After 9-11, my family found its way back into the pews of a church, but it took me a little while longer to make it all the way back "into the boat". I had taken somewhat of a leave of absence from church. It had started when I was pregnant with my first born. We had a new pastor, and try as I might, I was not really all that fond of him. I was tired one Saturday afternoon (when I would have had a chance to go to Mass) and decided just to skip it. I remember that like yesterday. And from then on, it got easier and easier not to go.
I had a baby...and it was just to hard to plan church attendance around naps and nursing. And then there were two. My toddler nearly escaped in the parking lot one Sunday after Mass when I let go of his hand to open the door to put the baby in the car. And then there was the time as preschoolers that they stopped a homily dead in mid-sentence fighting over a book. (This church is now our parish and they altar serve there, but we didn't return for a l.o.n.g time after that episode.)
So, yeah, church attendance was sporadic. Until 9-11.
I don't remember if we would abstain from Holy Communion in our sometimes attending church days, but for some reason, at this point, we knew that we should. So we stayed in the pew while everyone else received.
In the months that followed, I was like a fish on a hook. Caught. But still flopping around. Not quite in the boat. I knew I needed to go to confession, but I surely wasn't all that eager to go. I was hoping that in the time that I had been away, the church had caught up with the times and figured out how to do email confession. I was pretty sure that would be better than face-to-face. A whole lot less embarrassing, anyway, because you know, I had some "things" on my list.
I devoured information on the internet about confession. And do you know, I did not find one loophole that would let me off the hook. No email confession. No statute of limitations. No magic formula of prayers and good deeds. But I did find plenty of evidence that other people had gone to confession, some with similar or even worse things than those on my list, and even lived to tell about it! Much of what I read was encouraging. I would read and reread those things. I was just going to have to do it!
So I began to formulate my plan. I thought Advent would be a good time because there were Penance Services in Advent and everyone knows there is safety in numbers there. But, alas, Penance Services didn't seem to be quite as popular as they had been 15 or so years earlier. I know most priests will schedule confessions "by appointment", but there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I was going to call and put my business out there with the secretary and whoever else. So...it was going to just have to be a regular confession time.
Trying to get away on a Saturday afternoon with a 4 and a 6 year old just wasn't going to happen in my world. Everywhere I went, they went, and that just wasn't going to work for this. And the priest...just any old priest wasn't going to do. I wanted someone who I knew wouldn't throw me right out of the church.
The priest at the parish where we had started attending after 9-11 was just such a person. He had been at the Catholic Student Center when I was in college and then was pastor at the parish I had attended before my leave of absence. He had married dear hubby and I. I knew him well, and I knew that he would react with the compassion of Jesus.
His parish had an evening Mass on Tuesdays (and I assumed confession before Mass) . Tuesday was a good day because dear hubby would pick up the children from school and deposit them at his Mom's house before he headed off to work (so they were taken care of).
As I had searched the internet the last few months, the list had pretty well formed in my head. It was major stuff. And some of it, I wasn't sure that *I* agreed that it was a sin. But at some point, I decided that it really didn't matter if I agreed or not. That perhaps if "they" said it was, then perhaps they knew more than me and since I was going, I might as well just put it all out there on the table. Better safe than sorry. I was tired of carrying it around.
So I had picked my day, my priest, and I had my list. I took the day off of work.
I wanted to Christmas shop. It was hard to do that, too, with kids that went everywhere I did.
The night before I could hardly sleep. By this time, it was not nervousness. It was excitement! It was Jesus that I was going to meet in that little room! Sure, the priest would be there...because he had to be, but it was Jesus that I was talking to. I was like that prodigal son, going back home.
That day I shopped. I shopped alone, and I remember that it was a very reflective day. I was very aware of what was going to happen later that afternoon. I ate lunch alone - at Taco Bell. I passed the time, but I knew Jesus would be waiting.
I drove to the little town where the church was located. I remember wondering that if I would die on the way, would I go to Heaven, because at least I was on my way to confession....
I got to the little church and went in. There were "church ladies" there. One was praying the Stations of the Cross. The confessional was in the back of the church, so I sat in a pew there. But there was no priest there. So I waited....