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!


PartyGurle said...

I feel as if you just looked inside me and pulled out my thoughts! I, too, have been away (over 10 years) and just recently returned. However, I was blessed to have found Catholic Answers Forum where several people there gave me wonderful advise on how to make a good confession. My priest didn't have to pull my out of me, I actually went in with a list! But, like you, had a hard time trying to recall all those sins. After that first confession back, I still recall sins that I did not remember, even the ones when I was a kid and did not confess because of fear. I guess it will take a few times to cleanse myself...
But it is a WONDERFUL feeling, isn't??

Jim said...

Thank you PartyGurle! Yes, it is a wonderful feeling. I was told that if I forgot to confess a sin, not to worry, but to mention it the next time. however, the sins (remembered and not remembered) are forgiven in absolution. I remember as a child that I would generalize, so that I didn't sound like such a little wretch! Looking back on that I laugh at what those sins that I thought were so hideous actually were!

It is soooo wonderful that you also returned to confession after such a long time away! I am sure the saints and angels are rejoicing that you have that wonderful grace from Our Loving God!
And may God continue to bless you!

know-what-nutrition-means said...

I haven't been away from the Catholic Church but I nevertheless have not gone to confession since I was in high school. I feel compelled to go to confession now as I try to strengthen my faith during Lent. I need to muster the courage to go after having not gone for so long.

Jim said...

Hi Know! I have found Confession to be a very life-affirming thing. I have compared my experiences of confession now with my experiences from when I was younger and I must say, the priests are much more compassionate. Most priests understand that we are all human and fallen. I've never felt I was being judged by the priest (but I judged myself guilty many times).

I will say a prayer for you to have strength and courage as you prepare to attend confession.

know-what-nutrition-means said...

Dear Jim,
I just wanted to reaffirm that the Lord does hear our prayers, for today I finally partook in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I felt the peace and mercy of the Lord, in a way that I hadn't in a long time. I wanted to thank you for your prayer. Moreover, I wanted to comment that one of the major factors in wanting to confess was to prepare for the Feast of the Divine Mercy, which is the Sunday after Easter. It just SO HAPPENS that your blog features the image of the Divine Mercy of Jesus! If that is not a signal grace I don't know what is. God Bless you.