I’m joining up with the CWBN blog hop’s topic this month – “My True Feelings about Confession.” As it happens, this is a favorite topic of mine. So, grab your coffee and settle in, because I’ve got a story to go along with my outpouring of emotion over this particular sacrament!
When I was in high school, my best friend – an Episcopalian – did a once in a lifetime “confession” to her priest as part of her confirmation process. I had never contemplated such a thing, but what she described sounded wonderful. I found myself wishing that I was Episcopalian, rather than Methodist, so that I could partake of this strange but marvelous ritual, and wondering: Why does she only get to do it once?
I was even – dare I say it? – a tad bit jealous that Heather got to unburden all of her sins and hear those special words of absolution.
In the years to come, the niggling sense of “missing out” remained, and got stronger when I began to study the Catholic Church. While I had heard many Christians protest the Catholic need to confess their sins to a man, I, personally, had never had a problem with it, romanced as I was by hearing about Heather’s experience years before. Now, as I began to learn and appreciate the Biblical roots for the Sacrament, the seed of desire that had been planted so many years before took root, and blossomed.
I’m pretty sure that most people who approach their first Reconciliation at the age of thirty-one do so with a solid dose of trepidation and foot-dragging. I, on the other hand, couldn’t get to the confessional quickly enough. My sins were no less egregious than any other thirty-one-year-old’s. In fact, there were quite a few of them that were very serious indeed. But if sixteen-year-old me could appreciate the value of a good confession, then properly evangelized and catechized thirty-one-year-old me knew it to be more precious than any gem. Was I nervous? Of course. But my excitement far outweighed my nervousness.
My first Reconciliation was not a disappointment, but rather an experience that far exceeded any expectations I had set. Does everyone experience a physical sensation of weight being lifted from their shoulders? I’ve often wondered that, but never really had the courage to ask. Regardless, I love that feeling, and it plays a big roll in the frequency of my visits to the confessional.
Regardless, there have been times, since that First Reconciliation, when I have approached the Sacrament with a fair amount of foot dragging. It was one thing during my first confession to tell the priest, in the person of Christ, every sin I’d perpetrated over the course of my life. There was no perspective of timeline. I had committed this sin, but – for all he knew – that was five years ago, and I’d been near-perfect ever since. Now, I have to start with the admission that it’s only been “X” number of weeks since my last confession and I – who should know better, do better, and be better – have done…. that. Again.
But that’s part of the beauty of the Sacrament, right? The very dread of having to tell our sins to a priest helps prevent us from committing the sin, even when the dread of disappointing God isn’t enough.
Interestingly, I noticed in the first several years of my Catholicism that I seemed to come under attack shortly after receiving Reconciliation. Almost immediately upon returning home, someone in the house would start acting out. In fact, saying they went bat-poo crazy would not really be an exaggeration. This tempted me where I was most likely to fail – and I inevitably did. It wasn’t the family member, directly, of course, but – without trying to sound like the Church Lady – Satan did seem to love bringing me down within hours of being cleansed. I’m also quite certain that he took great joy in showing my as-yet-non-Catholic husband just how holy I wasn’t. I learned to pray against those attacks on my way home from the church, and found that the attacks ended.
Matthew Kelly compares confession to cleaning out your car. For several days afterward, you’re crazy about keeping the thing clean. The kids aren’t allowed to eat in it, you’re a total freak about emptying it every time you get home, and you would never, ever dream of putting so much as a gum wrapper in the door. But then one day you’re rushing from one appointment to the next. You grab fast food and a few fries fall on the floor as you’re eating. The next day you chew gum and, for lack of a better spot, mar the cleanliness of that preciously door compartment. Next thing you know, your once immaculate car has become a rolling trash can.
So it is with our souls. We get them all sparkly clean through Confession, and for a few hours – or days, if we’re working really super hard – we keep them pretty spotless. But then you tell the kids seven gazillion times to pick up their dirty socks and finally – on the seven gazillion and first time – scream at them that they’d better put down their devices, get off their rear-ends, and actually do something to help around here! Next thing you know, you’re yelling like a shrew over the wet towel on the wooden floor and having your own personal pity party about how over-worked and under-appreciated you are.
As you can tell, I’ve found Matthew Kelly’s analogy to be all too true. I’m just a better person when I receive the Sacrament regularly! The further I get away from it, the further I grow from Christ, the more I sin, and the harder it becomes to face the priest again. Much better to clean out the
car soul frequently, in order to prevent it from growing into a virtual wasteland of pride, arrogance, self-pity, anger, self-indulgence, and… so much more!
With such a wide array of sins to struggle against, I do get a little nervous everytime. It is by know means a comfortable experience, stating your sins to another person! But, while I can’t claim the same excitement with which I anticipated that first Reconciliation, when the words of absolution wash over me, and I feel the physical weight of my sins lift from my shoulders, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.
How do you really feel about Confession? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments, below!
To learn how other Catholic bloggers really feel about Confession, visit the CWBN Blog Hop!