How Confession Felt in Childhood
The Sacrament of Confession is rife with nerves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrament_of_Penance#Contemporary_confessional_practiceEven from childhood, I remember standing in line, with my knees quivering. I’d go over my sins in my mind (usually bickering with siblings), and I’d hope to get my list right, so as not to ramble too much and embarrass myself. Then there is The Act of Contrition to declare at the end. I was petrified I’d forget it –then my Confession wouldn’t “count”! Oh, what we put ourselves through in this process!
One time I had a really bad sin to share. My brother, Tom, (a mere 20 months older than me) was winning some sort of competition we had. (I honestly do not know how my mother stood us). I finally caught up with him and knocked a ceramic ashtray on his SHIN! I can still hear his agonized whimper. I could see the Priest’s shocked expression when I told him that one.
On the positive side, I distinctly remember walking out of the Confessional and feeling cleansed. Kind of like when you float in a pool –absolute weightlessness. It was nice! And…my brief, immaculate soul lasted about a half hour, until Tom and I had yet another quarrel.
Confession As an Adult
In adulthood, with consuming work and child-rearing, Confession was definitely few and far between. Only when our daughters got the Sacrament of Confession in elementary school did we join them in the fun. In the Catholic Church, the requirement is once a year. I barely did that. Years went by. When I finally made it back, I had to sheepishly reveal, “It’s been 4 years since my last Confession.” Ugh. Father, I know I suck.
Today in my 5th decade, I firmly believe Confession grants an abundance of graces to us:
- We become way closer to God.
- We are more patient.
- We are more apologetic when we need to be, so that all our relationships improve.
- Confession helps us to look inward. the only person we can control is our own self and our responses to whatever life throws at us. We do not control what others say, do, or think.
- Confession assists us in being the best version of ourselves.
12-Step Programs and Their 4th Step Inventory-A Form of Confession
Step 4 states, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. https://12step.org/the-12-steps/step-4/
In the 4th Step Inventory, family members of an alcoholic or addict can focus on their responses to their loved one who suffers. An alcoholic or addict has a disease, and this disease makes them do and say things that are hurtful to their families. Family members, unfortunately, can pile on to this scenario by yelling and shaming. With a 4th Step Inventory, family members learn to become better people-more compassionate and more patient. With this vital change and improved relationship, the alcoholic/addict may seek recovery sooner.
A 4th Step Inventory includes:
- A list of transgressions committed during moments of weariness and anger, resulting from living with a person struggling with this disease.
- The list also includes our own character flaws to improve.
- This can be one page or many pages.
- Writings are shared with a safe friend, and with God.
Experiences in the Confessional-Bad “Bedside Manner”
In recent years, I was unhappy with various Priests who heard my Confession. In face to face, I saw scowling. Unreal. Here I am, baring my soul, and someone wants to give me the stank eye? These times made me want to quit forever. Then my wise husband said, “It doesn’t matter who you tell; you get all the benefits, no matter how rude Father is!” He went on. “Remember Principles Above Personalities”. Yep, as usual, he was right. (Hate when he’s right)!
Good “Bedside Manner”
God is constantly trying to show us things. Sneaky and creative, our God is! After my unfortunate Confessional episodes, the next time I went, I had a Priest spend almost a half hour with me. We chatted about all sorts of things. I felt like I was riding up in a hot air balloon it was so nurturing. That particular Confessor included laughter in his presentation. He sure knew how to make an unpleasant task super fun and supportive.
Above is Matthew 18:18-20, and it describes how Jesus gave his apostles the ability to hear Confessions. Jesus wanted there to be witnesses to this process. Many people say, “Why can’t you just tell God your sins, and have privacy?” No doubt this is way easier and more comfortable.
I believe Confession is a ceremony of sorts. We discipline and humble ourselves to share truthfully the things we have done which create our distance from God. Confession is a returning to our closeness with God.
The Best News of All
When a Priest tells us he forgets all our sins, he reminds us that so does God! Poof! Gone! This is how much we are loved and cherished by the Lord. He desires us to work toward being who He calls us to be. He appreciates our efforts to work in partnership with Him to receive His healing. Lying in bed and stating our sins to God-a Volkswagon. Attending Confession-a Cadillac.