Does anybody really like confession? In theory, I do honestly like it. But in reality, it seems I only drag myself into a confessional once every few years. And the main reason for that is that whole "all Catholics in good standing should go to confession at least once a year." Ugh. As I´ve mentioned before, if anyone wants to drive me crazy, keep telling me how I "have to" do something.
But, like I said, I like the sacrament, at least in theory. For starters, it is a sacrament, which means we draw close to God and He draws close to us--what´s not to love about that? Furthermore, I completely believe it can be a much more enjoyable experience than the chore we´ve turned it into.
When I was barely beginning to explore Catholicism, I had my first, albeit very informal, experience with confession. I was fresh out of college, spending a year volunteering full-time in New Mexico with the Border Servant Corps. As part of the program, we set aside one evening a week to intentionally spend with our fellow volunteers. At one point in the year, we got into a regular habit of going around the group and honestly letting the group know how we were doing--emotionally, physically, spiritually, professionally, etc.
Looking back as I´m writing this, that sounds terribly tedious. Eight people talking in-depth about four different aspects of what makes them tick every week? We were a tight group, and I look back on those times as some of the most edifying of my life.
We were close enough that we could be absolutely honest with each other. Frequently, it was an excellent opportunity to open up with struggles we were having as to ask our friends to pray for us. Together, we celebrated mundane accomplishments like celebrating that we could finally run for 20 minutes at a stretch. On the other extreme, it gave us an opportunity to reflect or admit openly if we were struggling with our faith or depression. As we got in a habit of "checking in" every week, it became routine to follow up on each other, asking questions or encouraging each other through the week, as we really knew what was truly going on in each others´ lives.
|Maybe it would help to take down the wall.|
As I was beginning to explore Catholicism at the time, this experience gave me ample food for thought to consider the sacrament of reconciliation. Given my religious background, I had a knee-slap reaction to confession--"well, of course I don´t have to confess my sins to a priest--I can go straight to God!"
While that certainly may be true, this weekly examination with my volunteer group opened my eyes to how beneficial it is to admit some things out loud, particularly to someone with an understanding ear. And--let´s face it--it´s great to hear that we´re forgiven in the end.
Ideally, I believe this is how confession should be--like this experience my group had, of closeness and frequent contact, so we know what´s going on with others on a weekly (or daily) basis, so we know each others´ struggles and successes, celebrating and praying together. Unfortunately, if a priest has hundreds of people in his parish, it is rather difficult for him to get to know all parishioners on that kind of level.
However, I´m pretty confident that most Catholics are much like me, and it wouldn´t take much effort to get to know our priests a bit better. If we were better able to count our priests as our friends, time in the confessional would be less or a chore and more of an opportunity to simply sit back and be completely honest with a trusted friend.
And that would make confession the liberating experience that it´s meant to be.
|Come on in!|
Anyone itching for more reflections on confession?
Check out the other posts from the Catholic Women Bloggers Network--it´s an excellent, varied, and thought-provoking assortment, I promise!
Or, read chapter 28 in Matthew Kelly´s Resisting Happiness. Even before this blog hop, that chapter recently got me off my butt and into a confessional--it´s that convicting! Even better, the whole book is pretty good.
(If you´re like me, and read Matthew Kelly´s Rediscovering Catholicism and didn´t like it, give Resisting Happiness a try--it´s the book that I was hoping Rediscovering Catholicism would be! I was pleasantly shocked that this was a genuinely good book.)