I was speaking with my spiritual director and confessor. Almost as an afterthought, I told him that sometimes I didn’t feel forgiven, even after confession. He explained that it was possible to be over scrupulous, but he also mentioned the lifelong confession.
I knew instantly that I was being called to do this and it was terrifying.
I spent the next 2 months preparing for a lifelong confession, not because anyone should necessarily take two months to prepare, but because the only confessor I could imagine asking, was the one who had suggested it. He lived 4 hours away. We booked my lifelong confession for a retreat that he would be chaplain at.
I prayed. I reflected. I asked the Lord to show me what I needed to confess…and boy, did He. I remembered things from a long time ago…and other things that I had probably already confessed; loosely, vaguely, conveniently omitting frequency or severity.
I wrote everything down, especially if I wasn’t sure if I had confessed properly before. I remember crossing the threshold into the room where I was to have my lifelong confession.
As I stepped through the doorway, I looked down at my shoes and I was thinking “I can still turn around and run!”. It was kind of how I felt every time I walked into the hospital to have a baby…a little anxious and fearful; only then running away wasn’t an option.
It wasn’t easy. In fact it was one of the hardest things I have ever done; to speak, out loud, a bunch of things that I was ashamed of. I had never been so deliberate or specific or thorough during confession.
I can still feel how incredibly, awesomely relieved I felt after that confession. I understood the Mercy of God and the power of confession monumentally, unbelievably, giant-steps bigger in the absolution of that confession, than I had ever felt or understood before. It really took.
Things that I had felt mortifyingly embarrassed and ashamed about, have been released from my guilt. I know it’s the Mercy of God, and Jesus’ humongous Suffering and Death on the cross that gives us the incredible gift of confession and ability to erase our sin…but there is no doubt in my mind that I paid the little tiny price…as big as I could offer by humbling myself in front of a priest, a friend who I love and respect so much. This was no anonymous confession.
I think I have read that being prepared and having true contrition are conditions for confession. I don’t think I could have been more prepared or more (mortifyingly!) sorry. No detachment, but full accountability …and in return I received Jesus’ Love and Mercy… just for me.
My confession was one of the most powerful experiences of God’s Love that I’ve ever had. It almost made my heart stop to do it, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And that list I wrote of my past sins? I destroyed it. I would have set it on fire if it wouldn’t have set the sprinklers off at the hotel where the retreat was.
Three conditions are necessary for Penance: contrition, which is sorrow for sin, together with a purpose of amendment; confession of sins without any omission; and satisfaction by means of good works.
–St. Thomas Aquinas
Monica, mom of 5, is usually blogging about Catholic crafts and family traditions at EquippingCatholicfamilies.com. She is the author of A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families, Hand in Hand with Jesus (a Faith Journal through the Sacraments) and a series of paper Cathletics Craft Kits and Cathletics quizzing cards to help teach the Catholic Faith. The Catholic teaching tools and gifts are available through Arma Dei, the Catholic family publishing company founded with her husband Bill. Monica is also one of the founders of the Catholic Bloggers Network, a venue to link and promote Catholic blogs.