My first confession turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I awaited it with dread, but discovered it to be a gift of grace.
For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the sacrament of penance, I’ll give some detail about the order of events. I chose to confess in a confessional (you’re on one side of a screen, the priest is on the other). So, you enter, kneel, make the sign of the cross, and say “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been…years since my last confession,” (in my case, I said “This is my first confession). Then you begin confessing your sins. Afterwards the priest gives you advice and encouragement on how to overcome sins in your life and explains your penance (prayers in most cases). The priest then absolves you of your sin with a prayer of absolution. You then pray the prayer of contrition:
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
I fully intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his name, My God, have mercy.
As you leave the confessional the priest says “Go in peace.”
Personally, I found the idea of having to tell another person all of my sins (or all that I could remember from the past 24 years) absolutely terrifying. And I’ll admit that it was scary, awkward, and uncomfortable. Before participating in this sacrament I viewed it merely as a very unpleasant rite necessary to complete in order to partake in the Eucharist. I found it to be a great blessing. Unconfessed sin leads to guilt which sickens the soul. That is not to say that we should not be ashamed of our sins, I don’t think I have ever been more ashamed than when contemplating what I was going to have to say in confession. But when the confession is over it is done. You are not bound anymore. You are free. You start anew and the guilt is gone. You truly Go in Peace. I think I also used to have a false conception of penance. Penance is not an attempt to pay the debt of your sins. We cannot do this. When the priest told me my penance, my first reaction was shock at how mild it was. “Did you hear what I just told you? That isn’t nearly enough penance!” But Our Lord paid our debt on the cross. We are not able to pay it. Our penance is merely a way of reconciling with God and helping us to sin no more. Praying for God’s help, for example, might be a penance but that’s not a punishment, right? Or a penance of certain prayers like the Our Father or the Hail Mary, those bring us closer to God, so even our penance is a gift. I have never been more struck by my gravity of my sin and the unsurpassed mercy and grace of God.
Here’s some excerpts from the chapter on Confession in Signs of Life, the book Daniel and I are reading during Lent this year:
“Confession is the way God’s people have always gone about repenting, healing, and reconciling. Read the first pages of the Bible, and you’ll find God asking Adam, ‘Where are you?’ Later, God asks the murderer Cain, “Where is your brother?” The Almighty isn’t looking for information. He already knows everything. He’s looking for the one thing Adam and Cain should have given him, but didn’t—and that’s a full confession. He wanted it for their sake, so that they might live again in the truth.”
“Only Jesus could say with authority: ‘My son, your sins are forgiven’ (Mk 2:5). Jesus had the authority to share that power with his chosen clergy, the apostles. And that’s precisely what he did, on the day of his resurrection: ‘He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”’(Jn 20:22-23).”
On another front, our Little Bear is growing and learning every day.
He loves to read books and can now flip the pages of regular books (not just board books) pretty well.
This is him pointing to the Pig and saying “Piggy” which is one of his favorite words.
He has also discovered that there are many fun things to do with blocks. He has always enjoyed knocking them down but now he likes banging them together to make a joyful noise.
Or handing them to Mama.
Or sitting and playing.
He can stack them five-high now, too but when I asked him to do it for the camera he just made this face.
Tune in tomorrow for some exciting news on the sheep! Here’s a hint: LITTLE FLUFFY BABY LAMB! Ok, not a hint, but I’m too excited. Pictures tomorrow.