I went to Confession at one of my new favorite churches in S. Jersey. The pastor is super Marian, unapologetically traditional, and a great lover of dogs. I love his half-hour homilies (again, for which he makes no apology - ha ha!).
Anyway, I really - REALLY - needed to get myself to a Confessional (more on that in a later entry). I'd already gone two weeks without reception of the Eucharist, and I wasn't about to make it a third. I really didn't like the prospect of confessing this particular litany of offenses, but God was good and put His Foot down and tugged at me something fierce. I could almost hear Him saying:
Gina, enough is enough. You know as well as I do that I want nothing more than to hug you and give you all the graces I have to offer. Get in the confessional already and ask Me for it! I miss you, and I know you miss Me, too. Stop being so stubborn!
So off I went. I didn't want to go to my own church for Confession (c'mon - like you guys have never wussed out of confessing to a priest who knows you well enough to recognize your voice), so I went to Fr. Trad since I'm only a sporadic face in the congregation. I figured I'd have a better chance of not feeling like a total tool the next time our paths cross.
When I got to the church, however, (about 15 minutes before I figured confessions would be ending), I was told he'd already gone back to the sacristy. One woman assured me that he'd hear my confession there as well, since he still had plenty of time before Mass.
Welp - there went any ideas of being behind the grille.
I looked towards the tabernacle and said (interiorly, of course), "Okay, Jesus. You knew that I didn't want to deal with the mortification of 'fessing up to Fr. Atlas, but you didn't want me getting off the hook that easily. Well played, good Sir, well played."
So I trudged to the sacristy and found Fr. Trad sitting at a desk reading a Scripture booklet. His trusty little dog sat behind him on the floor. I poked my head in after a brief knock and stated / asked, "Hi Father. I was directed here by a parishioner for Confession?"
He immediately put his book down and waved me in. He instructed me to close the doors (there were two). I did so and before I had even gotten back in front of him, he began with the sign of the cross. I dropped to my knees in front of him and followed suit, only to be near tackled by his friendly golden retriever. Mid-prayer, Fr. Trad pulled back Goldie's collar saying, "No. Down!" This then woke up a rusty colored dog who had been sleeping under the desk. I hadn't noticed her until she poked her head from under the desk to join the kiss-fest. It was adorable (I love, love, love dogs), but I have to admit being surprised. I never expected to take part in a Confession with two of those lovely little creatures. Ha ha!
Fr. Trad quickly got them under control and they laid back on the floor. I then did my part and confessed what I needed to confess. I was curious to hear what Father's "advice" section would sound like. I fully expected it to be a little more in-depth than the normal "3 Hail Mary's and try to be a good girl" speech that's so typical anymore. I also expected it'd be a little more stern considering his hard-line approach with sin during homilies and such.
I was right on both counts.
He wasn't overly harsh with me, but he gave me incredibly good insight. He made me view this particular "sin-set" in a vastly different light, and made sure I understood how grave my mistake was. Better understanding your sins enables you to better steer clear of them and definitely serves to help you battle against the temptations as they arise. This is one of the often overlooked perks of Reconciliation - strength and wisdom to not find yourself in the same situation a month from now.
I had my head bowed the entire time as I knelt in front of him, but I also had a little smile on my face. I half wondered if he could see it (and hoped he didn't think I was being a jerk or something). I was smiling because I could feel his words were what I needed to hear. It's like having an open wound and feeling the sting of alcohol. Yeah, it hurts, but you know the infection is being killed. Feeling the sting of his rebuke and then the salve of his absolution gave me peace. It always does.
Once completed, I thanked Father Trad for his time and left. It was only after I got into my car that I realized he hadn't put on a stole before the Sacrament. In fairness, he was probably in a bit of a hurry because he knew he was celebrating a Mass soon. I have no doubt that he typically does things "by the book," but I was taken by a sudden fear that maybe the absolution wasn't valid because he wasn't wearing a stole.
Then I thought, Doubtful Jesus was standing beside Fr. Trad during the absolution shaking His Head in refusal because a purple piece of cloth wasn't around his neck.
However, just to be on the safe side, I did a quick Google search for Father Z's answer. I figured with all the posts he does on the topic, there'd HAVE to be one answering this. As usual, Father Z did not disappoint. :)
Even though it wasn't an emergency, my guess is Fr. Trad didn't think he had time to vest himself because wanted to give me as much time as possible to make a good confession. Bless his priestly little heart for that. :)
And bless Father Z for removing the last traces of doubt from my mind that I could go back to receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.