I’ll be the first to say that the sacrament of confession receives a bit of a bad rap. This is especially true among people who dread going, because they either get nervous and worry about forgetting the Act of Contrition, or forget to confess some of their sins because of their anxiety. I fall into both groups, but have made a promise to myself that confession will be a more regular part of my life.
My daughters and I, through my gift of procrastination, got caught in a time warp and didn’t end up fulfilling our Easter duty until the eleventh hour. Our last opportunity for confession before Easter was just last night. I realized this exactly twenty-eight minutes before the penance service, which was a 20 minute drive away. I had my doubts as to whether or not my girls would feel comfortable confessing to an unknown priest, as they have a great fondness for our parish priest. They are both very reserved, so I convinced them that this would be an experience that would help them grow, plus they could use a cheat sheet.
We hurriedly finished dinner, and I ran to get our “script,” a piece of writing I had created last year when my girls had received the sacrament for the first time. Thank goodness for the little prompt, a blessing for a Nervous Nellie like me. My girls had only had one confession in their short lives (this I promise to amend as well), so they felt a bit shaky as to the routine.
As we pulled out of our driveway, it was barely light out, but a light mist was falling. We were on our way to the next city east of us on the map, and had never been to the church. Darkness fell upon us, and we pulled into the traditional-looking church’s driveway in the nick of time. The communal penance service was starting! We hurried into the church, thinking there might be hundreds of people awaiting confession.
What we found were about sixty people, divided between four possible confessional lines. The service was meant to last an hour, but, since there were people there that had quite a bit to say, we ended up waiting an hour and a half before our turns in the confessional, standing up. You might say that we received part of our penance awaiting confession, as we were also told to say our Acts of Contrition before the confession by one of the priests, lest we be there all night. I marveled at how few people were there, especially young people. Maybe everybody else had NOT waited until the last minute, like me, or, maybe parents are not taking charge and bringing their children as often as the church would like.
What is the hold-up, when our church is experiencing such a revival in our time? In my opinion, confession is the greatest thing (aside from the Eucharist) that a catholic can do. It makes you feel so much better to know that your sins are forgiven, and we are free to begin again. As my daughters both agreed, saying, “We’re gonna keep our souls clean! We don’t want them to get dirty for a long time! …‘Cept, it’s kinda hard to do.”
I went into the closed confessional first. The light was out when I first arrived, so – uh-oh, I’d have to depend on my aging memory. (Warning, Warning! Danger Will Robinson!) Luckily, Father turned on the light, and we began our time together.
My confession seemed so ordinary, like any other I’d ever done. Father was tired after hearing so many confessions. While my sins were numerous, he did not admonish me for not receiving the sacrament as often as I should. I unburdened myself, realizing that while I did not commit unforgivable sins, the reason I had not been sleeping well lately was my lack of confession! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? I thought I was just fighting the exhaustion of working motherhood, but in truth, it was so much more. Consider that, in not unburdening ourselves and obtaining forgiveness, we are more vulnerable to health conditions, like stress. We are less able to give to others as we and God would like us to do, as we are depending on our own strength to see us through our days.
The most amazing thing is that God speaks directly through the priest, and the Holy Spirit fills the confessional with His light, His love, His power for healing. Our sins are forgiven! Confession is an amazing gift, and we can never thank God enough for it. Through His love and forgiveness, we are healed. God’s love is transmitted directly to us through the words of the priest. What amazing power is present in the confessional!
Thank You, God for this very precious gift in the Sacrament of Confession!!! Let’s all make a promise to take God up on this amazing lifetime offer as often as possible.