Best Confession Ever: I Laughed, I Cried, I High-Fived!

Friday night to Saturday afternoon I attended my first Catholic retreat since moving to Kansas, and my first TRUE retreat since college. It was groundbreaking for me.

I chose to go because it was based on the Blessed Mother, and I have a devotion to her. And also because I thought it would be a wonderful way to meet some new Catholic friends, as it was hosted a local group for Catholic singles in the their 20’s and 30’s.  I already had some friends in it, who invited me and encouraged me to attend. It was meticulously and lovingly planned with a good balance of themed talks, group worship times such as Adoration and Mass, and also opportunities to break into small group discussions and prayers. Overnight accommodations and meals were included.

But Friday night was the most pivotal time for me. During Adoration, we could sign up for Confession if we chose. Three priests were available. It was also our choice between the traditional screen or face-to-face. I chose face-to-face and didn’t need to wait long. Maybe 20 minutes.

I was surprised to find a young, hip priest. Probably younger than me. He wore his red hair cut short and a long beard, along with a black hoodie with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. He had on black sneakers to match his uniform, but no visible tattoos. He looked like someone I might be friends with if I met him somewhere else. He was in no hurry. He allowed me to talk a bit and then asked some questions, such as which sins I wanted forgiven. There was no judgement in his eyes or voice. He then asked WHO I wanted to forgive and I surprised myself when I named someone I had been struggling with a lot of resentment towards. I had no idea that apparently deep down, this anger at that person bothers me and I wanted to let it go. He then asked again and I was even more shocked to name… myself.

But it was clear he had expected this answer, and maybe had been gently leading me toward it. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the Sacrament and ritual of Confession. But this year if I’m honest, I’ve been disappointed because I missed out on it when I traditionally go, during December near Christmas. I moved from Illinois back home to Kansas with my parents in early November and at first we stayed with a cousin. Then about five weeks later, we moved into the new home they closed on, in the same city. So December was about unloading and unpacking, and my parents needed a lot of my help. I had abandoned my plans for Confession when they asked for my help and I never made it up at a different parish.

But now here was the opportunity to do that.

This priest listened with the patience and focus of someone much older. But especially, the  way he heard my confession belied how much he cherishes his job and his personal connection with Jesus. I’m used to a few questions, maybe a few “Mmm-hmmms,” and ultimately a “Go in peace, my child,” with the spiritual prescription of how many prayers will restore my soul. A lot of times I’ve left feeling that I wanted something more, wishing the priest had talked to me. But I always reminded myself that I had no idea how many people they were listening to and that my expectations were too high.

This priest also spoke softly and sparingly.  But like Silent Bob, the words he did choose were profound. Somehow I found myself laughing, most likely at my own astonishment that I was enjoying this so much much. Then I cried, after I forgave the person I named and myself. The relief was instant and total.

It was the first time that I felt a deeper meaning during Confession. I realized that through this priest, I felt the grace and love and holy presence of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

At the end he priest raised both hands above his head to bless me. And I first I raised mine too. Then he spoke, and I lowered my head and hands and surrendered all the feelings I had been carrying. Doubt, anxiety, depression, shame, envy, resentment.

He verbally released the “spirit” of several of these feelings. And I felt lighter.

Then I looked up and admitted with a joke,

“I thought at first you were going to high-five me!”

Of course then *he laughed, and we DID actually high-five overhead with both hands. Like we were teammates who had just played a great game together and were sharing the victory. Which, I suppose, we kind of did. Confession is a team effort.

I was lucky to have a priest who allowed me to feel safe in vulnerability and who cared enough to respond in detail to several things I shared. That is special. So of course, I asked which parish he serves and what his name was. I have been visiting several area parishes trying to find my *home, but there are so many! I will now make a point to attend a Mass there and seek him out next time I need to confess.

It was like having coffee with a friend who knows you well. Who has compassion for you but also gently calls you out and points you toward self-awareness.

I felt healed, full of hope. It was like the best runner’s high ever, only in my heart.

I’ve always felt more comfortable with Mary, but held Jesus at somewhat of a distance. Now, I feel open to the possibility of knowing Him more. What if I could replicate that feeling I had in Confession– directly with Jesus? It would take some work and time.

But oh, would it be worth it.

And quickly, I also had a wonderful moment of connection Friday night before that.

I met a new friend with electric blue hair and we talked non-stop! I noticed a beautiful navy prayer veil with her things, since she was sitting next to me at a table. I asked about it, having read about them online and how prayer veils were making a comeback with many modern women. She was happy with the compliment and asked if I wanted to try an extra one she had brought with her? It was in her room and she offered to get it and let me wear it to Adoration.

It was a white infinity style veil and she even had a little metal comb to fasten it to my hair. Walking to Adoration and then Confession wearing it, I felt something extra. I loved that my first opportunity to pray with one was an offer of friendship. I had wondered about buying one for myself and this showed me that it is absolutely something I want to do. I felt even more connected to the Blessed Mother, adorned in her beautiful veil.

What gifts I received this weekend!

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A Run and A Confession

I ran five miles tonight after three days break.

Afterward, I drove to Confession at St. Ray’s. I made for the last hour and spent most of it in line, waiting.

And what a wait it was!

I had conversations with three random women. When was the last time a stranger talked to me in public, doing anything? It was refreshing and unexpected.

At first I felt a bit self-conscious in my skirt, even though it’s an athletic skirt. Everyone else was so buttoned up and well, Catholic. Hee! But a woman in the pews pointed to my skirt and asked, “Do you play tennis? Cute!” We got to talking about exercise. She had a big black boot on her foot. “I’ve never been a runner,” she told me. But she loves tennis. She said she’s not sure what kind of work out she can do with her foot.
“Yoga?” I suggested. She agreed. Pointing to her arms, she grabbed one and jiggled it! She likes to lift free weights. She was wearing a bright orange shirt, black pants. Cute choppy blonde haircut.

The line moved up, so I moved. I said goodbye to her and we smiled at each other.

Two women in front and behind me were having a conversation. Whispered, so I couldn’t decipher what they were saying specifically.

I was looking at the woman in front of me, scoffing internally at her bright yellow banana clip– straight out of the ’90s!– and the wierd black pipecleaner thing she had somehow wound around it.

And while I was judging her, she began talking with me. The woman in front her saw my Shamrock Shuffle hoodie and asked if I had run in it. “Yes!” I said. “My daughter ran it,” she told me. I felt so proud. This hoodie wasn’t cheap but I knew I’d live in it. It felt so good to be recognized for an athletic achievement by a stranger. I’d told myself it’s just an 8k, a mere five miles. Small potatoes in the running world. But that’s five miles I couldn’t dream of two years ago!

It was her turn.  So it was just me and the woman behind me, who had a thick braided ponytail– almost white blonde. She was holding a small finger Rosary.

“Is it Amber?” I had asked.

She wasn’t sure. “I got it in Poland,” she told me.

I told her that on the other side when I got there, there were several nuns waiting in line.  “I wonder what nuns confess?” I mused.

She said a lot to me, but I couldn’t hear most of it. But clearly, she was alive with faith. She spoke of Jesus, I caught that much.

Then it was my turn.

I told Father that it’s been about a year since my last Confession. I had missed Advent. I was kneeling on a dark wood bench– there was simple cloth curtain separating us. It seemed to be a large confession booth. He was a good listener. It was almost 9 p.m., closing time, but he wasn’t hurrying me at all.

I was surprised at how good I felt– I wasn’t wracked with guilt about anything. I told him the truth– that I haven’t been to Mass much lately.  That I had a hot dog for lunch. That I quit choir so I could get to bed earlier and focus on running. That I gave up envy for Lent, and that I struggle with it. That I gave up sleeping in for Lent too– also for running– and have failed that on multiple accounts! That I want to be more independent. I’m trying to save my money.  That my parents are my best friends and I want to do right by them. That I want to learn the Rosary but it’s overwhelming and not happening yet.

I told him other things of course– but I’m keeping that to myself!

I was genuinely shocked by his reaction.

He didn’t chastise me once. Not even for going MIA from Mass for awhile.

Instead he told me that God wants us to progress in our lives. That I’m doing that with my running. That my tenacity will pay off.

He asked me to say One Hail Mary and one Gloria.

I left feeling lighter. I’m always inspired by how forgiving and open-minded priests can be. I should have gotten his name. I’d like to confess to him again. He had a soft accent.

I left feeling grateful and cleansed, like I do after a good run.

Confession was like a five mile run for my soul. I feel more spiritually fit.

If you haven’t been to Confession in a long time, don’t be afraid. Be honest. And let it go.

 

 

 

A Little Confession

Just had my first Confession in probably a year, after Stations of the Cross.

Usually, my Dad and I go together. It’s something that’s bonded us.

But this year we had different schedules. I went to our local cathedral instead.

I had hoped to get my parish priest, but I saw him leave just before Stations of the Cross began. Though a little bummed, I figured there was someone else meant to hear me today.

I reflected prior, but not a lot.

This year, it was different. I wasn’t berating myself with a list of things I’ve done wrong. I had no list, period.  I didn’t feel ashamed or desperate or angry at myself.

My confession was brief. I listed a few things, but mostly I just talked about those I love, and how I want to do right by them. Where I am in my spiritual life. What I’m seeking. And what I need/want from God.

I talked about wanting to be a better daughter.

About struggling to find a balance in my life with my choir/parish and other events that pop up spontaneously on those allotted times for choir and Mass. Feeling afraid that my parish will close, but continuing to belong/participate because that’s where my heart lies.

About how daunting it feels to be so focused on waiting for a relationship with another Catholic, but that this is something I feel that I both need and *deserve* in my life. I’ve sacrificed to adhere to that. It’s so important to me that if someone is another denomination, that’s a deal-breaker. I’ve endured a lot of criticism for that over the years, but most times I shrug it off. Pretty much everyone on either side of my family is who is married is married to another Catholic–happily. I know it’s possible!

But something I’ve realized is that I can’t stop being myself to accelerate finding a compatible relationship. I don’t smoke anything or drink, I don’t do drugs, I’m a Democrat, I’m Catholic. Those are core tenets of my identity. I’ve ended relationships to preserve those aspects in myself, because it’s essential for my own happiness and mental health.

And to my surprise, Father wasn’t punitive. He was patient. His voice was soft.

There was no recipe for salvation by reciting a certain number of prayers

Instead, we was affirmative. He basically told me to just keep doing what I’m doing– examining myself, pursuing my spiritual life, being aware and sensitive to what’s appropriate in my relationships.

I was given instant absolution. I wasn’t made to feel that my confession hadn’t been sufficient, even though I had completely blanked out on my Act of Contrition.

“I absolve you of your sins,”he said.

I didn’t have as dramatic as a reaction as I had in some other years– I didn’t cry.

I didn’t need to cry.

Confession was just an expression of my faith, a part of my spiritual routine.

And I smiled.

I felt like God was telling me, “You’re doing okay, kiddo.”

Confession and Peace

Tonight my parents invited me to go to Confession with them, at their parish. We had dinner first.

I was very sincere in my Confession, as always. I even cried a little bit. It always feels good, that release.

And I admit, I was a bit disappointed in the priest’s response– he gave me a pretty standard penance and absolution. I wished he had been more specific, more personal and comforting. But priests are human– maybe that’s just not his strength.

He WAS a very good listener. He didn’t rush me along or interrupt me at all. I really appreciated that. That, in itself, is a skill.

But nonetheless, I’m glad I went. Confession has been a yearly tradition between my father and I. Diane went with us tonight, which was nice.

I found the most relief once I exited the Confessional and kneeled in the pew.

I realized that the interaction with the priest is only one PART of Confession.

The part I like best is just being there quietly with my family. And seeing all around me, other faithful Catholics who are penitent.

The humility, the quiet. People praying, eye closed, hands folded.

A lot of people identify Catholic, but don’t fully engage with it. Actually going to Confession indicates someone is more devout, more serious in their practice.

Yes, you can pray on your own. But the fact that you care enough to GO to Confession– that’s the point.

This is one of the best parts of being Catholic.

Just seeing other believers together in the same room.

One Our Father and Three Hail Marys

That was my Penance tonight, after Confession.

I left the Confessional with tears, as I usually do. And I felt wonderful.

I can’t imagine anything more sad than NOT being able to have a good cry.

Crying is good for you. Humility is good for you.

The salt washes our guilt clean.

I had texted my Dad earlier, telling him I was in the back of the church and wearing my dark green vest. I hadn’t found him anywhere.

That had been 40 minutes ago.

I was getting anxious, because he had responded that he was on his way– and he’s never late. If anything, he’s 10 minutes early. He lives maybe 10 minutes away.

My Dad is 70. A very fit and active 70, but still.

Had something happened to him on the way? I was beginning to fidget, restless in line.

I texted him again– “Still coming?”

I kept glancing behind me, to the doors of the church. Searching for his tall frame to come in.

And I turned forward, to see him standing right in front of me in line– two people ahead. I had been so wrapped up in worry that I couldn’t see what was right ahead of me… my own father.

He smiled his gentle smile. Relief flooded my heart.

He went in and emerged soon after, knelt in a pew. After mine, I joined him. We sat side by side. That’s a moment I know I’ll cherish forever.

Just that quiet moment, of sitting by my father in church after Confession. Of the relief of knowing he was there all along.

It’s a lot like how we feel about God.

We spend all this time searching for God– for “signs” of him. Is he with us? Will he talk to us?

But whether we see him or not, he is always there to support us– quietly. Just like my father, always there.