Friday, January 7, 2011

grace notes

Confession must be one of my favorite topics to write about, judging from the tags on the side of this blog.

Once upon a time, I had been away from this sacrament for many years and had quite a list that needed to be dealt with.  I was like a fish on a hook; caught, but trying valiantly to escape.  I scoured the internet looking for a loophole that was going to let me out of confession.  But in that vast universe of information, I didn't find a single "out".  Not even email confession.  And in all of that looking and searching, I read.  Reading other people's experiences was comforting to me.  I could see that they went in and survived and lived to tell their story.  Eventually I found the courage to go, and that was a life-changing experience for me.  So maybe that is why I write so frequently about it.

In music, a grace note is a note added in.  It's not part of the main melody - just kind of an embellishment.  Often I find that in confession.  Something that is not part of confession/absolution formula, but something that makes the experience that much better. 

When I was thinking about this post (it's been in the thinking stage for a while) I was thinking that this mostly happens with my current confessor.  But that's not true.  The reason I recognize it now is the frequency with which it happens.  When you are on the once-maybe-twice-a-year confession schedule, you don't have much to compare it to.  When you are going every month or so, you are better acquainted with this grace.  I think that I am not exaggerating too much if I say that I went to confession more in the past year than I did in all of my 20's and 30's combined.

There was a time in my 20's, when a relationship that I had invested three years in had ended, made worse by the fact that the guy I had been dating had found a new relationship with one of my old friends.  A few months after the break-up, still mourning, I went on a retreat.  One of our priests from the Catholic student center came to hear confessions.  I don't remember exactly what I confessed, but I remember him asking, "If these people were really your friends, would they have treated you like this?"  So simple, so obvious, and so what I needed to hear.  It changed the whole way I was looking at things, and then healing was able to begin.  A grace note.

That was probably my last good confession until I was in my 30's.  I went to confession every year or so for a lot of years, but I thought you could just confess the sins you were willing to stop, and just keep going with the other ones.  Not so, folks!  Not surprisingly, there wasn't much grace in those.  Then I got to that fish-on-a-hook stage that I mentioned above.  When I finally found the courage and humility to walk into a church and lay everything at the Lord's feet in a confessional one cold, Advent afternoon, the graces just rained down.  It was the most amazing thing.  One thing that could only have come from God - resentments that I had held for years were erased from memory.(and I didn't confess anything to do with resentments)  Like someone had taken one of those flashy-thingies from Men In Black and just erased them. And there was more - some of it still too personal to go into - but God was very generous.

Sometimes, there have been little annoying things that I have been powerless to stop.  One thing in particular, was being late for daily Mass.  I know that there is no obligation to attend daily Mass, so who knows if being late for something you don't have to attend is a sin?  But I was habitually arriving a minute or two or three after Mass started.  And when Mass only lasts 25 minutes - every minute really does count.  Besides, it is distracting to others and I had no good reason for being late.  Jesus deserved better.  Finally, I confessed it.  That was over a year ago, maybe two, and I have not had to confess it again.  Grace?  You bet!

I could go on.  I have so many examples.  But I'll end here.  Maybe I'll revisit this another time, if it's something other people care to read.

My bottom line - God is waiting for you there.  GO!

9-25-11 Editting to add the picture...(the post looked lonesome in the sidebar with no picture)  I got the picture in an email.  I don't know who the artist is, but it is beautiful.  Also...if this post spoke to you, there is another similar post here.


  1. Lovely, Lovely post! I agree....I was raised Protestant so I REALLY struggled with confession and even after converting I could talk myself out of going to confession. Now that I go more regularly I know what a wonderful blessing it is. I am about to go on a silent (!) retreat in a couple months and will be making a general confession....I am so nervous about it. This post helped me so much! Thank you!!

  2. So glad you posted this. I,too, have found great solace in confession. Going often and targeting particular faults or sins is the best way to receive grace to overcome them. Sometimes God lets us struggle with things for years - especially resentments - but if we keep after ourselves through confession He always comes through for us. Giving up on confession is giving up on ourselves

  3. It wasn't easy for me to get used to going to confession, as I wasn't raised Catholic. In fact, it's still something I'm getting comfortable with. But it's important, and I'm glad to hear of the graces you've received from going to it.

    May we all be blessed with such graces as we take our burdens to the Lord in the confessional, where the Lord, acting through His representative the priest, takes that burden from us.


  4. As an adult convert from nondenominational christian to Catholic, I really struggled with confession. Actually, my first confession to my priest who also was our RCIA co-leader was, "I don't believe in this sacrament." I figured he'd let me off the hook and say that I was not ready to convert, refuse me the Eucharist and put his boot on my butt as I ran from the Church. I confessed nothing. I was admitted, recieved first holy communion and confirmation...went to mass off and on for several years. Fast forward a move across country and insert one SAINTLY PRIEST!! We had an instant connection. After a year, I returned to the sacrament of confession. I unloaded!!! Poor priest probably never knew what hit him. Even though I had been admitted into the Church, I never really felt apart of it. My own stubborness held me back. I consider that confession and the following eucharist my "firsts"...even all those years later. I finally entered God's home on His terms. With His abundant graces and forgiveness and complete acceptance.