recharge our batteries on a societal level, some new tragedy or painful disappointment blows in, and we’re back to square one. So what do we do?

There’s been a lot of talk—and not nearly as much action—about the need for healing in our nation. With all the vitriol and aspersions cast from both sides of the aisle, and perhaps from across the dinner table during family meals, healing is a tall order. But we all know our society needs it, that it is the only true salve to the aforementioned fatigue. The question is how. We can look to our Catholic faith to guide us through these murky and messy times.

First Things First

Though we may wish we could, we cannot will healing into happening. We also can’t expect our elected officials to fix this for us. It’s going to take effort—and in equal measures from individuals across the political spectrum. At the core of this effort is reconciliation, something so important that it has a whole sacrament devoted to it in our faith. Our Catholic tradition places the Sacrament of Reconciliation after Baptism and before Communion, so many of us have carried the implications of this revered act within us for a long time. But what is reconciliation, really? It must go beyond saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.”

Reconciliation is a two-way street. One person might forgive another, but unless that outreach is accepted and returned, there is no reconciliation. Even so, honest forgiveness is never wasted.

We humans would like our reality to be nice and tidy, with no annoying loose ends or unfinished business. And yet reality consistently presents us with the opposite scenario. There’s always something more (or less) we could have said, some fence that never was mended, a relationship that didn’t quickly end, but just dissipated.

When we reconcile with each other, we bind ourselves to each other and reaffirm the inherent value and dignity of the other person. With reconciliation, we free ourselves and each other, and we keep the door open to love, peace, and goodwill.

Pope Francis has referenced reconciliation many times since becoming pope. Considering how frequently reconciliation has figured in many of his writings and homilies, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it’s one of the pillars of his papacy. In a general audience in April 2020, Pope Francis said that peacemakers are people “who have learned the art of peace and practice it, they know that there is no reconciliation without the gift of one’s life, and that peace must be sought always and in every case.”

In his encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” the words reconciliation and forgive (or related words) appear 15 and 28 times, respectively. “When conflicts are not resolved but kept hidden or buried in the past, silence can lead to complicity in grave misdeeds and sins,” Pope Francis writes. “Authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict, resolving it through dialogue and open, honest, and patient negotiation” (244). The hard work of reconciliation is not only noble; it is nested in the Gospel call to plant the seeds of the kingdom of God on earth.

‘Ambassadors for Christ’

We live in precarious times, to be sure. A devastating pandemic and vicious political division have left us shaken, afraid, and vulnerable. Now is the time to be all the more vigilant of the dangers of extremism and lack of dialogue. With the assault on the Capitol on January 6 not nearly far enough away in the rearview mirror, we must remember how delicate the balance of a stable society is. As Americans, we are bound to each other as citizens. As people of faith, we are bound to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Reconciliation builds and strengthens those bonds.

May we not only seek to cleanse our own souls, but reach out and reconcile with those we find ourselves at odds with. Doing so brings us closer to each other and paves the way to healing. It also brings us all closer to God.

As St. Paul wrote: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). And as “ambassadors for Christ,” we are called to do the hard work of healing our broken nation and our broken hearts.

Like what you just read? Subscribe to St. Anthony Messenger for more!

New call-to-action


12 thoughts on “Healing the Wounds of America”

  1. Michele Wells

    Inspiring but not enough for me! I am an American citizen but I am treated worse than any farm animal. I am so tired of proving that I am worthy of being considered a human being created by God.

    1. David Himpelmann

      That is really sad to hear. Not knowing anything else about you, I think all I can do is offer prayers that you will begin to experience the dignity that you surely deserve. I pray that it will be God’s will to bless you abundantly. Peace!
      Dave Himpelmann

    2. Michelle
      Let not your heart be broken by our common experiences. We need to be loving and reconcile with each other no matter what our world do and hurt our own circumstances. We are hurt and burdened but we cannot stop loving and forgiving for we have all been saved by the blood of Christ

  2. Peace and compassion should be your pillar. Recognize your self, be whom you are. Never allow your spirit, soul and intellectual capacity be hindrance to your best identity. Although your are an American, you’re still very unique before God. God always has great assignment for us all, and that is why you are what you are. Don’t withdrawal, talk to all that can accept you and also to once that don’t have any value in your life. Try and you could find that you have more than you knew before. Be blessed

  3. Terence A Lover

    “Reconciliation is a two-way street”. I have to remind myself that it is not enough to forgive another but to search my conscience for how I may have contributed to a divisive situation. I am responsible for being part of an encounter where I ask to be forgiven and to forgive. Essential to this encounter of reconciliation is to be part of the exchange where “the other” feels OK to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes the best that we can do is our part and keep the door open for an eventual dialogue. Having both parties ready to reconcile, of course, is ideal. The process may not always be easy but is worth the effort. Peace.

  4. Oh please, the “assault” on the Capital? How about the actual assaults and burnings of cities by so-called “peaceful” protestors? A nice article, except for the rhetoric at the end.

  5. I respectfully disagree w the headline.
    Why not recognize the America religious success story and “envy” of the world. Inferring healing over our strengths is so wrong. Yes, our country’s constitution has built in corrections and yes, some take longer than they should. But the corrections occur. Am canceling my enrollment. The pretentious virtual signaling and Vatican lead anti American perspective is not helpful. OFS.

  6. Stan,

    I don’t see it that way at all. Our nation is deeply divided and in need of healing. I like this article but would there is one thing lacking in pursuit of reconciliation: Repentance.
    2 Chronicles 7:14—Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and will pray and will seek my face and will turn from their evil ways, then I myself shall hear from the heavens and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

    1. Totally agree. Our nation is hurting. And I pray for those who think 1/6 was a tourist visit. Just spouting the party line. So sad.

  7. I agree. And, It is time for the church to revise it’s exclusionary lectionaries, rituals and rules or the “two-way street” goals for reconciliation become empty words, the facade of another domination system. It’s like saying, “I love you, but you cannot sit at the table with me because I am chosen and you are not.” The is the threat of Christian nationalism. We cannot work to resolve conflict if everyone is not invited to the table to participate. Jesus calls us to unity; as a species we are interconnected with each other and with all creation. A church for all, universal (catholic) is God’s church where all are welcome at the table. Jesus shows us this practice, the Way, and commands us to love one another in humility, not hierarchy. The divine exists in all people–we need to practice “seeing” Christ in the other, even our enemies. This is very challenging, but that is why it is a narrow path.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter​

Includes Saint of the Day, Minute Meditations, and Pause + Pray.