Posts Tagged With: forgiveness

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

I’ve had a lot of good posts floating around in my head. They tend to stay up there, floating around, each the very pinnacle of greatness and bloggy perfection. Beautiful flowers they are, each of them, sweet smelling and delicate. It’s a pity they wilt the very instant I sit down to type them out.

I’d like to type one of them out for you, but instead, I’m going to write about a topic I very much did not ever plan to write about. Let’s talk about Confession.

Hey! Where are you going? Get back over here!

I must confess…

How did I even get on this topic? Certainly not of my own doing. When we converted to Catholicism back in 2007, we had to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at some point during Lent. I went the last day it was available. I walked in, rattled off my “major” sins, as I had been told to do, read the prayer from the sheet, and got out of there!

Let’s talk about “major” sins for a moment here. How do we define “major” sins? Um, how about if we just name the ones we’re okay with naming? That sounds good! I mean, there is a line in there where we say we are sorry for all the sins of our past life, so that works, right? I mean, there’s no point in rattling off every single one. Just a brief overview of the ones we’re comfortable with should be more than sufficient.

Let’s just say that based on what I determined to not be worth mentioning…dear Pope Benedict VI might make a public statement denying that the Catholic Church has any association with me. I left out some big stuff. Really big. Without going into detail, I had a few wild and crazy wilderness years before I met my darling husband. Years I wish more than anything I could take back. To top it off, I didn’t go back to Confession. About 3 years ago, I started listening to daily Mass on EWTN and I kept hearing over and over again about the importance of Confession. I bought a few guidebooks and started planning to go. I mean, it would be pretty easy, right? I just had to go over the sins since I went to confession before. But as I kept studying up for my perfect Confession, I realized I needed to confess those old sins, too. What’s more, I realized I wanted to.

It’s just really super hard to get to Confession.

I mean, I don’t remember what the schedule was like at our church in Tulsa, but here in Norman, Confession is heard Saturday from 3:30-4:30. I work until 7:30 most weekends. Sure, I could make it down to the church and back on my lunch break, but….what if there’s a long line? Am I going to have time to eat? I really need to rest on my break, you know. On the Saturdays that I’m off, I’m usually off because I have somewhere to go, someplace to be. This once a week thing is really inconvenient for me. Yeah, I can make an appointment, but Father Ed is so busy, I don’t want to make him go out of his way for me just so I can tell him what a lousy human being I am.

I can keep going if you like. I have a whole bag of excuses over here.

But I suppose none of them are really very good.

So, I’ve spent the last 3 years filling my bag with excuses and carrying on, ever so sad that I just can’t manage to get into Confession.

Well, recently, I’ve started reading encyclicals. I’ll pick one at random, read it, and revel in it. I love them so very much. To hear our beloved Popes, speaking frankly, bluntly and lovingly on Church teachings is such a wonderful gift. And thanks to the handy dandy internet, I can read any of them, whenever I want. Lovely, lovely, lovely. A few days ago, I randomly picked Pope John Paul II’s Misericordia Dei: The Mercy of God. Guess what it’s about?

The Mercy of God

The importance of making a good Confession cannot be overstated. Canon law 960 states:

“Individual and integral confession and absolution are the sole ordinary means by which the faithful, conscious of grave sin, are reconciled with God and the Church; only physical or moral impossibility excuses from such confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained in other ways”

Blessed Pope John Paul II goes on to state that all sins must be confessed, not just the “major” ones, citing Canon 988:

 Since “the faithful are obliged to confess, according to kind and number, all grave sins committed after Baptism of which they are conscious after careful examination and which have not yet been directly remitted by the Church’s power of the keys, nor acknowledged in individual confession”, any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved. Indeed, in view of the fact that all the faithful are called to holiness, it is recommended that they confess venial sins also.

This blessed Sacrament is so essential that Bl. Pope John Paul II goes into great detail about the administration of it. The proper facilities must be available, reasonable requests for appointments must never be turned down, the priest should be visible so that the faithful immediately know where to go, and a “fixed grille” must be present to accommodate those who desire it. He even goes on to suggest that, when possible, Confessions be heard before and during every Mass.

Ready or not!

Upon finishing the encyclical, I wanted more than ever to make Confession, and to receive Absolution. In fact, I felt like I should do it before receiving Communion again. I double checked the parish website early in the week, and sure enough, Confession is going down Saturday from 3:30-4:30, and I was scheduled to work until 5:30. Too bad. Once again, my schedule is just working against me. I kept thinking about it throughout the week, wondering if I could take an incredibly late lunch….no, no, it wouldn’t work out.

When I arrived at work on Saturday, my manager advised me that we were overstaffed and I could leave at 3:30.

I reached for my bag of excuses. It was still full, let me tell ya, but none of them fit!

This is what I wanted, wasn’t it? I sat down with my Laudate app and started preparing my confession. I was feeling pretty good about it until, out of nowhere, the truth came calling.

There’s no scheduling conflict, there’s no time crunch, no nothing. I haven’t made it to Confession because I don’t want to go to Confession and I’m not going to! There is no way on this earth I am walking in there and telling another human being I did all of these things!!!!! I can’t bear to think of these sins, how can I speak of them? Can’t I just leave them in the past?

So, I have a few choices. I can go in there and confess a good portion of my sins, get it over with and just keep to the straight and narrow so I don’t have to humiliate myself in such a way ever again. Or, I can go in, make another “general” Confession and make a mockery of the Holy Sacrament, which would only further blemish my soul and put a greater distance between myself and the God I’ve pledged to chase after.

Or I can just never go to Confession again and reassure myself with the old, “Lots of Catholics don’t go to Confession.”

It sounds like such a no brainer, but that’s how shame works.

You can read the conclusion to my Confession saga here.

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Categories: Chasing After God, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Screwing Myself into the Ground

A few weeks ago, I had a mild temper tantrum down at The CellPhone Store where I work. We’ve been working short-handed, and that day, we had someone from another store coming to help out, but I didn’t know who it would be. I was talking about it with a co-worker, and somehow came to the conclusion that it was going to be someone in particular that I did not like. As our conversation went on, I did what I always end up doing. Without any foreknowledge of what was going to happen, I decided to skip the formalities of finding out and go ahead and get angry about it. My day was going to be ruined, after all, working with this intolerable person all day. Why do we even have someone so incompetent on the payroll? Why must I, of all people, be forced to deal with this?

Suddenly I stopped myself. I had no idea who I would be working with, but here I was, getting angrier by the moment. My co-worker said she tends to wallow in undue anger also, and that her son refers to it as “screwing yourself into the ground.” I’d never heard that expression before, but I found it horribly appropriate. When I sit and allow myself to get angrier and angrier, I have indeed screwed myself into the ground until I’m stuck and can’t be moved.

Anger seems to be a hump I just can’t get over in my spiritual walk, and it stands between me and God.

Remove anger from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh. For youth and pleasure are vain. Ecclesiastes 11:10 

What is anger, after all? A friend of mine went to a training class at work where they discussed anger. The class was asked to describe anger as if they were describing it to an alien who came from a planet without emotions. The definition they came up with: I didn’t get my way. That’s what anger is. I didn’t get my way and I’m going to throw a hissy fit over it. I would argue that when I’m angry, there’s always a logical, rational reason for it. I am never angry without cause and if I get upset it’s because I am passionately committed to seeing justice prevail.

My husband would say I’m having a hissy fit because I didn’t get my way.

And there is no anger above the anger of a woman. It will be more agreeable to abide with a lion and a dragon, than to dwell with a wicked woman. Ecclesiasticus* 25:23

Anger in and of itself is a wretched evil, but it gets worse. The longer I stew over some wrong, and the more I screw myself into the ground, I am planting seeds that grow into grudges and resentment. These are spiritual weeds that choke out love and mercy and every good fruit of the spirit.

Anger hath no mercy, nor fury when it breaketh forth: and who can bear the violence of one provoked? Proverbs 27:4

Something I’ve recognized as I try to put away anger and let go of grudges is that I don’t want to. There are reasons why I’ve held a grudge. My anger has always been provoked by the unacceptable behavior of others. I have a right to feel the way I do!

But it separates me from God. It separates me from my brothers and sisters. It stops joy and patience and love and mercy from blooming in my heart. I’ve been praying to let all these little things go that have hurt me, and I’ve been praying to want to let them go, but it’s hard. I never think to pray for grace when my blood starts boiling; I’m so consumed by my emotions, I think of nothing else. There have been times I felt that my soul would never be free from these grudges, because I simply do not know how to forgive.

Remember the footsteps in the sand poem? This is the part where God has started to carry me. Over the last month or so, I’ve felt a strong tug on my heart to let go of old grudges, let old wounds heal, and stop collecting grievances. Through much trembling and crying, I’ve handed over old baggage. God, I said, I don’t want this anymore, please take it from me. Amazingly enough, the old wounds started healing over. However, I ran into a bit more trouble with the newer wounds. Especially the ones that still get poked at regularly. The person who looks down his nose at me, the co-worker who blames me for his mistakes, and all those little wrongs throughout the day.

I started to slip a little in my mission to learn forgiveness, so I looked for a prayer to help me get back on track. I posted Daily Prayer: To Forgive Others on Wednesday night, along with Thursday’s Mass Readings, but I didn’t really sit down and read the Mass Readings until Thursday. When I heard Jesus tell the story of the servant whose debt was forgiven, but didn’t forgive his brother’s debt, I was floored. Clearly, forgiving others is of the utmost importance. But how? I work in service, how can I avoid collecting little grievances against customers? Have you dealt with upset customers lately? They’re unpleasant and rarely ever right! And my co-workers! And the family! I can’t get away from it!

I know it sounds cliche, but I started thinking about how attitude is a choice. The way we react to outside stresses is a choice.

As I went about my day today, I kept reminding myself I was choosing joy over anger and frustration. When a customer started threatening me, I took a deep breath and said sternly to myself, “I’m not going to get upset about that.” When a co-worker said something I found to be appalling, I said, “I’m not going to pass judgement on that.” All day, sometimes out loud, I declared that I would not allow these seeds into my heart. “I’m not going to worry about that….I’m not going to let that bother me….I’m not going to spread that gossip..” I was amazed at how easily the temptation to screw myself into the ground passed. It was only one day, granted, but I can only do one day at a time, and today was blessed with grace.

But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness,…mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

I’m not going to tell you I’ve got it licked. I’ve done nothing but make a choice, and I have faith that God will give me whatever graces I need to draw nearer to Him. I’ve got a long way to go, there’s no denying it. This is just going to be one of those times when there’s only one set of footprints.

*  One of the seven Deutero-Canonical books, missing from most non-Catholic Bibles

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, Negative Nancy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

…as we forgive those who trespass against us.

My dear husband, Scott, has been working the late shift recently, and the upshot to that is that he can stay up all hours of the night without judgement. A few days ago, he came crawling into bed at 7am, going on and on about a documentary series he watched about Auschwitz. The next day, it was Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Last night, the two of us sat down to watch it together and I must say, I was floored.

Forgiving Dr. Mengele is the story of Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor, who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 10. Children at the camp generally were sent directly to the gas chamber as they could not work. In fact, most of the prisoners at Auschwitz were killed immediately upon arrival. Eva and her sister were spared, however, because they were twins and ideal candidates for medical experiments.

Dr. Mengele preferred twins because they were virtually identical biologically which created a “control” group for experiments. One twin was injected with a disease or germ and if they died, the other twin was immediately killed via a shot of chloroform to the heart and a comparative autopsy was done. Hans Münch, another doctor who worked side by side with Mengele, says in the documentary that these experiments seemed to be carried out with no real goal or purpose.

The only word I can think of to describe this is horror. The chief defense of the Nazis on trial was that they were merely following orders. However, this man, this “Doctor,” was not given orders so much as he was given carte blanche. He could do whatever he wanted. He chose to use these children as his own personal playground of terror.

Eva’s twin, Miriam, suffered miserably from the experiments. Her kidneys never developed past the age of 10. Eventually, Eva gave Miriam one of her kidneys, but it was not enough. Miriam’s doctors said they may be able to do more if they knew what she had been injected with. This led Eva on a search for Dr. Mengele’s files, a search she continued after Miriam’s death. In 1993, Eva met with Hans Münch, which changed the course of her life in ways she could never imagine.

Hans Münch was a member of the Nazi party and an SS physician, but was clearly not a true believer in the same respect as Dr. Mengele. He participated in the experiments, but he often did so as a means of keeping prisoners from being killed. As long as they were considered useful for experiments, they wouldn’t be sent to the gas chambers. At his meeting with Eva, he was candid with her about the effects his time in Auschwitz had on his life, and about the nightmares he still had. Like the victims, he was haunted and tortured by the evils he participated in. Eva was blown away. Nazis were unrepentant monsters, weren’t they? But this was just a man who got caught up in mass hysteria and was a part of something he would regret for the rest of his life. Something he could never take back or make reparation for.

Eva decided to do something extreme.

She forgave him.

I just cannot wrap my head around that sentence. A Jew, who was tortured and experimented on, forgave one of the Nazis who participated in the experiments. They were both present at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and they walked arm in arm around the camp together. They were both healed by her forgiveness. Eva decided that even that extreme act of humanity wasn’t enough. She decided to forgive all of them. 

Eva Mozes Kor is not the most popular person amongst her fellow holocaust survivors. They feel that forgiving means forgetting. They also discussed that a prerequisite of forgiveness is for the offender to express remorse and reparation. In this situation, it’s not appropriate to forget what happened. Truly, we must never forget the suffering, the death, the inhuman torture and disregard for humanity. But Eva has forgiven. She recognizes that there is nothing any former Nazi can do to make reparation for what happened there. She also feels that by forgiving the people who killed her family, she allows her own soul to be healed, to be set free.

Forgiveness is not my strong suit. It’s not my suit at all. I bear many grudges and I bear them close to my heart. Lately, I’ve felt God tugging on my heart, telling me it’s time to let these things go. After all, what can those who throughout my life do to make reparation? If they feel no remorse, that leaves only myself to bear the burden, to suffer under the hardness of hatred. It is only my heart that is made rotten by my grudge. Jesus himself is clear on the topic:

“And when you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have aught against any man; that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your sins. But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father that is in heaven, forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25-26

Notice how He doesn’t say anything about “once reparations are made” or “as long as you’re sure they’re really and truly sorry.” No, there are no prerequisites made. At His death, Jesus practices what he preached:

“And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But they, dividing his garments, cast lots.” Luke 23:34

Jesus teaches forgiveness again and again:

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

“So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” 2 Corinthians 2:7

There is healing in forgiveness. There is peace in forgiveness.

But it’s hard. It’s hard when someone has caused you indescribable pain and shows no sign of remorse. When someone hurt you and doesn’t seem to think it’s even important. I am beginning to realize that forgiveness is essential. Bearing a grudge puts a wall between me and God. It serves no purpose but to fester in my soul until I distrust not only the person who wronged me, but everyone else who might.

It’s time to put the past away. Time to walk away from events that have scarred me. It’s time to move on.

Eva forgave the Nazis. Jesus forgave the soldiers that beat and hung Him up to die, even as they cast lots for his clothes. With God’s grace, certainly I can forgive anyone.

All verses courtesy Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible.

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