As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

From Confession to Confession

Today, after three failed attempts recently to do so, my crew and I finally managed to make it to Confession.  Getting all of us out to receive the Sacrament has always been a difficult task, but I realized just how badly needed it was a few months ago, when my husband nabbed a priest after Mass and asked him to hear his confession.  Immediately our older boys started asking me, “do I have to go?” To which I responded, “you don’t have to go, but you can if you want to.”  Let’s just say they weren’t breaking down the doors to receive Christ’s mercy.  They all took a pass, and I worried that maybe I had not done a good job communicating that this sacrament was indeed a gift and a grace, not something to be feared.  I knew the reason was that I had not made it enough of a priority, and so I vowed to get to regular confession more often.

Since then we have made two appointments with a priest friend of ours, both of which were cancelled due to weather, before today’s.  When I woke up this morning, there was a threat of freezing rain and what I worried might have been an illness for one of us.  I texted my husband and asked for prayer, because at this point I was desperate to get all of us there.  He obliged, and before long the weather cleared and what had appeared to be an illness turned out in fact not to be.  We were on our way.

As we prepared to go to confession, I tried with difficulty to recall when the last time was that I had been to the sacrament, and I realized to my utter disbelief that I could not remember.  It had been so long that I couldn’t even make an educated guess as to when the last time was…how did this happen?

As often happens when I pray before confession, the Lord revealed something to me that I never even realized.  And this is what it is: I’m not crazy about going to confession. I always find it so awkward, I never feel like I’ve gotten the form just right, I’m always out way sooner than I think I should be, and I generally just feel like I’m doing it wrong every time.  I know objectively of course that I’m not, and maybe that’s some kind of spiritual attack.  But I hear so many people talk about how they LOVE confession, and that they just feel so great afterwards, and that’s just not me. It was in the beginning, of course.  But over these many years I’ve grown quite uncomfortable with it all, which on its own would never be sufficient reason to keep me away, but coupled with another gripe (like say, the difficult logistics of getting eight kids to confession), and clearly that was enough to keep me away, for too long for me to remember.

Why was this realization big for me?  Because prior to today, I never would have acknowledged that.  And not doing so allowed it to remain a hidden factor with powerful sway in my life.  I knew as soon as I made this connection that I must never allow this to happen again.  I resolved to speak to the priest about what was going on, and to never let myself forget that this is a terrible reason to stay away from confession, not just for me but especially my children.

The priest we saw is a dear friend of ours, and we met him at his parish to receive the sacrament.  One by one each of my children went in while the rest of us sat in the church.  The change I could see in their dispositions was visible and moving, as each came out of the chapel where their confessions were heard absolutely elated. I watched my second oldest just bouncing around the church, and I asked him how he felt (though I didn’t need to, it was all over his face).  He was so full of grace in that moment that it overflowed, and this became such a visible sign to me of the value of confession.  I left there convicted that this needs to be a regular habit for all of us, that we are so much in need of the grace my son so palpably overflowed with.

And then it was my turn.  And predictably, it was the same as it always was.  I felt awkward. I felt like I didn’t do it right.  I was in and out quite quickly.  I didn’t feel that much different after I left.  But none of that matters.  Because I heard the words of absolution. I had the image of my young son bouncing around the church, and I knew that just because this grace didn’t manifest itself in the same way for me, it was no less real.  Perhaps he was just more open.  It is such a wonder to experience faith with children.

The true test came as I went about my day. Life goes on, and I (being the same person), don’t magically cease to struggle just because I went to confession.  But I am somehow different.  The grace I received causes me to pause before I react, to take a moment and invite Christ into my life.  And in this moment I realize that He is with me, that He has forgiven me and given me a grace I did not have before.  Imagine if I went often, how much more grace I would have in times of trial!  I am convinced my life would be a thousand times more different, and that is the best reason for me to go back to Him often in confession.

John of the Cross writes, “the spirit of God, while hidden in the veins of the soul, is a sweet water quenching its spiritual thirst; but when the soul offers the sacrifice of love, the Spirit is then living flames of fire, and these are the lamps of acts of love.”  This passage rings so true for me, as I find in Confession a hidden grace that quenches my thirst.  I don’t need the flood of feelings as I did in my youth. I don’t need the comfort of feeling like I made a good confession - I know I did even if I don’t feel that way.  But I can rely on the grace that penetrates my being, and makes me new.  The grace that helps me to offer a sacrifice of love with renewed vigour, and helps me see that being patient with my family through my trials is in fact an opportunity to love them, and so become a lamp that burns with the living flame of Christ’s love.

Catherine Doherty speaks of God getting her, “from Eucharist to Eucharist,” a beautiful image of the power of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.  Today I take that up for myself, and to it add, “from Confession to Confession.”  Help me, O Christ, to live wholly for You, powerfully present in the Sacraments of the Church.  In so doing, help me to live a better life for the dear ones You have entrusted to my care.  They, by their youthful exuberance and humble acceptance of Your grace, help me to know You.  I pray that in some way, I too may help them to know You.

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