Thursday, March 29, 2012
Back when my husband and I were knee-deep in books about theology--and cautiously contemplating an eventual conversion to the Catholic Faith--I distinctly remember telling him that I would never be able to go to Confession.
The idea of slipping into a tiny, dark room and divulging all of my worst sins to a priest? Um...yeah. NOT appealing to me--in the least. For one thing, I didn't like the idea of someone besides God Himself giving me Absolution (former Evangelical that I was), but even more than that, it just plain sounded scary.
Of course over time, it became hard to argue with Biblical passages like John 20:21-23. And I couldn't deny that this practice had been handed down by the early Church itself. So I eventually had to put on my big-girl pants and get over it.
And you know what? The grace I've received through the Sacrament of Reconciliation has been, by far, the greatest, most pleasant surprise of the Catholic faith.
I actually knelt in the Confessional booth one recent Sunday afternoon, and a dear visiting priest spoke wisdom into my life that has slowly, subtly, gently begun to seep into my heart. I had confessed (among other things) my propensity to become frustrated with my children. Frankly, one of my biggest struggles as a mom to seven little ones. And the priest replied back that being firm, raising your voice, acting angry, are part of the job description sometimes. (Whew!) But that I should attempt to do so without actually being angry, and that this will help prevent me from becoming a truly angry person.
I'll be honest and say I walked away thinking that's a whole lot easier said than done. I've prayed regularly for patience over the years, afterall. I certainly don't like that I'm easily annoyed by my gaggle of children, but come on, how do I reach the point where I'm able to disengage enough to pretend to be angry when I'm not? I'd hit a plateau in this area and I felt stuck.
But there's a reason God gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There's a reason we go and confess our sins and receive Absolution. And that reason is this: Sacraments are real. We receive real graces through them because, well, this is how Jesus established His Church and how God designed things to work. Even if we can't understand. We need to seek forgiveness from and reconciliation with our Lord, and one another, and Jesus decided to give His Church an important role in that.
And since that day in the confessional a few weeks ago, I kid you not, God has given me an immense measure of extra strength to love my kids. To be patient. To start each day with a new slate. God is working miracles in my heart through His Sacraments, and I am all kinds of amazed and shocked by that.
Believe me when I say that I am not someone who lives life and makes decisions based on personal experience or emotion--instead, I typically embrace things intellectually before I can "feel" them in my heart. So it is always kind of amazing when my experience starts to mirror the very thing to which I have intellectually assented. I was able to get on board with the idea of Confession from a mental standpoint before joining the Church, but to have now experienced the amazing love and mercy of Jesus--and receive His divine help--through this Sacrament is, well, kind of astounding. And most definitely confirming.
Someone recently wrote that converts serve as a reminder that the Church is something worth choosing. And it's true--I was not baptized into the Catholic Faith as an infant. I did not grow up reciting the beautiful Hail Mary, nor did I ever have a crucifix on my wall or a rosary in my pocket. Rather, I accidentally stumbled upon the Church when I was in my late twenties.
In simply seeking to understand why the Catholic Church prohibited the widespread and (nearly) universally accepted practice of contraception, I found mercy, charity, and hope.
In merely attempting to satisfy my curiousity about a particular group's view on marriage, I found a Pandora's Box of truth.
Belief in the centuries-old historic doctrines and dogmas did not come immediately, or easily, and would ultimately lead to my having to make a choice.
And I have not looked back once. Because at each and every turn, God has confirmed to me that the Catholic Church is absolutely worth choosing.
Even in the blessed and mysterious Confessional box I'd once dreaded, but am now learning to love.
Posted by Brianna Heldt at 6:45 AM