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!