Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Confession is Good for the Soul

As I discerned becoming Catholic, I was very concerned with the notion of confession. To be frank, it scared me. I didn't want to have to confess anything to a priest or anyone else. It is bad enough admitting to myself that I've sinned, but it seems so much worse to have to say it out loud and to someone else. Coming from a perfectionist, this is a very troubling situation.
As I studied the faith I understood the concept of confession - what it is, what it does, and why it's necessary. Despite my "knowledge" of the subject, I still didn't want to do it. Before my first confession, I spent time writing down absolutely everything in as much of an abbreviated version as I could so that I wouldn't have to spend an hour pouring out my sins for the past 27 years (that time since my Baptism). I focused on the "biggies" that were really bad and those things that I often struggled with. I took my list with me - I didn't want to overlook anything. I still make "confessional" lists when I go to this day. I feel better having written it all down. But I digress. My first confession wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Surprisingly, the sense of relief I felt was truly amazing. To know that at that time I had truly been forgiven of all my sins, brought immense joy. Despite that feeling, I had no desire to go back any time soon. The fear of confession is what "kept me in line" for a good long while. After that, I would go for my "yearly" necessity at Easter.
The first time I had to go to "regular" confession as opposed to a penance service, I spent days and hours, beforehand reading up on everything because I wasn't sure if I would do it right. I took a copy of the act of contrition with me because I certainly didn't have it memorized. I had "notes" on what order everything was supposed happen. And I had my handy list of sins. Thankfully, in the confessional there is a laminated sheet with full instructions of what you're supposed to say and do. I survived the confession and once again felt better afterward and realized it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. But then again... I still didn't like it and didn't want to have to go again anytime soon.
About a week and a half ago, it was time for me to go again. This time I had a lot more sins that I was dealing with - let's just say there were some biggies. I had been seeking my own will was going through a dry spell of sorts when it came to my faith. Oh, sure, I still went to Mass weekly and played the part, but I was falling deeper into my own self-absorbed life that my relationship with God was mostly non-existent. In hindsight it is so obvious that once you start heading down the wrong path, it is easy to stray from everything - and my problem was that I tried to justify my actions and downplay their seriousness. But thankfully, God didn't abandon me. I found myself in a moment where I knew I needed to get back on track. I knew the only way that was possible was through total and complete forgiveness that I could only get through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So I made myself go. Once again, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (though it was still difficult). Once again, the relief of receiving full forgiveness was incredible.
As much as I still ultimately fear the confrontation, contemplation, and confession of my sins, I realize that there is great joy in having this sacrament available to me. When I was involved in the Baptist church, there was no true repentance for me when I would pray to God and confess my sins to him. It was so easy to slip back into a sinful nature because of this. I could only "hope" that I was forgiven by God - but I never had that certainty. For me, this Sacrament has made all the difference in my spiritual relationship. Yes, I still sin. I still have dry spells, but knowing that when I do fall, that I can confess, repent, and truly be forgiven is a wonderful blessing.
As I renew my faith and work on building my relationship with God again, I pray that I will make a regular practice of participating in confession. After all - can we ever receive too much Grace from God?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your description of confession. I am a protestant who is jealous of the practices of the Catholic faith. I have never confessed my sins verbally other than here and there to friends in conversation. I can completely understand the purpose behind confession in the Catholic Church, and your description and explanation of how it operates in your own personal life further show why people should not just do it because they have to, but actually do it because they want to. I can tell you that from the outside perspective - I am jealous of the confession box for the exact reason you described: in protestant churches there is no obligation to confess, but neither is the right to confess, neither is there the option, the privilege to confess. Further, there is no privilege of hearing someone tell you verbally that your sins have been forgiven – even after hearing all the awful things you have done.

Joy Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annabel said...

While I appreciate your input Joy Heather, I think we'll have to respectfully agree to disagree on matters of faith. But I agree that no man can forgive sins. It is only God that forgives. The priest simply acts in persona Christi during confession.
As for a relationship with Christ, I never had one as a Baptist. It is only through becoming Catholic and receiving the sacraments that I was able to develop my relationship with him.
And yes, we are sinners by nature and only God forgives, but the act of confession is very cleansing for me. It makes me more accountable and makes me want to not sin. It is very humbling to have to confess.
As for reading the Bible, I do read it and pray every day. But I appreciate the fact that the Catholic church is unified in its interpretation of it.
What eventually led me to the Church is the fact that there were so many divisions and none of them agreed on what the path to salvation was. While I appreciate your prayers for me, I ask that you pray that I continue to live in and receive God's graces as I have been through the Catholic Church.

Joy Heather said...

Dear Annabel..i am truly sorry if you misinterpreted what i tried to say in my comment... Truly no offence was meant at all..but i thought that the reason we had blogs was so that folk could comment ?..and it is very difficult in such a small space...Of course it is a matter of personal choice what 'religion' we chose..that is why i try NOT to say i am any particular religion..like you i found them so divisive and that was NOT how the Bible said we should be..its just that because of my background i am naturally interested when Folk have a whole blog specifically based on their conversion to a particular 'religion' (any of them)..I do know that many Catholic Priests are now becoming Born Again after studying what the Bible says about this, i have a wonderful tape by a born again Catholic Priest, it is very moving..and of course they still remain within the Catholic Church...All i meant,( although i obviously put it over very badly)..was that i hoped your relationship with Jesus was personal and not based on what was said by another person..you obviously do understand...that the ONLY pathway to God and to Eternal Life is Via Jesus Christ, the Bible is so VERY specific on that..no matter how you interpret it..as it says unless you come as a little Child etc..some folk do try to complicate this simple child like faith...I only commented as i thought your blog was very interesting and thought provoking...i am a 62 year old grandmother and have loved the Lord for over 40 years..but i am still learning and more than willing to listen to folk who have differing views to myself..i am once again truly sorry if i came across any other way,.. than just interested that our circumstances were so opposite..i pray you will get stronger each day in your chosen Faith and that you will learn more & more of Gods TRUTH..blessings to you Annabel..Joy

Annabel said...

Joy Heather -
No offense taken really, but oftentimes people that comment on my blog with differing points of view seem to think it's wrong that I choose to be Catholic. The phrase "born again" has held more of a negative connotation to me because of my Baptist experiences. Many times people assume that because I'm Catholic, I have no path to salvation. I, however, have more confidence in my salvation as a Catholic than I ever did as a Baptist. And I have a better relationship with Christ now, than I ever did. Am I perfect, no? But I continue to pray for and receive God's graces daily.
Thanks for your input. You're right, we do have blogs so that people may comment and you are certainly welcome to do so.

Joy Heather said...

I am pleased for anyone that finds peace and a closer walk with God..no matter what denomination they may be. That you have found this Peace within the Catholic Church Annabel is so good...The only reason i use the words 'Born Again'..are simply because they are in the Bible..and are what Jesus said we must be..in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven..and for no other reason, i simply consider myself a 'Christian'..if i knew what 'denomination' Jesus was..I would join them ...but its our belief in him that matters isn't it ?...and any religion that believes he is our Saviour is fine with me...A wonderful Minister who was also a dear friend once said to me 'Religion is man reaching up to God..Salvation is God reaching down to Man'..it matters not what path we take... as long as it ends up at the Cross,& with trust in Jesus for our Salvation..after all the Bible tells us that very thing doesn't it..that it was written for that EXACT purpose..that 'we may KNOW we have Eternal Life'..I am glad we have had our little chats..and pleased that you have a close Walk with the Lord..blessings Annabel..Joy

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Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to your description of approaching the sacrament of confession. It was a slow approach for me with much soul searching and anxiety. I also have found that the benefits kept me coming back despite the challenge in getting myself there. I am finally at the point where a week in between confessions seems like a very long time and I find myself longing for the touch of Jesus immediately after I have committed even an unintentional venial sin. Praise God for His Mercy.

cristmae said...

My journey as a Catholic is very satisfactory and until now and holding on my faith. Catholic faith