Monday, October 26, 2009

pardon and peace

Ahhhh...the first [hopefully] annual Fall Break for the local school system.  A day off with nothing to buy or attend (except for conferences for my boys later this afternoon).  So a list has been forming in my head all week of things I can do with the day.

Top of the list was confession.  After spending a good bit of my life being on the "once every few years" schedule (or worse yet, the "once a decade" schedule) for this poor, misunderstood sacrament, one of my children asked why we only went once a year.  I didn't have a good answer, because surely we can benefit from this font of mercy more than once a year.  So, I take them every three months or so, and have come to find that every month or two works pretty well for myself.  The list doesn't get too long that way. 

Things have been so busy lately, I'm not even sure I've had time to sin, much less time to think about it and ask for forgiveness.  But gradually a mental list started to form, and a day like today where I can just get up and go to Mass without worrying about getting ready for work and getting children ready for school works well for confession, which is before 6:30 Mass. 

On the way, my heart pounds, and I wonder why am I doing this?  Well, because I have never been met with anything other than kindness and encouragement, because graces that I never even expected have come from my encounters with a merciful Jesus, and because often the advice that I get from the priest there in the place of Christ is just what I need to get a handle on something that I haven't been able to do by myself.  I wonder if priests get nervous before they go to confession.  I don't imagine that I will ever be "not nervous". 

Once I am there, it is a matter of opening the door and walking in.  There, the nervousness usually falls away.  I remember at one time thinking that the priest would be shocked or horrified - borrowing from Fred's the big one, Elizabeth! - but they never bat an eye.  Sometimes I get advice (which is - without exception - always helpful); sometimes not.  Sometimes I have a question, and the answer usually makes things so much simpler than it was in my head.  With my current priest, the penance is always "remedial".  Never "say 2 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Mary's", but more likely to spend some time in prayer for a specific person, to perform some small act of self-denial, or once - "go enjoy the quiet before Mass and let Jesus speak to you." 

Then there is time for an Act of Contrition, and that beautiful prayer of absolution asking God to grant pardon and peace.  "Go in peace", the priest says, sometimes followed by, "have a good day."  What is the answer to that?  "Sure thing?"  "Thank you?" Sometimes, as I leave, I feel the weight of the world lifted.  Sometimes not.  It's all good.

The idea of "giving everything to God" has been bouncing around in my head.  I found myself OK with giving about 95%, so while I was there today [and had a 'captive' audience], I asked the priest about it. The 5% that we find ourselves clinging to for dear life, he says, is exactly the part that we need to give up.  Otherwise we risk it becoming an idol in and of itself.  And that in giving whatever it is over to the Lord, we do not lose anything because He perfects it and gives it back to us.  Though not always in the way that we might have thought we preferred. Our God is a God of surprises, and we shouldn't place limits on how He can work.  Is it easy?  No.  "So, prayer?" I asked.  "Yes."  A little spiritual direction and wisdom before sunrise!  And a chance to make some of the crooked lines in my life a little straighter.

I stayed for Mass, so not a bad way to start the day at all!  Can the day get any better?

Seeing that I have parent-teacher conferences for my children and half of the junior high faculty requesting a meeting between the 2 kids, a sink and more full of dishes, a son who needs to do 35 or so note cards today for a research paper, and a bathroom full of dirty clothes to wash, I'm inclined to say NOT!


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