A little while back, I wrote a post about confession. There was a time when I participated in the sacrament only occasionally. Now I go more often, and I can look back and see a pattern of wonderful graces that I have received from the sacrament. Always there is reconciliation, forgiveness, and absolution. But God is so generous. I have, more often than not, found that other graces have been given to me, too.
When I was there a few weekends ago, after I was finished, I wanted to let my confessor know how wonderfully some of the situations I have brought to confession have worked out. Some of them have God's fingerprints all over them. There was a time that whenever I would mention going to the Adoration Chapel, I would be met with some kind of snarky comment from someone that I know and love. I brought that up in confession several months ago, more for some spiritual direction than forgiveness, and he did not hesitate giving some straight-forward advice. What amazes me is that I still have not gotten to use the advice. Any time since then that I have mentioned going to the chapel, I have been met with, "OK, see you when you get back..." or something along those lines. Definitely a grace! And so I wanted to let my kind confessor know how it had worked out. "Do you remember a few months back," I started. "No," he interrupted. "No, I don't remember." And that, too, must certainly be a grace. Not to remember. For the record, I did not take him walking back down memory lane, and he chalked up whatever good things might happen to the movement of the Spirit. No arguments from me.
Last year at the end of Lent, I felt like God had just left me hanging. Lent had started out great, but then kind of fizzled for me. At least that was my perception. Even though I could see some of the things that God was doing in the lives of those close to me, I was feeling so distant. Wondering where He was, and why He was so quiet. Lent did not go according the script I had written! I went to confession, but mentioned nothing about the distance, the perceived silence of God in my life. As he was giving me my penance, something about listening to God, he stopped himself and added, "and there's no two ways about it...God does speak to you and you DO listen." Grace had answered a question I hadn't even asked. It was a wow moment!
Sometimes confession necessarily involves some pain. More than just the nervousness. My pastor says that we all want the resurrection without the crucifixion. And in a real way, confession is a crucifixion of sorts - of the will, of self, of the things that hold us bound. I can remember one a few years ago, when even the preparation was painful. I remember sitting with a pencil in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other, knowing what needed to be written, but having the hardest time writing, "I ______." "Really? Do I have to say that?" I argued with myself. Sometimes the hardest things to confess aren't the big, awful things, but the little, stupid things that we do. But slowly, the list got made, and I found my way to the confessional. Heart pounding.
I had been going fairly regularly, and had gotten pretty good at getting in, taking care of business, and getting out without too much of an emotional investment. (Maybe taking things for granted?) So it caught me off guard on this November morning when I struggled down the list. It was the feeling of walking through thick mud, wondering if I would ever get to the end. And when I finished, my confessor - who never asks questions - came back at me with, "Let me ask you something..." To which my mental reply was, "Oh crap!" "If you could give up something to show your sorrow to Jesus," he continued, "what would it be?" Fortunately I had an answer readily available for that. Some people swear they float out of the confessional, but I seldom do. This time, however, I left thinking, "Ouch! That one hurt!" Pride, I suppose. It should be the sin that is painful, not the reconciliation, but sometimes things are not as they should be in our world. Peace eventually settled into my soul, but I realized that 3 months was perhaps longer than I wanted to wait between confessions next time. Grace.
Are you still with me? Can you stand one more little story? Last summer, I was going on a retreat, but in the brochures I hadn't seen anything about time for confession. It had been a month or so since I'd been, and I had heard that God's grace moves better in a "clean" soul, and I wanted the grace to be able to flow at the retreat. So the day before, I went to confession at my parish. As I left, the priest picked up his Rosary that he had been holding in his lap. It was such a simple thing, but it caught my attention in a powerful way. A priest praying the Rosary! I'd never seen that outside of a funeral home. The retreat...it was all about Our Lady and the Rosary. I doubt it was a coincidence. The Rosary has never been my "thing". I came home and printed out a cheat sheet of the mysteries. I have prayed the Rosary in the months since then...not daily...maybe not even weekly, but when I say it, I pray it. It's a prayer, not a race. Since then I've seen my priest with his Rosary on a couple of occasions. I love that. And for me, it's still a work in progress. So, so many graces started right there!
Do I need to include a disclaimer? These experiences are those of this blogger and may not be typical of other penitents..... But do not be afraid. We meet Jesus one-on-one in the confessional. That is an awesome gift. And we are met with forgiveness and mercy and grace, not with what we deserve. I mentioned in another post, that I fought and kicked for a while before giving into the idea of confession. The final straw for me (or final kick in the pants) was driving by a Pentecostal church one evening that had on the marquee in front, "Humble yourself before God and repent." What great advice that was!