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.