Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Almost There?

The thing about a spiritual journey is's a journey. When I was young, and we were going on a day trip to the shore, my father would load up the '57 Chevy with blankets and some of our toys while my mother would pack sandwiches, snacks and something to drink. The four children would squeeze into the backseat and we'd all settle in for about an hour drive. Of course, when you are going somewhere fun, an hour drive might as well be a trip to Mars or Jupiter! And it never failed, about ten minutes into the trip, one of us kids would yell out from the back, "Are we there yet?"

Coming back to the Catholic Church was also my spiritual re-birth. That sounds strange coming from someone who left the Church and became a Protestant pastor, but it is true. The Catholic Church has such a treasure of spiritual life, that it is mind boggling when you stop and take a look at it. Within that great spiritual treasure chest lies many ways to develop a strong loving Communion with Our Lord. Coming back to the Church was another step on that journey to that holy union with God. Sometimes I stop and wonder how far I am on this journey and from time to time I want to yell out, "Am I there yet?"

I am not there yet. I get excited with anticipation of that full communion with my Lord and Saviour, but that also causes me to get frustrated now and again. Humans are so wonderfully made, and yet, so easily frustrated. I want what I want, when I want it! That is my humanity speaking. We travel on this spiritual journey through life and we think we know where we should be at any given moment. But, I think the journey to a full communion with God is more than just sitting and waiting to arrive. I believe the journey is also when we are given the time to become familiar with God.

When we got too antsy on our trips to the shore, mom would tell us to play a game along the way. One of those games was to look out the window of our car and spot something that began with the letter "A." after someone located that we would continue down the alphabet until we spotted something that began with the letter "Z." This was more than something to occupy our time until we arrived. This was also something to let us see the beauty of the world around us. This was to remind us that the trip to the shore included many wonderful sights of beauty along the way.

When I returned to the Church I discovered that there are many ways offered by the Catholic Church to develop a fuller communion with God. There are many routes within the Faith to forge a relationship with the Almighty. I have been inquiring into a few of the associations and third orders of the Chruch in the hope of finding a group that will help me see the beauty of God's world as I travel. I have discovered a path with the Confraternity of Penitents that uses the Franciscan Rule of 1221. For me, this association of the Catholic Church has opened my eyes to beauty of the journey on my way to Our Lord, while still reminding me of the place where our hearts will find perfect communion and rest.

How is your journey going? What do you see today that begins with the letter "A?"

Monday, March 2, 2009

Never Too Late to Confess

There is such a beauty in returning to the Catholic Church. I had been away for such a long time, I was literally overwhelmed when the priest I visited offered to give me the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For so many years that term "confession" frightened me. I grew up Catholic and I went to confession fairly regularly. I remember the queesy feeling as I approached the confessional. I remember feeling my heart pounding hard against my chest as I opened the curtain to the confessional box. Oh, and how could I ever forget the swirling of all those sins in my mind as the kneeler squeeked! When I was young it was so scary to spill out all of my sins to the priest.

But when I returned to the Church after twenty-four years away it was a matter of need. I wanted to unburden myself. I wasn't sure what to expect. There wasn't a fear of telling the priest my sins; the question was where to begin? I didn't know if I could possibly recall twenty-four years worth of sin. And here is where the priest is wonderful. The priest led me through the whole process. I did remember how to begin! "Please bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been twenty-four years since my last confession." After that the priest just listed groups of sins as they related to the Ten Commandments. I simply had to think about my past and answer yes or no to each sin that Father mentioned.

When Father finished the list, he gave me my penance and then gave me what I had absolutely longed for--absolution! Oh my! It is just such a great burden that gets lifted from one's shoulders when those words of absolution are pronounced.

In February, it was just three years since I returned to the Church. I have gained such a strong appreciation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I try to let no more than a month pass before I return to confession. There is an amazing spiritual strength a person gains with the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If you are just returning to the Catholic Church or perhaps just thinking about it, I would encourage you to talk with a priest about this sacrament. Ask a priest what to expect and how he handles the sacrament when a person has been away for a long time. A priest once told a penitent who had been away for a long time that the saints and angels were rejoicing at the foot of God's throne when the penitient returned. Imagine that! I hope if you are considering a return to the catholic Church you will speak with a priest and take him up on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I would love to know that the saints and angels are having a party because you are coming back!