And be renewed!
I’ll be there, tomorrow, please join me! It has been two months since my last confession, and more than past-time for me to again avail myself of the soul-settling power and grace of this sacrament.
And this confession will include — among my copious other sins large and small — “I yelled at a guy on the radio and was full of anger and uncharity, when I really did know better, but nobody steps on a nun in my town…” and “I went to Mass unwillingly because sometimes, it feels like penance and mortification should never begin with the liturgy…should it?”
Yeah. It’s gonna be a long one. I’m sorry if you’re behind me on line, but I hope you’ll hang in there, and wait through it, and take your turn at it. It’s worth it to be renewed!
It’s worth it to be ready for the resurrection!
On Confession from a while back:
It’s true that our contrition, brought to Christ, brings forgiveness, but Confession is something else. It’s a very easy thing to confess your sins to yourself and to the Invisible. It’s different to confess your sins to yourself, the Invisible, and to another human being. I think in so doing, you are embracing a bit of humility, you’re naming and owning the sin – “yes, I did it. I kicked the dog. I stole the money. Yes, I screamed at the kids. Yes, I ran a stop sign and then wheedled out of it when the cop stopped me. Yes, I cheated. Yes, I lied. Me. I did it. No, there is no excuse, there are no buts. I did it. I wish I had not.”
And there is something wonderful about the Rite of Absolution – you have to do it to understand. It’s like…”heaven, pour down your waters from above, let the Just One descend. open up O earth, and let the Savior bud forth…” It feels like that.
There is power in naming the sin to another, and in hearing it acknowledged, and the power helps to set you free of it. (I once had a priest listen to me and simply sigh saying, “well, that was a stupid thing to do!” And I could only nod my head and agree. It was a stupid thing to do. You have no idea how enormously helpful I found it to hear someone else acknowledge it, and to fully realize that my behavior was not only sinful but STUPID. Somehow, it made it very easy to never repeat the sin.)
I’ve heard Catholics and non-Catholics talk about “Catholic guilt” and I’ve never understood it. I understand a Catholic conscience, which is one that is aware enough to be bothered by wrongdoing and by sin and wishes to be delivered of it, but I’m not sure what Catholic “guilt” is, because my own experience with Confession is that it expiates guilt.
I once did something of which I was very ashamed – it’s one of those things the psalmist knew about when he wrote “my sin is ever before me…” or at least it felt that way to me, not a proud chapter in my life, so to speak. No matter how many times I approached the issue in Confession I could never quite bring myself to speak the words, to get the whole matter out there. I’d be circumspect, I’d tell one piece of it, one, aspect, but not the other five. While I knew very well that there is no such thing as a sin a priest has never heard of, I simply could not acknowledge to myself the truth of my sin. I knew I was forgiven! I knew the contrition of my heart could only move the Savior to mercy, because he promised us that mercy, and yet I also knew that this thing was going to, in an odd way, own a tiny piece of me forever, until I could speak it. Until then, I knew no prayer would be entirely selfless, no worship would be unsullied or complete.
Understand, it’s not like the thing was pounding in my brain. I wasn’t obsessing, I wasn’t running around feeling oppressed by guilt. I simply knew that I had left something aside, apart, kept from the full offering of myself. Going to Confession had always been, for me, a way of saying, “take all of this, Jesus, here, I’m giving it to you, and you’ll wash me and I will be whiter than snow…” To keep holding back on the full story of my sin was like saying, “I don’t fully trust you with this one…I’m just going to keep this over here to the side, and we’ll pretend it’s not there…” And it’s VERY easy to do that. I had prayed my contrition years before. I knew I was “forgiven.” Why did I need to bring it to confession…after all, my Protestant friends didn’t have to do that! I became quite Ecumenical about it. Still loved Confession, but on this one sin, I was going to take a page from my Assemblies of God pal, and keep it between Jesus and me.
Finally, finding myself in an unfamiliar church during Confession hour I said, “this is it…” I poured it all out to a wonderful friar who listened intently and understood. He spoke consolingly for a few minutes, no big harangue (I know there are bad confessors out there, and shame on them, but I have always been blessed with good priests) and then he said, “Let this be an end…” It was precisely what I needed to hear.
We are body, mind and spirit. Confession – like other Catholic and Orthodox practices – serves not just the soul but the mind, and yes, even the body. Sometimes you need to physically hear it all – the sin, the consolation, the prayer, the absolution. I wonder, sometimes, if the “victim mentality” we have seen grow over the last few decades, and the dependence upon therapists haven’t grown so large, so quickly, simply because so few take understand or take advantage of the release and freedom that comes from the Sacrament of Confession, and the grace the sacrament provides in helping to avoid those sins in the future.
“Maybe it’s not grace,” a secularist friend once suggested to me. “Maybe it’s not that the sacrament confers grace or helps you to avoid a sin in the future; maybe it’s just that you’ve worked a thing out in confession and it no longer has the hold on you. The so-called sin is no longer attractive.”
Okay. That sounds like grace to me.
And…the Donkey chimes in.