(Really I just wanted an excuse to put a baby penguin on my blog.)
The two times I've been to Confession, it's been a profoundly beautiful experience. I've dreaded it both times, waiting in the line with my heart pounding. Both times, I've left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
The examination of conscience does a lot. I think through my life, going over the Ten Commandments guide in my booklet, and try to think about the times I'd rather forget. It's a process of opening myself up, and every new memory of sin that emerges crushes me in its own small way.
But in the weirdest way, being crushed bit by bit is wonderful. I find a quiet rest in realizing that I am not good, but God is. Comparing myself to God during an examination of conscience produces both the painful realization of how base I am and the glorious realization of how good God is.
Then I drive to the church and wait in the chapel. That is, I look up at the crucifix, with images of the stations of the cross all around me, and hold a list of my sins in my hand. I know what is about to happen; that's why I drove across town to be here. I'm about to be absolved of my sins.
But in those quiet moments, it sinks in how and why and by Whom my sins are forgiven.
Both times, the priest was nicer than I had expected. Maybe he's just bored, but he's kind and patient and does not reply, "You did what?!?!" or "Oh, is that all?" He may be making faces at me behind the screen; I do not know. At that point, I do not care.
Then he gives me absolution. But the priest himself does not forgive my sin. He also gives me my penance. But my penance does not forgive my sin. Jesus Christ forgives my sin, and as I left the confessional, I was once again overwhelmed by the mercy that had been shown me. At that point, little is on my mind except, "Thank You. Thank You. Thank You..."
And then I do my penance, and I have just received one of the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. I've been humbled by my penance, thinking, "But Jesus was crucified for me. All I have to do is ____?" But in God's wonderful way, it's not about me. If it were, I might start thinking I'd earned it. My penances have also both surprised me in how relevant and effective they were. For example, this time, I was given a prayer by St. Augustine to meditate on. The priest had no way of knowing that I'm named after St. Augustine and find his work inspiring. Yet there the prayer was in my hands, reaching out to me and wrapping in new and beautiful ways around my soul.
We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Let us sing "Alleluia" here and now in this life, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, when we are set free.
How happy will be our shout of "Alleluia" as we enter heaven, how carefree, how secure from any assault, where no enemy lurks and no friend dies.
Advance in virtue, in true faith, and in right conduct. Sing up!I wondered on the way in how I ever lived without Confession. Confession is a "Catholic thing", but I'm starting to see the beauty of it, the benefits of it. Far from tying me down to lists of my sins, Confession is so freeing. It appears that God in His wisdom recognized that the girl who can't remember to take medication without helpful little boxes might need a Sacrament to remember His mercy.
I want this for my loved ones. I'm toying with the idea of suggesting some of the aspects of Confession to my closest friends and family. Even just writing down my sins is spiritually helpful to me. Even just bringing them up is therapeutic. I think confessing them explicitly to God would be beneficial, and knowing that the price has been paid for that sin, specifically, could be life-changing. It has been for me. (Of course, I feel there is an even better solution, but won't bring that up to them.)
In any case, I'm beginning to feel about Confession as Jen Fulwiler did: "I can't believe this is free!"
(I'm smiling now, because when I went to get that link, I noticed what else she said about Confession: I don't see how people live without the sacrament of Confession. I'm glad I'm not the only one.)
God is good.