First of all, I feel terrible that I left Hyperbole and a Half’s story of her attempt to stage a nativity play at the age of six (“The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas“) off of my Christmas traditions list. Hie thee hence and read this wonderful story/comic. Here’s how she handles her own Mary costume:
Ok, now that you’re back, and have had a few deep breaths to stop laughing quite so hard…
Yesterday, at Mass, the priest’s homily was mostly focused on trying to encourage parishoners to go to confession before Christmas, so they could receive the Eucharist at Christmas. Advent is a season of preparation, and, now that we’re finally presented with the chance to welcome Christ, we want to be able to greet his coming wholeheartedly, with nothing warping or obscuring out relationship. The neighborhood church is running seven straight hours of confession today, to make sure everyone will have the time they need.
So, it seems like a good time to share a very affecting piece by Fr. Mike Schmitz (“My Side of the Confessional: What is it like for a priest?“). Here’s an excerpt:
But why is Confession a scary place for a priest? It is frightening because of the way in which Jesus trusts me to be a living sign of His mercy.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once told priests that we scarcely realize what is happening when we extend our hands over someone’s head in absolution. We don’t realize, he said, that the very Blood of Christ is dripping from our fingers onto their heads, washing the penitent clean.
I was lucky enough to have this article sent to me shortly after my reception into the Church, before I made my first confession, and it helped me long for this sacrament. I was confused when some of the teachers in RCIA talked about how much they loved the sacrament of reconciliation — fessing up to what you’ve done wrong sounds like just an uncomfortable duty — but this article, and the experience of preparing for and receiving the sacrament myself changed my mind.
By the time I go to confession, I’ve already done something wrong. Telling the priest isn’t reenacting the sin or making it more real (though speaking things out loud sometimes makes me notice them more sharply). The damage is already done. When I go to confession, I’m acknowledging my sins so that they can be healed. The sins and the wounds they cause me and the people I love are with me from the moment I commit them. Confession is the opportunity to accept mercy for them.
And finally, over here at Patheos, Deacon Greg Kandra has posted a beautiful reflection on the best advice he ever got about serving the Christmas Mass.