Mercy and forgiveness are at the heart of being Christian, and Missionaries of God’s Love Father Ken Barker recognises that the world yearns for both today. PAUL DOBBYN spoke to Fr Barker about his insights
AN awareness of the God-like qualities of mercy and forgiveness and their absence in modern life has been foremost in Fr Ken Barker’s mind for many years.
So perhaps it’s no surprise the Missionaries of God’s Love founder locates it as a central theme in his latest book His Name is Mercy.
But as Fr Barker also explained, his encounter with a letter written to a religious superior by a nun raped during the Bosnian War by Serbian soldiers was another primary motivation to write the book.
“This and other stories have been gathered into the book from every continent from depths of conviction I have that mercy is a great quality,” he said.
At Fr Barker’s July 8 presentation at Brisbane’s Pray 2010 gathering, he referred to the quality of mercy as “this marvellous power”.
Speaking afterwards to one who was fortunate enough to attend his presentation The Wonder of Adoration, Fr Barker said the response to his book launched the previous day at St Stephen’s Chapel “had revealed a real hunger for this message both inside and outside the Church”.
“People who have read the book have been coming up and saying things like: ‘This is so timely for me – thank you’,” he said.
“In a way this is no surprise … the issue of mercy is so important, especially in this litigious age we live in.
“Everyone is after justice and rightly so.
“We should never lose the desire for justice.
“However, we should also seek the ability to forgive … forgiveness is like the spiritual work of mercy.
“In my ministry as a priest I have seen forgiveness liberate the human person – and the lack of it imprison them.
“There are people walking around with deep wounds from resentment against others.
“There are also those suffering toxic guilt from some past actions.
“They cannot forgive themselves, so neither can they show mercy to others.”
Fr Barker said the quality of mercy has been described by theologians as the highest quality in the heart of God.
“Pope John Paul II said mercy was God’s most stupendous attribute.
“So, if we want to have the heart of God in our lives, we need to have mercy in our hearts.
“Also because we have received mercy from the Lord, we should show gratitude by our acts of mercy and forgiveness to one another.”
A Bosnian’s nun’s letter which showed a remarkable ability to forgive after discovering she was pregnant following her rape by Serbian soldiers was a major inspiration for His Name is Mercy.
“The nun’s letter had been reproduced in a book I once read,” Fr Barker said.
“She had written a letter to her superior telling her she could no longer continue as a religious sister as she had a child in her womb following her rape by soldiers – the God who called her to consecrated life seemed to have abandoned her.
“However, towards the end of letter I was struck by her insight that this was a new stage in her life and positive outcomes were still possible.”
Listening to Fr Barker talk, the message is clear: if a religious sister can find the strength to move on and find forgiveness in this terrible situation, surely it is not so hard or even impossible for the rest of us.
His Name is Mercy is available from Catholic bookshops and the Missionaries of God’s Love spiritual association in Brisbane which can be contacted on 0405 514 929.