Learning Reconciliation at My Mother’s Knee

When I think about reconciliation, I can’t understand this idea, this very important value, without thinking of certain special events in my own life which have helped me appreciate this central need for us as human beings.

Fr. Ron Gagne, M.S., with his mother, Flora

When I was about seven years of age, I remember overhearing my parents mention that my father’s oldest and youngest brothers were no longer talking. They had an argument and each decided there was no use speaking to the other ever again. Upset feelings lingered and my mother decided to do something about this unacceptable situation. Since my mother had seven brothers, she was well aware of how to deal with boys, even those who had grown up to become “men.”

My parents, as they often did, decided to host a family gathering at our home. My mother deliberately invited both still-angry brothers to our party, obviously not letting the other know his brother would be there. I remember when my first uncle arrived, accompanied by his wife and my little cousin, whom I was waiting to play with. I quickly brought my cousin up to my room to play.

A few minutes later, when the doorbell rang, I was walking by the front door with my cousin. I opened the door and there was my second uncle, the oldest. Then my mother warmly welcomed him and his wife and brought them inside. When my uncle saw his youngest brother standing nearby in our parlor, he became very upset and grabbed his wife’s hand and headed toward the front door.

But before he could leave, my mother had deliberately took her place in the center of the doorway. With a gentle but direct tone, she said, “We are here together now. We are not allowed to avoid speaking to each other. We are family. Now shake hands, let bygones be bygones, and let’s have a good time.”

hands-shake.jpgMy younger uncle stood there near his brother. Both stood uncomfortably for what seemed like an eternity, mystified by my mother’s gentle words of reproof. Then my younger uncle, with a slight smile on his face, reached out his hand, apologizing for being so stubborn. My older uncle just couldn’t believe what was happening but responded by taking his brother’s hand and laughing. They awkwardly embraced and, by the end of the day, we were all back to “normal” again as family.

I have been a member of the La Salette Missionaries since 1966. Our charism — gift or ministry emphasis — is reconciliation. However much I have learned much about our charism within my own personal adult relationships and by ministering to others, it has all been based on my first experiences of forgiveness and reconciliation within my own family. I am proud to say that those values and experiences are the solid foundation for my present life and ministry.

Recently I came across a quote from M. Therese Lysaught, an associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Theology at Marquette University. She said: “…the real work of reconciliation is not as much about programs, strategies or fixing all things as it is about the ordinary, mundane, daily work of living faithfully and patiently in our local, particular, face-to-face contexts. And if we do, if we enter humbly into God’s work in the world, what can happen? New creation!” Her words ring so true.

My two uncles continued to live their lives on this earth “as family” until they finally met their Lord. I hope that each of us attempt to deal with our own situations in life with as much determination, love and persistence as my mother. She taught me the true meaning of what it means to be a reconciler in this day-to-day world.

Gagne-Belleavance Family Reunion in 1953 at Ste-Anne de Beaupré Shrine, Quebec

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