Note: Have you ever written a really long post and then hit Publish after all your hard work, to then be taken to the log-in page? Do you know what that means? It means that, for some reason, WordPress logged you out while you were typing, but for some reason let you keep typing. It also apparently means that your drafts no longer save, but it doesn’t tell you that they didn’t save. It also means that whatever you typed after you were logged out is kind of like your confessed sins: they are gone and forgotten and never to be seen or heard from again. Which is a good thing if you’re talking about sins, but it is not a good thing when you are talking about a half-hour’s worth of thoughts and words. It also means that I may need to go to confession because I was none too happy when I realized what had happened…
I consoled myself by thinking the Devil doesn’t want me to make this post, as if I am about to start an unstoppable reversion back to the Confessional. In reality, it’s more likely that WordPress has an unfortunate bug and I am victim to it. But never underestimate the battlefields used in Spiritual Warfare!
Anyway, here we go again…
Confession stories. Everyone has them. Well, OK, if you’re Catholic then you do. Well, I mean, if you’re a Catholic who actually goes to confession you do.
I recently read a blog post at 8 kids and a business that was a nice, reflective post that covered a lot of good ground on the serious stuff.
But I always like to hear good confession stories on the lighter side. Anyone willing to share?
I’ll throw out a couple…
First, my spiritually uplifting story:
I went to confession after a very long absence – 15 years or so. I never lost my belief in God and I never stopped knowing that there was something important about the Catholic faith. But like many others in the Catholic faith, I had rationalized away the need to go to confession. After all, what would it say about Uncle Richard who was Protestant if I thought you needed to go to confession to be forgiven? Why isn’t it good enough that you just take your sins to God directly? We all know the drill. I don’t think I came up with any new arguments of any intellectual magnitude. I just fell into the convenient ones.
In the meantime, it is very easy looking back at it to see where this led me. Once you rationalize one thing you rationalize the next thing. Pretty soon, it isn’t necessary to go to Mass every Sunday and contraception is no big deal. God ultimately led me to a point in my life where I realized that I need to go to confession. This only occurred after some intellectual honesty with myself. I finally realized that God expects much more out of those to whom certain gifts are given. I can not compare myself to Uncle Richard because I was given the gift of the Sacraments in my Catholic faith, whereas Uncle Richard did not have that same understanding. How many times do we tell certain children “you know better” because it has been explained to them, while other children simply don’t know better? We discipline those children differently because of our expectations of their actions given their level of understanding.
I further realized that the Church has a wisdom about it with respect to the Sacraments that takes uncertainty out of matters. For example, will God allow people into heaven that have not been baptized for one reason or another? We can reflect on that and decide that we think it makes perfect sense that He would. On the other hand, if you are baptized, we believe in the adoption that comes with that and the certainty of having fulfilled the requirement that Jesus placed before us. Likewise, I can certainly believe that God can and does forgive people who are sorry for their sins who don’t go to confession. But at what level of certainty do we have that a particular confession we made worked? I mean, we think that God will forgive us, and after all He is benevolent. But most people won’t hear God actually whisper in their ear and say, “Oh, yes, my friend. You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.” So, you’re kind of left wondering if you were sorry enough. Maybe you should confess again? But no… you have to trust that God did it, and it’s a sin to not accept His forgiveness. Except that you have no proof of actual forgiveness… Agh! Being a practical guy, I finally realized that I can go to confession and get absolution and hear the words “Your sins are forgiven” (and yes, non-Catholics, we know the Priest says it but we believe he is there in the very person of Christ, and it is Christ that is forgiving our sins, not a man. But Christ acts and speaks through him so that we can hear those words of assurance) and be done with all the guessing. It’s actually quite extraordinarily easy, when you think of it.
“I’m going to go to confession, and do a bloodletting…” Um, no. No bloodletting needed.
“I’m going to confession, at which point I will be kicked in the head and smacked with a wet carp.” No… no physical abuse necessary.
“I’m going to confession, but will only be granted forgiveness after running 5 miles and doing 1000 push-ups.” While perhaps of physical benefit, no exercise involved.
“I’m going to confession, where I will tell a Priest my sins, be contrite about it, and then God will wash me clean and forget about those sins as if they never happened.” Get outta here! That’s it?!
As embarrassing as it might be to have to verbally tell somebody how bad you’ve been and how much you’ve sinned for all sorts of silly and unnecessary reasons, the actual thing you need to do for what you get is somewhat unbelievable if we didn’t, in fact, believe it. It’s mighty good stuff.
And so, I finally realized all this. My testimony is that I went and had the closest thing to what those evangelicals describe as a “born again” experience. Except that I was born again in baptism, so what actually happened is that I had mucked myself up with all sorts of spiritual grease and grime and dirt and was scrubbed mightily clean. A huge weight fell off me upon absolution and I almost physically felt the Holy Spirit rush back in. It was amazing. I admit that I long for that same emotional rush from time to time when I go to confession, but since then the experience has been mostly ordinary (if one is ever to consider having your sins forgiven simply for confessing them ordinary). And that’s OK, because we don’t judge Sacramental validity by the emotional pulse of the experience.
For all those who feel, for whatever reason, you don’t need to go to confession… just stop it. Just go. Seriously. In the end, there is no good excuse for not going. There just isn’t. It’s all well and good to trust God, but what is God to think of us when we purposely decide that the avenue He placed before us and is readily available to us for forgiveness is deemed unnecessary? Perhaps you’ve got an answer for Him on that one, but I don’t. And what Uncle Richard is doing is irrelevant. And I haven’t even talked about the gift of grace you receive from the Sacrament. Even if you think you’ve got the answers on the other points, we Catholics truly believe in an actual grace received from the Sacraments that is life-giving and unique. Just. Do. It.
As for some more light-hearted anecdotes, I have a couple.
First, there was the time I visited a parish of which I am not a member, and never attend. This was during the phase where I felt like going “face to face” was somehow more redemptive, because it was like I was hammering my pride even more to put my face with my sins. I finally realized that this was a silly notion, and that the Sacrament wasn’t any more valid whether the Priest saw my overly chubby face than if he didn’t. So now I mostly kneel behind the screen. But I digress…
Anyway, I sat down, and the Priest declared “And you’re wondering to yourself, ‘Who is this guy?'” I was a bit taken aback, since nothing of the sort crossed my mind, I was not a parishioner, and I was just there for confession. As long as there was a Priest there, I was cool. After mumbling something about not being a Parishioner, the confession started. I kid you not, it went as follows [actual sins are Xd out, because they are forgotten by God and none of your cotton-picking business 😉 ]
Me: On one occasion I did XXXXXXX
Priest: Oh, well… that isn’t a big deal.
Me: Um, OK. I still feel like I need to confess it.
Priest: Sure, that’s fine. Is there anything else?
Me: On two occasions I XXXXXXXXX
Priest: Maybe I’m just too liberal on some of these things, but I don’t see anything wrong with that!
By the time it was all done, I felt pretty darn good about myself.
Well, he did give me absolution, so I assume the Sacrament was valid. But part of me wanted to go somewhere and confess again just to validate my suspicions that I had, in fact, sinned.
Then, there was the time I was at a Catholic conference where they had speakers and they offered confessions all day long. I went in and knelt behind the screen and waited. I knew a Priest was there, because his foot was sticking out from behind the screen, propped up on a chair. No sign of the cross… Was I confused? Was I supposed to start? “Bless me Father, for I have sinned…” But that didn’t seem right. Nothing. Then I realized that he was, ever so lightly, snoring. Apparently there had not been a lot of confessing going on recently.
After a sharp cough on my part, I heard the shufflings of a living Priest, which is always a desirable attribute, and the confession was able to commence.
A co-worker who is older recounts a story from his youth. He went to Catholic school and went to confession on a Friday. His mother went into confession on Saturday and despite his protests, forced him to go again. When it was his turn, it went as follows: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was… um, yesterday.” “Tom! Is that you? What are you doing here?” “My mom made me come.” “Get outta here!”
I’ll conclude with a joke, just because I think it’s funny. Imagine a couple older, Polish/Scandinavian guys talking in a Northeast Wisconsin accent, dontcha know, hey.
Stash: Bless me Father for I have sinned.
Priest: Go on.
Stash: I stole some lumber.
Priest: Oh, Stash. That is not good. Stealing is against one of the commandments, dontcha know. What did you do with it?
Stash: I built a birdhouse.
Priest: Well, this could be worse, but it is still stealing. Don’t do it again, and you will need to make 3 Our Fathers for this sin, eh?
Stash: Ya, Father. But there’s something else.
Stash: I took more lumber than that, and built a garage.
Priest: What?! Stash, this is a much bigger deal. What kind of garage?
Stash: My car fits in it all nice-like, ya know.
Priest: Stash, you must pay for the lumber, OK? And now you must make a Rosary as well for this sin. Do you understand?
Stash: Ya, Father. But… um…
Priest: Oh dear…
Stash: I kinda had some lumber left over and built one more thing.
Priest: Which was?
Stash: I kinda attached a house to my garage. Not a real big one.
Priest: Not a real big one!? It’s a house, Stash! This is very serious. You must pay for the lumber! Now, let me ask you, do you know how to make a Novena?
Stash: I never heard of one of them, Father. But if you got the blueprints, I got the lumber!
Thanks for the link to my blog post. And thanks for an honest reflection of your confession experience. The Sacrament of Confession is so hard for us to accept. I teach First Communion Classes in my parish and as part of the program, I encourage the parents of my students to take part in the Sacrament as well. Hardly any parents take me up on the suggestion, which is a shame, since their example would be so effective for their kids’ learning. It’s never easy to tell the priest our sins, whether face to face or behind the screen. But that “born again” feeling that you speak of makes it all worth it. It’s unfortunate that some priests are like the one you went to who was kinda relaxed. I think it’s worth the time and trouble finding a good priest to confess to regularly since he will probably be good at giving insights and direction.
I agree with all your comments. Parents are critical examples for their kids, and I reflect on that often. As you know yourself, it can be a bit wearying being the same example for the 8th kid as it was for that first one.
I love that emotional feeling we get at times in our faith. It makes it “feel” real. But it’s also important to know that it’s real irrespective of how we “feel.” I was listening to a Priest just the other day warn us catholics about focusing on our perception of “how” a Priest reads the Eucharistic prayer. Some people just plain aren’t touchy-feely, and neither is that a reflection on the holiness of the Priest, nor does it make the consecration less valid. When we want that emotional response, sometimes we miss the point. Not that such a response is bad, but often a simple response of simple understanding is just as valuable.
But I do agree that it is nice to have a Priest who offers good insights that can help you walk in faith. I once had a Priest simply say “OK. Don’t do that.” And then proceed with absolution. I noted to myself that if I was ever in need of a one-minute confession, he was the guy to see! But in most cases, I think we all want and appreciate a bit more guidance.
I have found the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be very good confessors,not too serious not to relaxed:)
I went to Confession yesterday and was in great turmoil. As usual, I couldnt face and speak to my ex and his lady friend at a family gathering. It was my granddaughters First Communion Day. I may say that we had a bitter divorce as my ex left me when I was seriously ill. He did provide for my physical needs and I did get alimony, etc. However, when seeing them together, I just cannot deal and it starts several days before the event. I was shocked and am sickened today by what the priest said to me. He told me I should not have my children have separate events because of me. When near the ex and lady he lives with, I do not know what to say and in past times, have barely been able to squeak out a hello. So, I am not feeling too well about this priest or my Catholic faith. I have had a hard time with this forever. Priest tells me I am just unforgiving and ruining my own life. I dont feel that way; I guess I have some anger with the ex because I have needed him to talk with about my children and he wont do it. Today I am left with facing the pit of Hell and feeling very down.
Pat, I don’t often check my blog anymore but am sorry I missed this post. I am not a Priest nor am I a counselor so keep that in mind. I see what your Priest is telling you but I don’t think any Priest wants you to feel as if you’re a horrible person or that you are facing the pit of hell. After all, you went to confession and admitted that this is something you are struggling with. Take the forgiveness and pray.
Some people struggle with all kinds of sin on a continuous basis. I once had a discussion with a porn addict who had to go to confession multiple times a week. Over a great period of time he fell ever day, then every other day, then sometimes he made it a week, and eventually persevered and beat the addiction. He did not give up on himself nor did he give up on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But it wasn’t something that happened immediately. He had to will it every day.
I think you are really struggling to forgive. But persevere. You may need to look in the mirror every day and say you forgive. You may not believe it but say it anyway. Forgiveness doesn’t require that you become best friends or see your ex any more than necessary. But it will eventually bring peace and allow you to bring more normalcy into your life and your kids’ lives. Do your best to get to where you can be together when needed but if you falter just keep at it.
Our whole lives are a work in progress and we all struggle with different challenges. Trust in God and know that he loves you and is there to listen to you pray, vent, cry, etc.
I hope this helps a little.