Like Sun Shook Foil

Yesterday my Little Man, my Anthony made his First Holy Communion.

Yes, I got a little teary…just a little.  But, it was, ever again, one of those frozen in time moments.  Something about First Communion: the sweetness, the wild loud kids dressed in their best ever, trying so hard to find some decorum, sometimes failing.  The juxtaposition of their still flashing bright nature with the hovering pause before the consecration and them each approaching the altar….it makes me blink hard and hold my breath.  I smile as I see those wiggly boys just not quite be able to contain those wiggles or those distractions.  I gasp a little to see those sweet girls look like angels – old fashioned, maybe – but oh their sweet shining faces, glowing with the excitement of the afternoon and the fuss and hubub of veils and standing just so.

It’s a beautiful sacrament, one of the core foundations of our faith and our, ok – MY, strength and essential need.  These kids are old enough to “get it” and young enough to not be too jaded to care.  They really do embody the heart and flame of the love in this sacrament, to use Hopkins’ better words {one of my fav poems}, “like shining from shook foil.”

No wonder all of us parents and older folks stand around gaping and snuffling and grinning.  I’m so happy for my Little Man.  This sacrament is pure gift.

It was a sweet, happy day.

The Sacrament Electric

Today is a big day in the Coffeehouse.  Little Man is making his first confession tonight.  Or, to put it officially: tonight he receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Now, this is sometimes one of those divisive issues: that whole “Why bother with going to confession?” question.  Well, to that and to start an answer, I offer this perspective:

It’s true, in general our sins are always the same, but we clean our house, our room, at least every week, although the dirt is always the same.

Confession is necessary only in the case of grave sin. But it is very useful to go to confession regularly to cultivate cleanliness and beauty of soul, and to mature little by little in life.

Pope Benedict XVI
h/t to Julie at Happy Catholic
I’ve written about how much I have grown to love confession, here.   I didn’t use to love it.  And honestly, for a time in my life, I didn’t fool with it much.  That was sheer guilty fear, that.  Go read this post, you’ll see why I left it aside for a good while and how I came back to it. But again, the issue is with the need to go to and confess, to a real life sitting and maybe judging person.  Yikes! Why bother? I mean, you can pray and ask for forgiveness for your sins to Christ alone, inside your own heart, right?
Well,  yes.  But, the healing that comes from the actual grace of that sacrament is, simply put, electric.  Sometimes electric complete with the lit up ZING of it all.  Sometimes electric in the quieter sense of a warm light coming back on to chase away the dark.
But the actual, real, truth of this sacrament is that it’s another quietly radical event in our jaded world, playing out in the quiet corners of our churches and hearts.  It’s radical and true, it’s biblical: John 20:21-23.  Go see, I’ll wait.  This sacrament, the absolution received, gives us real strength and Grace to go out and try to do better.  What’s not to love about that? Who doesn’t need or want that?? I don’t know.
Some might think a second grader is too young for such a hefty sacrament, such a possibly scary sacrament.  He’s seven, almost eight.  But I disagree.  My son, my little man, he is old enough now to know the difference between right and wrong, between his selfish acts and his charitable ones.  He’s old enough to say he messed up, aloud, and to bow his head and say, “I’m sorry. Forgive me.”  He’s old enough to repair relationships that have been dinged.  And he’s old enough to understand how to stand up and step out and try again with new resolve.  Even if, especially at his age, it’s little things.  Even those little things, they make a difference.  They can chip away at relationships and our sense of self.  And trying to do the right thing, even in the little moments…?  Well, that’s how you can change the world.
And that, that knowledge of the power or reconciliation, of forgiveness, of faithfulness and repair…that’s a mighty strength.  An awesome gift.  Please keep my little guy in your prayers today, I’m proud of him and grateful for this boy and this gift of grace.


>image source: SQPN
So, there’s been a lot of talk about confession, different kinds of confession and different ideas and feelings about it. And of course, Lent begins in a mere few days, so…if there ever IS a season for confession…we are there.

And even so, I think that there is a yearning for this practice, no matter your faith tradition, or lack of one. Deacon has an interesting article on the rise and desire for confession, as evidenced by the long lines outside the old fashioned/refurbished confessionals in a New York church.

So I’ve been stewing on whether to write about what I think about confession, or not. There is SO much there and I can’t even begin to do it justice, and I would simply bore you all if I tried because I’d just mumble on. Like now…erk.

So, I’m gonna try to give you my quick, personal gloss on confession, my Catholic take on the Sacrament of Confession. As I mentioned, I think our culture craves this. Now, my use of the term ‘confession’ is quite a different thing from dear Becca’s confession Fridays. She has been doing a post on her Friday confessions each week, and encouraging us all to speak up if we are so inclined, to ‘confess,’ so to speak. Don’t get me wrong, this idea of owning up to our weaknesses and imperfections is hugely important, liberating, and also a relief… gives us all the evidence that none of us are supermom out there. And that is a great gift, so don’t stop Becca, you help us all when you put yourself out there!

But when I think of confession, I am meaning the specific Sacrament of Confession, or Penance, or, most accurately (and modern, but not my ‘old dog’ term): the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Because in the Catholic use of the term confession, we are really going to reconcile, with Christ himself. Many of us think, why do I have to go sit with a priest to do that? I can just tell my sins to Jesus in prayer and He will forgive me. Well, yes.

But it is utterly healing to do it with a person, and in the Sacramental nature of Confession, it is Sacramentally healing – meaning actual Grace (capital G grace, divine grace) comes to us through the priest’s absolution and gives us strength to do better and forgives our sins.

It’s a radical thing, don’t you think? Of course, it has to be, it’s biblical:

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23

Now, that’s just breathtaking to me.

I am a cradle Catholic, but a poorly taught one for most of my life, certainly my formative years. And I never knew, I never really knew, the depth and the amazing power of this sacrament. And I avoided it, scandalously, for years and years; my lapsed Catholic years, if you will.

Ever so long ago, I was called out, so to speak, on some of my (gravely) sinful college behavior, by a priest in confession. I was shocked and upset and wanted to be patted on the head and told, it’s ok, you have the best intentions and your heart is in the right place. Well, he pointed out that my heart might be in the right place but my behavior wasn’t and called me on it, called it for what it was: sin. Serious sin. I was, correctly, horrified. However, since I was an ignoramus, truly, I fled from the ‘rigid, archaic” Church rules and regulations and skipped confession for many years. Because I was hurt and upset, angry and finally, kind of terrified. {Just like a kid who’s gotten on the wrong side of their parents, but doesn’t really fully understand why.}

Finally, some long time ago, a kind wonderful young priest said, “Um, that was a tough experience, though he was correct. But, you need to trust again.” Oh. My. I am really bad at that whole trust thing. I don’t do that well at all. But he was right. So I worked on learning more, about the church and confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And so, with heart racing and feeling like I might get sick, I tried again. I went to confession. For real.

And it was electric.

I mean, I had, for all those years, prayed and never left my faith (I thought). I apologized in my prayers for my failings and my sins. But when I actually returned to the Sacrament of reconciliation…well, I finally felt it, I felt, um, reconciled. Doh. But it felt like the world made real sense again, better and truer, more hopeful.

I kept, and keep, screwing up. My life is like a briar patch, and I get caught on my own thorns and snags every single darn day. But now, I have this sacrament to help me out. And it does, unspeakably so.

It’s like that itchy, uncomfortable, out of sorts kind of feeling that you have when you’ve been fussing with someone, or when you said the kind of wrong thing or something was taken the wrong way. It kind of stays with you and makes you have that very low, underlying out of kilter feeling…until you make it up with that person and/or sort things back out with them. That’s confession. It’s a reconciliation, after all. But with the most important person of all.

I went to confession this morning. And I had to kind of drag myself there. I knew I needed it, it had been a few weeks since my last confession. And I was getting over a week of sick in the house and a killer migraine last night, so had a “migraine hangover.” I was not feeling too great, exhausted and ridiculously irritable. But I did make it to church. And when I got there who did I see arriving but our own dear Bishop! Bishop Choby. Special, unscheduled surprise visit!I love this man. He is my spiritual Father. He used to be our pastor and is now our Bishop and he is a holy man, period. He is utterly kind and good. I almost cried, just saying hello to him, I was just SO happy to see him! (Yes, I’m a doofus like that, but I haven’t seen him in a while). And so I made my confession. And he gave me absolution and my penance. And then I did cry, as I sat in the pew to pray, I couldn’t help it. Not because it was horrible and I was still scared, but out of love and sheer gratitude for the beauty of this Sacrament.

Because this is what it comes down to, for me. If I am SO glad to see this man, my spiritual Father, my Bishop, how electrified and lit up with jubilation will I be when I get the chance to stand before Jesus himself, God, my heavenly Father? OH, I can’t imagine, but I know that this is but a shadowy glimmer of the real thing.

And that’s the Sacrament of Confession, for me.
It’s often electric.
But not always.
But it’s always strengthening, and comforting.
It brings me back to the person, after I stepped away in my selfishness.
It’s a reconciling.
It heals.

Here are a couple of books that are great:
A pocket guide to Confession

Pardon and Peace
So, erk, I did it again. A long ramble. You know I can’t help it. And that’s a Becca confession: “my blog posts are long and rambly and boring”…but it’s Saturday and not Friday…so I’ll have to add it to hers next week!

But, I love confession. I went from being terrified of it, to finally knowing the great peace and real strength and comfort it gives.

It’s worth a try. It is, literally, out of this world.