confession of a confession

April 16, 2013

like any good catholic, i am reluctant to go to confession. when i was a child i hated going because i felt like i had to make up sins for the priest. my memory and my conscience were not reliable vehicles when i was 8 so i’d think about bad things i could have done and tell the priest about that. according to the priests at St Margaret Mary Parish, i did a lot of sticking out my tongue at other kids while on the school bus. pulling my sister’s arm out of socket remained an omission.

my parents left the church shortly after i went through Reconciliation (the rite of going to confession, basically) so the issue of hating confession wasn’t an issue until i returned to the church a few years ago. i found that returning to the faith did not instantly renew in me a deep love for all Catholic rites. but since i was an adult now, i could make really mature, independent choices for myself like picking and choosing which rites i was going to get into. thus, i only went to confession every 2 years (and maybe that is a generous assessment).

it’s shameful i know.

the Church actually requires Catholics to go to confession once a year – which, really, is not much at all. and, though i’ll go out of my way to make it to mass on every possible feast day, i still don’t make my yearly confession. i’ll disclose the fact that mark has a similar struggle, so we have not been helpful to one another on this front. we talk a lot about how we should go to confession and then tend to panic sometime during the Easter Triduum each year, trying to find someplace to confess before Easter Sunday hits. it is a really bad cycle.

this year, we managed to go to confession on Good Friday (right in the nick of time, huh!) and i was reminded that confession…is actually not the worst thing to happen to me. 20 (eek) years after i first went through Reconciliation, my memory may be similarly bad but my conscience is a machine well oiled by my fits of anxiety and over-analysis. it’s no longer a problem of conjuring up the ways in which i’ve sinned, it is more a matter of how articulate and detailed i should be about these sinful ways (a pressing concern when the confession line winds along the length of the sanctuary).

when i was an Evangelical, i embraced the sentiment that God forgiving your sins was just the beginning of the story. you were a sinner,  you found God, now go share the good news with others. as a Catholic, my sin is never spoken of in the past tense, never fading in the rear view mirror. and rather than being cause for anxiety, embracing the fact that i’m a sinner – that i sin daily, in creative, multitudinous ways – is somehow reassuring to me. God doesn’t expect me to have all my shit together. so why do i expect that?

talking with mark on the way home from Good Friday mass, he reminded me that people don’t go to mass or confession because they are holy but because they are sinners. so often i think the opposite – that the people going to daily mass, making weekly confessions are the holy pious in our midst (and they probably are). but their motivation to do those things is not a conviction of their own marked holiness as much as a response to the searing awareness of their need for God.

as someone who is all too constantly aware of my own shortcomings, i need to re-circuit my response to this awareness. instead of leading me into insular, unproductive self-loathing, i hope that the imperfection that i am all-too conscious of will trigger in me a desire to draw close to God and to practices that are life giving. not only in terms of going to confession more but in daily moments of insecurity, doubt, and sadness, may i situate myself closer to the uncaused Cause, the all-knowing God, life-giving Creator.


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