This week has been a great week for me. I have maintained a positive attitude and spirit for the better part of the last six days. For those of you who know me personally, you know that is a major win for me. My personality has a tendency to be more on the sarcastic and pessimistic side. Even despite this new found happiness that has entered my life, I am finding myself still called to confession. Oh no, you just said the major taboo word that gets everyone from Catholics to Protestants to Atheists all shook up… yes, I said it, I am wanting to go to confession.
Why is this such a scary concept for everyone out there? I can understand the fear, believe me, I know my very first confession session was nerve racking. I had my doubts and fears just like everyone else. The first one, and one that I know many people struggle with up front was, I have sinned so much and for so long, how is this going to benefit me at all? The next was, the one that everyone always uses to tell me why they don’t believe in it (or Catholicism in general for that matter), is that, do we not have a direct ear to God when we pray, and that should just be enough right? Another big one was, the priest is going to chastise me in there, and there is no way that he will forgive me…. Whelp, since you are still reading, I am going to put all this into perspective with my own experience, and reasons why it is awesome for you to go.
First and foremost, I am not an authority on anything Catholic. I don’t represent the Vatican in any way, nor do I speak on behalf of anyone but myself. I am a practicing Catholic and I do go to confession. The key word there is practicing, because I never get the whole confession thing right. I always forget a portion, but I try anyway. I know that when I was starting out on my journey to God, I had lots of fears and questions, and just emotions in general. Of course, if you have ever had to tell your parents that you did something wrong, it is the same kind of feeling. I knew that I would have to be walking into a room with someone, alone, and having to say that I have done something wrong. Who in their right mind would want to do something like that? It is so much easier, just to hold on to the sins, knowing that we are forgiven no matter what, right? If it was so easy, everyone would do it. After the first one, I realized that the priest is not there to chastise you, he is there to help in your own healing process. Having the courage to even come into the confessional is one of the hardest things to do in the first place.
Like ripping off a band-aid, I walked into the room for the first time. I was as prepared as I was ever going to be, with two decades of just garbage weighing me down and ready to unload. The guy on the other end of this session was in for a treat. I had hit all the commandments at least once, maybe twice… from not loving my neighbors to cursing the Lord in vein, I had done it all at that point. So, when I get in, I was totally scared, and all that came out was, this is my first confession… and I cried. Oh yes, I cried… and men are not supposed to admit this, but all the hurt and pain came flowing out, and all I could do was cry. I hadn’t even finished. I don’t think I have ever made it through a confession without tears. Probably because, just like when you are trying to heal a wound, it is painful at first, but afterwards… freedom. Yeah, freedom. Sure, there is something you have to do afterwards, like, pray, or something along those lines… the idea is to start a change.
So, why do this in front of a priest? Shouldn’t you just be able to reconcile with God and be done with it? Of course. There is no one who does not have a direct line of prayer to God, and can not ask for that forgiveness. The difference, I have found, is you get can get all the dirt off of you when you are doing it with someone. They are not there to shame you, you are coming to them for help with healing. The best part is the prayer of absolution they pray at the end. You get to hear, I mean, actually hear, someone saying the words that you are forgiven. Now, I know that God is a forgiving and caring God, but, there is something special about actually having it spoken to you. That for me is the best part, because sometimes I have to actually hear it. I know with all my heart that there is no sin that is so great that God can not heal it, it is really just nice to have someone tell you every now and again and help you in the healing process. Maybe I am wrong, but there is something really humbling about coming face to face with someone and saying what is on your heart that is hurting you. There, in that moment, you get to let someone else help you with the baggage, start to let that hurt go, and begin the repentance (changing) process. Again, that is the whole point to the entire process, to begin to change something that you don’t want to do anymore, because it causes you pain.
There are so many out there who shy away from it, and I am can only pray that you find a way to make it back into the confessional. It really is not about the person who is hearing it, it is about getting all the dirt of this world out, emptying yourself, and letting the Holy Spirit come in and act. It is something that can help you find a deeper relationship with God, relinquish the hurt that is inside, and ultimately lead you into a place where you feel free.