Part 1 can be found here.
Denial is a powerful thing. When you think about it, it’s the beginning of so many evils. No one ever sets out to be wicked, to do evil things in the sight of God. When we lie, when we spread malicious gossip, when we pass judgement on those around us, we deny the dignity of our fellow children of God. When we drag the sins of others out into the light of day, we also reveal the leprous fruit of our own hearts. And yet we still consider ourselves spotless, or at worst “basically a good person” but then go about pocketing a handful of pens at work, telling a “white lie,” passing on malicious gossip, judging the ones we love the most, or a thousand other stains we spill on our souls without thinking twice. We get by because we tell ourselves a different story, and we believe it.
Some things do happen by merely by chance, without being predestined. Randomly selecting an encyclical and getting Misericordia Dei: The Mercy of God was not one of those things. It was, without a doubt, an example of God throwing something in my path. For the past 6 years, I never once denied my need to go to Confession. I denied my ability to go and denied what exactly I needed to confess. I didn’t want to go digging around in my past. I thought if I just ignored those sins and avoided committing them again, it was just as good as confessing.
Confess all the sins!
After realizing that I would have to go in and confess everything, including everything I had left out in my previous Confession, and everything I had done since, I seriously started to reconsider. I paused in my Confession preparation and started browsing Catholic websites for a loophole, some verbiage I could use to refer to the sin without revealing what it was. What I found was what should have been obvious: I was just going to have to do it.
Through my browsing, I also found encouragement. Unfortunately, in my anxiety, I did not keep track of the sites I visited, but I wish I could recommend them. Some of the advice I received was that priests have heard everything, and they know we’ve sinned. They know the nature of our humanity, the darkness that we live in, and give in to. When we come to Confession, full of sorrow, and admitting the fullness of our sins, they don’t think ill of us–they think we’ve been brave to confess! With this reassurance, I went back to preparing my list, and praying that once I was done, I would be given the grace to look Father Ed in the eye afterwards.
Despite the large size of our parish, I’m sure Father Ed recognizes me from Mass and knows that I haven’t been to Confession. This is good news, because it means that he’ll understand me bringing a printed guide. No matter what, I wasn’t going to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And I wasn’t going to forget any “major” sins and have to go through this again.
The Rite of Reconciliation
I left work a little earlier than originally expected and arrived at the church just before 3:30. It was very dark–I don’t think any of the overhead lights were on; the only light was coming from the sacristy and the choir loft. There was music coming from the choir loft, and I thought for a moment that perhaps Clint, our organist, was playing. I realized quickly that it was a radio playing classical music. I sure would have liked to hear Clint playing right then, though–it would have been deliciously soothing!
There was a young man sitting in the very back pew. The Confessional is at the back of the church, on the right side, and he was essentially sitting right by the door. I took the pew in front of him and knelt down. I have no idea what I prayed. When I had finished, another man walked in and sat on the left side of the church. I didn’t think anyone was in the Confessional yet, but it was very dark, so I wasn’t sure. After I was done praying, I started going over my list again, and of course, had to add a few things to it.
A third man walked in and sat a few pews in front of me, for a total of 4 people waiting for Confession. Not a very long line, and there was only one person in front of me. It was a few minutes after 3:30 when a short, Indian man walked out from the sacristy, wearing a cassock. I suddenly remembered: Father Ed went to Rome! This must be the Priest who’s taking his place for the week!
I immediately said a prayer of thanksgiving. Knowing I would likely never see this man again made it so much easier. The Priest went into the Confessional, and the first young man followed. I pulled my rosary out of my pocket and kissed the crucifix. I was already starting to get weepy. Almost time.
When my time came, I sat down in the Confessional, face to face, and immediately started to cry. You see, I didn’t want to confess some of these sins because it was embarrassing but there were others, so many others that I kept in my heart and refused to confess. I lived in denial for so long, always telling myself that what I did couldn’t be helped based. I listened to what society says is right and wrong because I couldn’t bear to admit my sins. Other sins I made other excuses for, but it was all denial.
I’ve spent my whole life building a wall of sin to shut God out and at the same time, desperately trying to see Him through the cracks. But every moment of misery, every bit of pain and suffering I endured, it wasn’t a trial God put me through, a test I had to pass, a challenge to try my faith, it was all my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault!
I could barely see my list, my eyes were so full of tears. Father acknowledged each sin with a brief “uh-huh” and before I knew it, I was at the end. As he began to speak to me of God’s constant forgiveness, I bowed my head in shame. But when I received Absolution, it was all gone, and it was over.
I had to own up to what I did. I could make any excuse I want, but I always had a choice. I suffered, and others suffered because of what I’ve done. Once I received Absolution, it was official. Those horrible, unmentionable things I did in my past are gone. I’ve brought my sins out into the light where they no longer have any claim on me. I’m free.
At Mass on Sunday, I approached the alter with renewed confidence. I received the Eucharist with renewed blessings. Like a child afraid of the doctor, I denied my sickness until the infection was allowed to spread unabated. No more, no more. Now I’ve had the infection cut out, with pain and tears. I’m stronger now, and coming back to good health.