One thing I loved about going to church, when I was a little girl, was the hymns. I’ve mentioned several throughout my blog; Great is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well with My Soul, Amazing Grace.
But recently, on my way home from St. Meinrad Archabbey, I was listening to Hymns for All the World, by the group Acappella, and was reminded of another favorite. Softly and Tenderly. There is something about the way that they sing it in particular way that is so powerful and yet so gentle. I love the line that says, “Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading. Pleading for you and for me. And why should we linger and heed not his mercy…mercy for you and for me.”
That line reminds me of the sacrament of reconciliation. Growing up Protestant, I never saw the need to tell someone else my sins. But I have discovered, since becoming Catholic and going to confession on a regular basis, some of the amazing benefits of doing so.
First, let me preface what I am saying by adding the disclaimer: What I am writing comes from my heart and my head, not from what is written in the Catechism…I’m not quoting anyone else (except for those noted here). This is merely my own personal experience and observations.
Okay. So, the first time I went, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I mean, how do you sum up forty plus years? I was scared I was going to say the wrong thing or use the wrong words. I mean, up until that point, the closest I had come to a confessional was watching it in the movies. I was relieved to find out that the priest, knowing that it was my first confession, offered the option of kneeling or sitting on the other side of the confessional or meeting face to face and having him walk me through it. I chose the latter.
Why is helpful to confess to someone? Several reasons that I could see. One, through the priest talking me through the ten commandments and explaining what sins fall under each one, it helped bring to mind those things that I needed to confess.
When I was done, the priest gave me things to do as penance…reading scripture, works of mercy, or prayer. He then prayed with me and as asked me to offer an act of contrition. There was a prayer written that you could recite, so I used it as my guide. Once I was finished, he offered a prayer of absolution.
Somehow, saying my sins out loud made them more real to me. It was hard to name them, which is a good thing. And, by going regularly to confession, it makes me mindful of those things I struggle with and makes me more attentive to the temptation of them.
Through acts of contrition, I feel like I am doing something tangible to atone for my sins. It doesn’t excuse the fact that I did them in the first place, but it helps me work towards avoidance of them in the future.
As Jim’s father used to say, confession is like a shower for the inside. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but through the sacrament of reconciliation, I get to hear an audible voice pray for me, hear the words, “Your sins are forgiven”, and give me the encouragement and strength I need to fight those things in my life that work to bring me down. To me, it is an amazing gift that Christ gave the church. And when I have finished, I can say, once again, Nunc Coepi.
Now I begin…