Mercy, caring and forgiveness essential for life together

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 3, 2016

Three of this columnís coffee companions, Max Oliva, Martin Hattersley and David Irvine, have recently published books filled with wisdom essential for personal and collective wellbeing.

Responses to last week’s column on forgiveness have prompted me to recommend three recent books by our coffee companions.

You’ll recall I referred to retired lawyer/Anglican priest Martin Hattersley’s example of forgiving the murderer of his daughter, Cathy Greeve. Martin’s forgiveness, of course, did not preclude the courts carrying out their mandate, but it did include his sitting by the side of the murderer during the subsequent trial to strengthen him for what lay ahead.

One response was from Martin’s daughter, Nancy Whistance-Smith.

Nancy’s son, Greg, compiled 100 of Martin’s columns, sermons and lectures into a book, The Fifth Column, she said. One of the chapters, “The Spirits in Prison,” is the sermon he delivered to the Prison Fellowship Group at Edmonton Institution shortly after Cathy’s death. But what did he say to this collection of incarcerated criminals? Did he point an accusatory, vengeful finger at them? Or did he point to something higher, something merciful? To find out, purchase a copy his book at, or read the chapter online at

Ah yes, mercy. Another of our readers just published Becoming a Person of Mercy ( The book consists of Fr. Max Oliva’s personal reflections on the works of mercy, an inspiring conclusion to the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In his section, “Visiting those in Prison,” the popular writer/retreat speaker urges his readers to go beyond their comfort zone and reach out to the most marginalized in society – to create, in the words of Pope Francis, a “culture of friendship” in which we treat each other as beloved siblings under God.

But siblings can drift apart. What then? In Caring is Everything, Cochrane author/keynote speaker David Irvine shares lessons he’s learned during his journey of reconnecting with his brother, celebrated Canadian physician Dr. Hal Irvine, of Sundre.

Their professional lives had taken the two in different directions, and over the years their brotherly love had cooled. But Dr. Hal’s inoperable brain tumor provided the catalyst for healing in their relationship through authentic caring.

Forgiveness is a major component of caring, David writes. But “just what does it mean to forgive?” Forgiveness takes courage, requires distinguishing anger from resentment and takes time, he says. It is a decision that leads to freedom, “and the person forgiving is the one freed.”

David is launching Caring is Everything in Cochrane at Legacy Guitar and Coffee Shop on Sat., Nov. 12, 2:00-4:00 p.m. (or available online at

I’ll close with a note written by Cathy Greeve a few years before her death, words, her sister Nancy says, that may help explain her family’s relationship of forgiveness with the murderer:

"The most powerful prayers are offered by those who have been wrongfully treated and choose to forgive and minister forgiveness and healing to the very one who used, abused and cheated them."

PS: Any wisdom here for the healing of the American nation after this bitterest of presidential races?


© 2016 Warren Harbeck

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