The Archdiocese of New York , in a move that will be replicated in many Diocese throughout the country, will be offering ’round the clock confession on March 5-6.
A well-publicized 24-hour period of confessions has proved to be an effective invitation to the sacrament, and there are always big “turn-outs,” which some might find surprising. As I am swamped today (in a good way) I wanted to direct you to Deacon Greg’s very personal, thoughtful and inspiring story of his own transformative experience of a confession, which occurred when his lukewarmness was giving away to renewed love for the sacraments and fervor for the Mercy of Christ:
…I sat down, took a deep breath and told him my troubles and why I felt I needed forgiveness. He nodded sympathetically and said he thought he might be able to help. Then he opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pamphlet, offered it to me, and smiled. It was a brochure about communication.
I wasn’t sure what to say, but thanked him. He patted my shoulder and said he would pray for me. With that, he stood up to point me back into the church. He had to begin Mass. I didn’t pray the act of contrition. I don’t think he gave me absolution. He told me to have a nice day.
I didn’t. Somehow, I left the confessional feeling worse than when I went in.
I remained skeptical of the sacrament for years after that. I drifted away from regular Mass attendance, and went for years without darkening the door of a reconciliation room or slipping behind the velvet curtain of a confessional. What was the point? In my mind, I was right with God: He knew where I was coming from (and, no doubt, where I was going) and I apologized to him, privately, when it seemed like the right thing to do. End of discussion.
Years later, the twisting road of my life led me back to the church and the sacraments, and it plunged me more deeply into my faith than I had ever imagined possible. There were many reasons for my return: the deaths of my parents, the prayers of my wife and a growing sense that there had to be more to life than just getting up and going to work and planning where to go out for dinner or when to take the next cruise. I became a daily communicant. I served in my parish as an usher and, later, as an extraordinary minister of Communion.
And as part of my journey, when the time became right and my heart became ready, I found myself on yet another Saturday in yet another church, preparing to catalogue my sins yet again.
I was going to give confession another chance.
You’ll want to read the whole thing. Giving confession “another chance” usually ends up working out very well, particularly if your last experience was as vague and unsatisfying as the one Greg describes (which probably means it was during the ’70′s or ’80′s when so many priests seemed a tad overwhelmed by the times).
Confession is a much-maligned, often misunderstood and (from time-to-time) mediocre-seeming sacrament that – in truth – miraculous, and packed with graces. It is the sacrament of lightening, both as in “lifting the heavy load” and as a reflection of (and real encounter with) the radiant love of the redeemer and savior who is always waiting for us to turn to him, and return to him.
If you’re Catholic and haven’t been to confession for a while, I hope you’ll do an internal check and let yourself partake of it. When you have a good confessor (and most of the one’s I’ve encountered have been good) it’s a few minutes that can shake up your weary or stagnant world, for the better.
To be seen by Him does not mean to be exposed to a merciless gaze, but to be enfolded in the deepest care. Human seeing often destroys the mystery of the other. God’s seeing creates it.
We can do nothing better than press on into the sight of God. The more deeply we understand what God is, the more fervently we shall want to be seen by him. We are seen by him whether we want to be or not. The difference is whether we try to elude his sight or strive to enter into it, understanding the meaning of his gaze, coming to terms with it, and desiring that His will be done.
We can do nothing better than place ourselves and all that we have in God’s sight: “Behold me!” Let us put away the fear that prevents us. Let us abandon the sloth, the pretense of independence, and the pride. “Look at the good! Look at the shortcomings! The ugly, the unjust, the evil, the wicked, everything – look at it, O God!”
Sometimes it is impossible to alter something or other. But let Him see it at any rate. Sometimes one cannot honestly repent. But let him see that we cannot yet repent. None of the shortcomings and evil in our lives are fatal so long as they confront his gaze. The very act of placing ourselves in his sight is the beginning of renewal. Everything is possible so long as we begin with God. But everything is in danger once we refuse to place ourselves and our lives in his sight.
Isn’t that wonderful? And I was particularly struck by the line about not being “able” to repent but putting even that inability before Christ. It brought to mind a piece I wrote a long time ago, (and got into trouble with some Catholics for) about a young relative who could not yet repent, but still brought it before Christ.
I think even in our sinfulness, or our reluctance, or our laziness, or our conceit that we don’t “need” to confess because we’re so smart, the instinct to still put the conscience before Christ -no matter what state it is in- can only be a positive instinct that will -in God’s time- work to our spiritual betterment.
My own personal “transformative” confession