Given the fact that I work for the Archdiocese, I know a lot of priests; worse, these priests tend to know me!
Normally, I'm totally on board with getting to know priests; they're a pretty awesome bunch! However, this familiarity works against me hardcore when it comes to Confession.
I dunno about the rest of you, but I go out of my way - WAY, WAY out of my way - to confess to a priest that will not recognize me. That is not an easy task when you work with so many of them on a routine basis. It's especially tough when your normal place to confess just happens to have two of your most well-known priests in residence.
C'mon now, Jesus, you're kidding me, right?
Every year, I go to Confession before the start of CCD. I want to be as ready as possible to teach these kids, and that includes a fresh soul-scrubbing. So as I do, I promised Jesus I'd get myself to Confession before Tuesday's class.
This past weekend, I didn't make it as a result of my own stupidity. When I went on Monday, one of those aforementioned priests greeted me at the Cathedral. Turns out he was the only one doing Confessions that day, so I immediately turned around and walked back to my office.
When Tuesday rolled around, I prayed the whole way over: "Jesus, please. I promised you I'd go to Confession, but I just don't think I've got the courage to go to Fr. Happy Meal (who happens to be in residence there). Whoever You've got doing Confessions today, please, please, please do NOT let it be Fr. Happy Meal."
I was so worried Jesus was going to specifically put him in there as an extra dose of penance via humility.
When I got there, a brand-spankin' new priest was in the confessional. Instantly, I had this realization that Jesus wants me to reconcile myself to Him... of course He'd make it easy for me to do so. Why had I spent so much time worrying I'd have to turn away again?
Ah well... at least I'm an absolved Gina now. Ha ha ha!
Do any of you go out of your way to steer clear of priests who would recognize your voice? I can't possibly be the only one!
I guess the topic of failure is not done with me yet. Given how great I am at failing, it's nice to know I'm in good company every once in a while.
After writing The Importance of Sharing Failure, and posting the status update to Facebook, I've gotten some really great feedback. As such, I've been thinking more about it and wanted to again point out that the mirage of perfection that we see online, in magazines, and on television is just that - a mirage.
The only perfection we can hope to attain is that eternal reward of union with Christ in Heaven. That is the perfection we should be running towards. What does a thigh gap have on eternal life? Do the numbers 36-24-36 mean anything in the light of Divinity? Or is it the bulging biceps that will somehow overshadow the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross?
We all fail. It's part of our frail human natures. Even the greatest saints among us have fallen.
St. Paul spoke of the thorn in his side. He never named the sin that caused him to falter, but he understood the importance of sharing his faults so that others may benefit.
St. Augustine. Oh bless him... St. Augustine is proof that there's a chance for me yet.
Even St. Peter, himself, failed his best friend, Jesus - THREE TIMES.
We all will fail. The difference between St. Peter and Judas is that St. Peter sought forgiveness. He recognized his failing, and he sought forgiveness.
We are not perfect, folks. How lucky we are that God forgives! And yes, this ties in nicely with all the Pope Francis talk about Confession.
Run to Him. Recognize your failing as a stepping stone towards sainthood. We will all falter at some point. However, it only becomes failure if you give up and do not seek forgiveness. So long as you're still alive, you know God hasn't given up on you. Why should you give up on yourself if He hasn't?
Recognize your failings and rectify them so they become beacons of Christ's mercy. What better place to do that than in the Confessional wherein Christ wraps His arms around you and pulls you to His Sacred Heart. The absolution you hear is simply the vocalization of His beating Heart serenading you with unconditional love and boundless mercy.
You fine readers know I've been having a rough go of spiritual things lately.
I'm honestly feeling much better. After writing things out, reading your comments / messages, and praying, I'm feeling on the up and up.
In fact, I feel as though I've done a bit of a 180.
In my quest to "work through the muck" I tried a variety of ways to kick the darkness away. What I think ended up working best was focus on Jesus' crucifixion. I went back to Maria Valtorta's writings and found my solace there. I couldn't pray to Jesus, so I read about Him. I found that the more I read of His Sacrifice, the more my heart melted. After all, how can you not love Him upon learning the lengths He went to re-establish our right to Heaven?
So I read - a lot. And I finally decided that I needed to go to Confession again. Since the first round found me more grumpy and agitated than humble and sorry, I figured I should get myself in order and try again without the attitude.
I went in for Confession and explained my situation to the priest. This time, upon receiving absolution, I felt truly reconciled. I attended Mass immediately afterwards and have been back in the saddle (so to speak) ever since.
I guess the moral of that story is: if at first you don't succeed, go to Confession until you get it right. *Grin*
Since I don't get to post as often as I used to, the moment I get a chance to write, entries spill out left and right. :)
Anyway, today I wanted to go to Confession as part of my "Get on a plane to die" preparations.
Can you tell I'm just a tad scared of flying?
So I tell my coworker I'll be a little late for lunch because I needed to go to Confession and he sorta laughed. Firstly, he's not Catholic, so the concept of Confession is foreign to him. Secondly, he finds it amusing that I legitimately fear death by way of flying. Some people double check their wills are in order before they fly. Me? I double check my soul. I feel like it's the smarter of the two. Heh.
Another coworker overheard me saying as much and he asked if I liked going to Confession. Hence the topic of this entry.
The answer is no. I don't actually like going to Confession. I push it off regularly. That being said, I also LOVE going to Confession. I try to go regularly. It's like those two sides of me are CONSTANTLY bickering - right up until I finish my confession (because even while I'm 'in the box,' my mind is trying to say "Eh, that sin isn't big enough to report" or "Oh man, do NOT tell him that... he'll try to exorcise you right now!" Until I get everything out, part of me is trying to claw its way out the situation.
Even walking to the basilica today... I was walking towards the confessional with dread because I knew I'd have to confess all my dirty little sins. However, even walking towards the church with that dread, I was practically skipping because I was walking towards Jesus. My heart was a little "Don't do it, you'll embarrass yourself, it's shameful, just go grab your lunch and do this later!" while a dopey grin was plastered on my face since my soul was practically chirping a "Jesus, get ready, 'cause here I come!" song to drown out the shame working its way through my system.
You'd think going regularly helps. I guess it does to a certain extent. It's a good way to train your body into relaxing a little because you know that once it's all out, the world isn't going to end and the priest isn't going to try to drive a stake through your heart. It'll allow that part of you that buzzes with excitement to grow confidence. However, it hasn't yet stifled the negativity for me. I dunno that it ever will. Maybe it shouldn't, either. Confession shouldn't be something I am overjoyed to run to every day, ya know? It should be a Sacrament that I make use of regularly, of course, but it's good to have a certain degree of dread going in there.
Maybe not dread of the priest, but dread of facing yourself in the reflection of Truth. Trying to see yourself as God sees you... in the light of His Commands. Doing a thorough Examination of Conscience and then owning up to how you faired on the exam - it's not an easy thing. However, the worthwhile things in life rarely are. So again, maybe a bit of dread isn't the worst thing in the world if you cling to the fact that Jesus is on the other side of that grille waiting to take you back with open arms. He's practically giddy with excitement as He rushes to meet us with His Mercy through the absolution of His priests.
The knowledge that my soul is clear should I die in a fiery plane crash a day or so later doesn't hurt, either. ;) Ha ha ha.
But yes. Those are my feelings on Confession. I mostly love it. But there is definitely a part of me that really, REALLY wishes I could go without it. Heh. Then again, who actually likes taking medicine?
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies II - The Warning
I hate to call it "The Warning." However, that's what everyone, including our Heavenly messengers, are calling it. I guess that's because it truly is a Warning. But it's not meant to be a warning in the sense that God is wagging His Finger at us while yelling from the front seat of the mini-van to be quiet.
Instead, it is an educational experience meant to teach us - once and for all - that God both exists and loves us with an incomprehensible passion... that He longs for us to return to our rightful inheritance.
How best to do this when so many of His children deny His existence? How best to do this when so many of us have never heard of Him? How best to do this when those who DO know Him don't understand Him?
Leave it to God to come up with a brilliant solution to all of those problems at once.
According to several different visionaries (including some who have already undergone a "mini-warning" so as to prepare the rest of us for the experience) humanity as a whole will undergo an Illumination of Conscience.
What exactly does this mean?
According to those who have undergone it (St. Faustina included), time stops and we will see our souls in the Light of God's Truth. We will experience a "mini-judgement" similar to what souls experience at death.
Time will stop and all of humanity from ages 7 on will experience this Illumination. We will immediately feel the overpowering Presence of God's Love encompassing us. Then, we will be shown all of those instances in which we were blessed with His Grace. We will see all those times in which we accepted His Grace, and all those times in which we rejected it (through sin).
In this way, we will immediately come to know not only God, but His Love for us and the myriad of ways in which He's shown us that Love throughout our lives.
This experience will be for believer and non-believer alike. It will happen simultaneously for everyone all throughout the world, and during this experience of intense love, we will understand for the first time what God expects of us as His children. Having seen our souls in this manner, we will know exactly what must be done in order to reconcile ourselves to Him.
There is also an added grace being granted, according to certain visionaries. During this brief Illumination (said to be about 15 minutes long), God will allow humanity to experience what it is to endure Hell. He will allow us all (saint and sinner alike) to feel the spiritual flames that are punishment for rejecting His Mercy and Love. So for a time during this Illumination, all will know what Hell is, and no more can folks insist that it does not exist.
How can this be considered mercy?
Well, is mercy not in ensuring your children understand the true ramifications for bad decisions? Is not mercy instilling knowledge of the Truth in them so that they may be equipped to choose the ways of Love and Mercy?
Allowing us to touch Hell allows us to break the bonds of disbelief. Allowing us to feel the flames of hatred allows us to know and cling to Love.
So yes... even the experience of Hell is Divine Mercy.
But more exciting... more incredible... more awe-inspiring is the idea that we will see ourselves before God and through His Eyes! We will experience His Love in totality! At the close of this experience (we are told) BILLIONS will be converted. To finally know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God exists and wants us back with Him in Heaven... to have a taste of His Love and to finally have the veil lifted from our sin-goggled eyes... oh joy of joys!!!
In response to Lori Ann's question, this is a sample list that I use to do a quick inventory. It took me about 30 minutes to do this the first time. Now I'm able to do a pretty quick tally in under 10... five if I'm in a pickle. I still feel better if I write it all out, but that's just me. This is a basic list to go from, and once you've got the subheading suggestions down, you can come up with your own.
Sample Examination Guide:
1st Commandment: I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
Do I prioritize material objects (money, clothes, food or television shows) over God?
Do I put other people (family, friends, celebrities, etc) ahead of God in my life?
Do I ignore God altogether?
2nd Commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Do I say things like "I swear to God" when I'm not being fully honest?
Do I use God's name as part of curses (ex: Goddamn it)
Do I listen to music that takes God's name in vain?
Do I consent to conversations that take God's name in vain?
3rd Commandment: Keep holy the Sabbath.
Do I attend Sunday Mass and all holy days of obligation?
Do I rest in accordance with God's Divine example?
Do I do anything to profane the day set aside for special honor and appreciation of God's blessings?
4th Commandment: Honor thy father and mother.
Do I obey my parents?
Do I obey my superiors and those who have authority over me?
Do I reflect the morals and teachings they've worked to instill in me?
5th Commandment: You shall not kill.
Have I been a party to murder (abortion counts on this one, folks)?
Have I caused spiritual death through scandal or intimidation?
Have I contributed to the emotional scarring of an individual through taunts,
humiliation or bullying?
6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.
Have I sought marital satisfaction (emotionally, physically, psychologically) outside the
bonds of my own marriage?
Have I remained chaste in my thoughts and actions (pornography, lewd thoughts, etc).
Have I put another person / thing above my spouse?
Have I intentionally dressed in an overtly sexual manner, thus giving away the
modesty meant only for my spouse?
Have I shared emotions and desires with another person and not my husband, thus
taking from him / her the opportunity to connect and understand me on a deeper
7th Commandment: You shall not steal.
Have I taken anything that doesn't belong to me without first asking?
Have I borrowed something with no intent to return it?
8th Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do I participate in gossip?
Do I spread lies about someone?
Do I say nothing as others spread fallacious information about someone?
Do I not strive for truth and honesty in my actions, thoughts and words?
9th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
Do I lust after anyone?
Do I watch pornography or read lewd materials?
Do I listen to suggestive music or take enjoyment in watching suggestive videos?
Do I seek fulfillment outside of my own marital relationship instead of working to
nurture and solidify it?
10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
Have I gotten jealous of someone because of the blessings they have in life?
Instead of being grateful for my own blessings, have I grumbled and demanded more than my fair share on the basis of what I perceive others to have?
Have I lost faith in Divine Providence?
Pride: Have I placed myself above others in life? Have I expected things of others that I don't expect of myself? Have I made excuses for my failings?
Gluttony: Akin to Commandment 1, have I over-indulged on food, clothing or entertainment? Have I ignored my duties as a parent / wife / friend because I've prioritized gluttonous tendencies over my vocation?
Wrath: Have I reacted with hatred or anger? Have I wished ill on someone? Have I allowed anger to boil up inside of me to flood out my love and patience?
Envy: Akin to Commandment 10, have I been envious of others? Have I become ungrateful for my own blessings while comparing them to the perceived blessings of others?
Sloth: Have I been lazy? Have I spent more time on Facebook than I have on the "big project" at work? Have I watched three movies in a row while I push off laundry and dishes for the 5th straight night? Have I said my prayers in bed instead of kneeling beside it because I was simply "too tired" to move? Have I pushed off prayer altogether (be it Mass, daily offerings, etc) because I just "didn't feel like" praying that day?
Greed: Also akin to Commandment 10, have I taken more than my fair share of resources? Have I hungrily worked around the clock to amass food / money / materials for myself without thought to those who are also struggling to get by? Have I been willing to share my resources with others through Divine Providence?
Lust: Akin to Commandment 9, have I lusted after a person or thing? Have I allowed myself to watch pornographic materials, listen to overtly sexual music, or partake in sexual activity that is outside the bonds of marriage?
One of the things I've tried to do better with is Confession. Ever since my reversion, I've sorta made inconsistent progress with this. Some months I'll amass a hefty "sin log" after doing a thorough examination of conscience. Other times I'll rush myself to the nearest confessional to hastily spout off a list of sins I've "probably" committed since my last trip to the box.
Obviously you get out of Confession what you put into it. In my latter example, I wasn't getting much out of the experience, and I doubt highly that Jesus was thrilled with my half-baked effort.
So how does one become better at Confession, anyway?
For me, I went to a source that seems to have usurped Confession as his life's mission - Fr. Z.
You folks have heard me prattle on and on about him in the past. I can't help it. I really have learned so much from following his blog. He talks about Confession - a lot - so I knew that a good breeding ground for knowledge would be his archives.
The most helpful thing for me has been Father Z's insistence on completing a thorough examination of conscience using one (or more) "checklists." He even said if you're in a total pickle and don't have access to a specific list, run through the 10 Commandments in your mind.
I've found that the easiest way for me to complete a thorough exam is to list all 10 Commandments and then the 7 Deadly Sins. And yes, I write them all out with my matching offenses underneath the various categories. I feel like those cover just about every dirty little deed I could possibly do, so taking inventory with those as my guide ensures I don't miss anything. The most helpful, in my opinion, are those 7 deadly sins, though.
In compiling this guide for myself, I realized I needed to delve into a few that I hadn't really thought about before. Gluttony, for example.
Oh, Lord... gluttony.
I admit it. I had no idea that gluttony could be considered a mortal sin. Looking it up in the Catechism, though, I found that gluttony is most certainly a mortal sin (and with good reason). And oh, how gluttonous I am!!!
Wrath, as well. I always assumed wrath looked like this:
After doing some more research into what constituted wrath, I learned that it could also look very much like me when I angrily react towards Vincent after a string of sleepless nights. Upon understanding the Church's definition of wrath, I came to understand that it was something I struggled with intensely. A mortal sin I'm most ashamed of as it not only hurts Christ, but my sweet little angel baby. A sin that hurts my husband when I verbally tear into him for a perceived insult or a forgotten pile of dirty dishes. A sin that hurts me because it destroys my relationship with God and those around me through severing trust, love and peace.
You see, I always thought mortal sin was relegated to things like murder, torture and stealing stuff from poor people. Eating a box of popsicles, reactionary punishments and even withholding forgiveness to satiate prideful arrogance never entered the realm of mortal sin thought because I simply didn't think of them as mortally sinful. In light of Church teaching, however, I really have come away with a much better understanding of these particular "dirty deeds" and as a result, I've been able to work on reigning them in.
So yes. Mortal sin is definitely something that I've been thinking a lot more about in recent months. Instead of running around thinking it was darn near impossible for me to commit one, I've come to realize that it's a lot easier than I once thought.
This understanding, I think, wasn't given to me to have me freak out over every failure I have as a mother, wife and friend. I do, however, think this in-depth reflection has been granted so I could pull myself closer to Christ. It's almost as if He threw out a rope to me to begin yanking myself up out of the muck. All the while I've been putting one hand over the other, struggling against the weight of myself, He's not only been holding up the rope, He's been pulling it steadily towards Himself, and with it, me.
Again, the process isn't fun, but the reward is well worth the struggle.
For as much as I'm against using Wiki as a reference, explanations for the Deadly Sins are actually pretty spot on, so it's a good place to start if you're interested in learning more.
That's right, Satan... keep on walkin'
So I had a strange experience on Saturday (one that I'm still grateful for, even though it left me somewhat anxious and confused).
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.
So I missed my normal window for Confession today. As a result, I did a quick search of the surrounding parishes to see who had confession at a later time. Turns out there was a parish about ten minutes from me that offered it just before their vigil. I was surprised that their vigil was at 4pm (just seems early to me). However, I figured I'd give it a go since I like the option of checking out new churches when I have spare time.
So I found my way to the Church and am immediately struck by how modern it looks (even from the outside).
The rectory, for example, looks like the dorm buildings my friends lived in back at college. The Church was offset a bit and had no real visible entrance. Luckily, I saw an elderly gentlemen walking off around a corner somewhere, so I followed his lead and found myself in a tiny room attached to the church. In this tiny room was an elevator that apparently takes you into the church, itself.
That's a first. I've never been in a church with an elevator that takes you directly into the church.
Anyway, as I exited the elevator, I took a quick look around to figure out where I was. The entire set-up of the church was confusing - I think it has to do with the shape of the building itself. It's kinda like a hexagon. The pews were all angled - NONE ran parallel to the altar. There seemed to be several "cry rooms" flanking the various walls. The confessionals were closed off, and all the lights were out. There were three or four people in the pews praying, so I followed their lead and shimmied my way into a pew near what was as close to "center" as I could get. Even from my well-chosen vantage point, I had to crane my neck to view the tabernacle because the seating arrangements were so odd.
I wish I could explain it better, but wow. Jesus was "technically" in the center of the sanctuary, but because the seating around the sanctuary was so angled and confusing, you'd be hard-pressed to acknowledge that during a Mass.
Then the artwork... barring the statues (which were absolutely beautiful), there were these huge lines that ran the entire length of the church. In my mind, they looked like music note lines. Hanging on these metal lines were the various Stations of the Cross. You could see them easily enough, but again, due to the set-up of the pews, I wonder how one might actually walk them without weaving yourself dizzy. The stained glass windows, though colorful, were an assortment of random religious symbols. Nothing inherently Catholic about any of them which just reaffirmed my sense of being in a Pentecostal church. Otherwise, it was a blank white wall.
And that's really what it was like for me - a Pentecostal church. I really thought for a quick minute that maybe this parish had originally purchased it from an organization like that and had just made a few changes. It was just so strange.
So I took all of this in while waiting for the Confessional lights to blink on. No luck, so I asked a parishioner if there was Confession tonight. She directed me to the narthex (which is the lobby area of a church) and said I could find a Reconciliation room there.
In the NARTHEX?!?!?! Oookay...
Anyway, after checking the "Reconciliation Room" a few times , I finally walked in and surprised the priest who had snuck in between my checks. I poked my head around the wall and there he was, sitting in a chair, rosary in his hand, dressed in a full-on Jesuit cassock! And he was young, too! I darn near fell over!!!
Upon recollecting myself, I asked if he would please hear my confession. He welcomed me and off I went. He gave me very sweet advice, a proper penance and even wished me a happy Mother's Day. Considering how completely displaced I'd felt in the church, I was honestly surprised by the traditional, tidy confession I was blessed with.
I almost - ALMOST - decided to stay on for the vigil, but the "odd" feelings wouldn't leave me be. I couldn't even finish my penance there. I had to leave because everything about being in that church felt wrong. I couldn't even genuflect to Christ as I crossed aisles because of how the seating was arranged. It was unnerving. I couldn't imagine attempting to make it through a Mass with such a heavy feeling of "wrong, wrong, wrong" nagging at my heart.
In all the churches I've been to, I've never once had that reaction. I've been in plenty of modern churches, too (my own home parish is modern), but none were so off-putting as this.
Ah well - on the plus side, I was blessed with a wonderful confessor. If he was the one presiding at Mass, I have no doubt the congregation was blessed tonight, regardless of the church's set-up. I honestly couldn't stick around to find out. I waited the hour and a half and took Vince to the vigil at my own parish.
I'm glad it worked out that way. Just before the final blessing, Father Atlas gave flowers to all the mothers. Then, he extended his hands in a special blessing over us. How sweet was that? Our sweet deacon handed Vincent my flower and said, "Now give that to your Mommy!" Vincent happily did so, and after Mass, he happily gave it over again to the Blessed Mother (along with a few blown kisses for good measure).
Do you struggle with diocese envy? Do you wish your diocese (or Archdiocese!) would step up and do something as brazen as purchase prime-time airspace to get this message of healing to the faithful? To those fallen away? To those looking for a way back in?
I do - but no worries... Confession isn't just for Floridian Catholics! :) We've got ourselves regular Confessions up in Jersey, too. Actually, we've got confessions anywhere there is a priest! So take advantage, folks! Jesus is waiting to embrace that soul of yours with His Divinity!
Again... I love me some Confession!
The topic of 1st Penance came up as our 2nd graders made theirs tonight. For me, my 1st Penance was the most memorable of the Sacraments of my childhood.
I was in 2nd grade, and I was in Fr. John Kalloor's line (he's now a Bishop in India serving the Malankarites - he's so wonderful!). I remember being a little nervous because my family was so well known in the parish. I trusted that Father Kalloor wouldn't tell my mom any of the bad stuff I would confess (because of the seal), but I was still worried he'd think I was a bad person or something.
Anyway, I saw that it was my turn to make my confession. I was happy that Fr. John was sitting in front of Our Lady's statue in the sanctuary. It was a face-to-face confession (which I had dreaded), but I was glad that the Blessed Mother was watching over everything. I don't remember what my confession actually consisted of, but I remember that he gave me a penance of 3 Hail Marys. I recited the Act of Contrition and off I went.
Instead of immediately going to the Altar Rail for my 3 Hail Mary's (like we were taught), I was SO excited that I started shouting into the crowds of parents, students and teachers "Mom! Mom! Where are you Mom? I DID IT!"
Sr. Damien (our 1st grade teacher at the time), was suddenly in front of me, hushing me and asking, "Did you say your penance yet?"
I realized with a pang of panic that Oh no! I didn't!
She then sent me off to the rail where I completed my prayers quickly. I doubt I said them with any real piety, because I was so excited with what had just happened. I felt absolutely alive! I did, however, remember to thank the Blessed Mother and tell Jesus that I loved Him. Ha.
Anyway, my mom found me and we left the Church to get a treat as celebration. I was even allowed to sit in the FRONT SEAT! She decided to take me to Dunkin' Donuts. On the way there, I was going on and on about how happy I was. I finally said, "Mommy, I feel all floaty inside!"
I will never forget her response to that. As she drove on to Dunkin' Donuts, she said, "That's Jesus' love in there [meaning my heart], making you happy. He loves you so much and is so proud of you!"
I was silent then. It made perfect sense to my 2nd grade mind, yet I was still in awe that Jesus loved me so much that He could make me feel so incredibly happy.
Finally, we got to Dunkin' Donuts and my mom ordered a box of munchkins and even let me have a cup of Mountain Dew - my favorite soda at the time (which she didn't tend to let me have because of the insane amount of caffeine and sugar).
As we started to go home, I still was beyond myself with that feeling of the purest exaltation I'd ever experienced. While enjoying the high, I absent-mindedly took a sip of my Mountain Dew and realized it wasn't good. I didn't like it. I munched on a doughnut and realized that, too, had lost its appeal. Two of my favorite things in the world, munchkins and Mountain Dew, had become less than lack-luster. It was almost as if their "treat" was a mockery of the delicious, fulfilling and beyond-any-fathomable-sense feelings I was experiencing.
To this day, I don't like doughnuts or Mountain Dew. They simply couldn't compare with the intense emotional satisfaction and fulfillment I received through my 1st Confession. That Sacrament - it will always have a special place in my heart. For as powerful as the Eucharist and Confirmation are, Reconciliation, too, is immense. I'm sorry that it is so often overlooked as unnecessary or pointless.
Mmmmmm - I'm going to spend the rest of this evening on cloud nine, though. Anytime I think of my 1st Reconciliation, I retaste those feelings and feel sustained in joy for hours on end. :) Truly that was one of the happiest days of my life.
This looked a lot like my son on Sunday. Since I've begun taking him regularly, he's been perfectly fine. He usually is quite good, and is even starting to pick up on when he is allowed to stand and sit in my lap and such.Well, this past Sunday, he was an absolute terror. He screamed (and I mean, SCREAMED) for most of the Mass. I have NO idea what got into him, and even being in the "cry room" wasn't helping. I'm sure we could've been encased in a sound-proof box within three others, and they still could've heard him!
It was absolutely cringe-worthy for me, but I took it as a penance (considering how mortifying it is to have such a loud child and seem like a complete failure as a mother). Seriously - his screaming and behavior were unlike anything I'd ever seen from him, so I couldn't help but think God had gone, "Alright - here's a chance to test your patience!"
Luckily, the words of that wonderful confessor came back to me: This is your prayer life. Raising this little boy should be your constant prayer life.
So I tried to swallow the irritation, frustration and embarrassment and offer it up for whatever intentions Jesus needed attending to.
However, all week I've been getting snide comments about his behavior. Before and after CCD class on Tuesday, a few of the staff approached and commented "What on EARTH got into your son at Mass?"
At a meeting, I got the same questions.
Heck, even after the Mass on Sunday, a few of the parishoners who know me eyed him with disgust and mentioned I should maybe bring crackers to "keep his mouth occupied" next time, or, better yet, just "leave him home" next time.
SERIOUSLY?! Maybe it wasn't Vince's behavior that God chose to give me a test of patience. It was simply the catalyst for these folks taking it upon themselves to comment in so ludicrous a manner.
Argh, argh, argh.
Considering how often they've all seen Vincent acting the angel at Mass, you'd think they'd've said to themselves "Obviously he's having a bad day or something."
No, we automatically get things like "teach him that snacks during Mass are A-OK!" or "if you cry hard enough, Mommy will take you home and you'll get your way!"
Cmon now, people!
Sorry for what seems to be a random venting, but I just got a follow-up e-mail from a parishioner regarding an upcoming function, and her "PS" was dedicated to such tips as "coloring books" "puppets" and "goldfish" as viable alternatives to the random outburst.
He hasn't needed it these last few months, why the heck would I need to start instilling bad habits now?
... sorry... apparently I'm not very good at learning this whole charitable patience stuff. But seriously... *grumble, grumble, grumble*
Okay, so I was listening to the tail-end of that CD I mentioned earlier when I caught a snippet of Dr. Scott Hahn's talk on Confession. In this brief teaser for that CD, I heard the most moving, amazing, awesome story about Pope John Paul II ever. I was almost moved to tears!
Here it is, transcribed for your benefit. May your heart sing just as joyously as mine with gratitude for so holy and wise a leader. Our God certainly knows how to pick them, and our saintly Pope John Paul II will certainly be remembered as "the Great."
I did some research into this story. I'm still waiting to hear back from St. Mary's Basilica in Rome, but I think the "Fr. Jim" from the story would likely be there if this story proves true. I can't imagine Scott Hahn lying, but the fact that no names are given for the Spiritual Director / priest kinda gives the journalist in me the "dig a little deeper" vibe. Until I'm proven otherwise, though, I'll promote this story as a beautiful testament to the pious, holy character of our late, great pontiff.
So I have a confession to make.
I am a wimp.
For months now, I've been doing really well with one of my habitual sins. I've met the temptation and walked right on by, even calling out to Saint Michael in my dreams to chase away the jerky little demons.
I was getting a little proud of myself for having been able to "put that sin behind me." I was still worried I'd fall back into it, but considering what I felt to be an impressive track record, I let down my guard a bit.
Apparently that's what they were waiting for.
The temptation has been really strong the last two weeks. Unfortunately, I willing got involved and, as usual, feel like a jerk. It's incredible to me just how easily I can ignore warning signs and flat out defy that which I know to be right when temptation strikes.
Here I was, proud of myself for having triumphed for a while. I was completely unaware that God had protected me from the stronger temptations and had reminded me to call upon St. Michael, my own guardian angel, the saints, Our Lady. Now that I've gone ahead and dragged myself through the mud, I'm able to look up and see that my arrogance was my undoing. Such pride in "my" ability to ignore temptation simply tenderized me for the real temptations later. Humpf.
But hey - God is merciful and I think He knew I needed a kick in the pants. I needed to be knocked down a few pegs so as to more readily fly to His aid when the devil comes a-knockin'.
Isn't this beautiful?
I finally found my way into a confession box this weekend. I decided to make this one of the best confessions ever, so I took some advice from a friendly blogger on WDTPRS and spent a bit of time doing a real examination of conscience. I cracked open a new notebook for the purpose, and got to work.
I first went through the list of Vices - I had to look up Avarice just to be sure I wasn't mistaking that definition for Envy (which I sorta was in my mind), then upon completion of that list, I began on the 10 Commandments. Once I finished with those, I did a quick Google search for another "Examination" just to be 100% sure I covered my bases. All in all, I ended up with like 4 or 5 pages of sins (and this was in SHORTHAND!), and a sinking feeling that the unfortunate priest who would get me would be a little put-off by my lengthy list.
I don't think he'd've been upset by the sins so much as the "list" feature. I was worried if I got "caught" with a book the confession would seem insincere (since I was just reading off a list) and cold. However, I really liked the idea of being 100% sure (okay... about 98% sure) that I'd covered my bases. How often do we come out of confession only to realize two words into our penance that we forgot X, Y or Z?
Heck, to be honest, even with my little list, I had to stop Father just before absolution to tell him one more! Just to be sure...
Ha. He was very kind, though. I ended up getting the room behind the screen, so he couldn't see my book anyway. I told him I had it anyway, because I wanted him to know that even though I sounded like I was just reading from a list, I'd put a lot of thought into it in order to make a good confession. Ah well.
All in all, I think I'm going to go that route again. I felt scrubbed down afterwards. And the best part? It was a great conversation-starter for a friend of mine and I about confession.
She's getting married soon, and when I brought up confession as a great way to prepare, she explained her fear behind the sacrament (ah, the familiar fear of humility). I shared my old fears of Confession, and even showed her the book that housed my list. She was surprised, to say the least. I dunno if it made her feel better about confession, but hopefully it planted the seed somewhere. Maybe, in a few weeks, it'll spring up in her heart. One can hope, right? :)
So I didn't end up going to Mass on Sunday. Not for lack of trying, mind you! That doesn't mean I don't feel like a jerk about it. Doubly so, because I think John got the impression that it was due to his pressure that I missed. It was partly my fault anyway. I had pushed off thinking about the trip for such a long time that I had to scramble last minute to find a Church I could attend. Because that was only a day and a half before I left, I couldn't find the proper contact info for the church (all the info on their site had expired). I had wrongly assumed the front desk would be able to tell me when the Masses were (or, if not when, at least the proper contact info). Struck out there. Finally, I went to the taxi drivers who I assumed got a lot of visitors asking to be taken to Mass on Sunday. He looked at me like I was insane.
Then he attempted to charge me through the nose for the 15 minute trip to the church (which we had passed on the way to the resort, so I knew - round abouts - where it was). Just because I'm a visitor doesn't mean I'm a total idiot.
So unless I wanted to get lost attempting to go there myself (not a very safe idea) and wait around for a few hours hoping that I'd strike lucky with a Mass, I was out of luck. And I felt AWFUL.
You see, before we left, I had mentioned to John that I'd be going to Mass. Apparently he took that as a sign that I was spiting both him and our relationship in lieu of God. His solution? "Just go to Mass twice next week." Even better... "We're going to a wedding... shouldn't that count?"
*face palm* (Though I definitely laughed at his "shouldn't that count" logic.)
I have to admit that I didn't foresee this discussion happening at all. John has never told me I could not go to Mass, take part in a religious event, or practice my faith. Never. So the fact that he was specifically telling me not to go to Mass in Jamaica because "we're on vacation" was mind-boggling to me. Absolutely mind-boggling. And that fact that he was angry the thought had even entered my mind was almost too incomprehensible for me to wrap my head around.
I likened it to me telling him not to go to a film festival or take part in a movie meeting. I'd NEVER do that. NEVER. Movies, to him, are like a private religion. He devotes a bunch of time to them, and making movies makes him happy. Going to Mass and being a practicing Catholic make ME happy. Just as I'd never think to stop him from doing movies, I honestly never thought he'd ask me to stop being a Catholic (for even a weekend!).
Truth be told, I'm still floored by this. Atheist, agnostic or spaghetti monster follower, I don't care who you are or what you believe so long as you leave me to believe and practice that which I wish. If I don't expect you to alter your belief (or non-belief) system for me, don't expect me to alter mine for you. And typically, John fell in line with that. But this trip to Jamaica... I couldn't believe what I was hearing!
So yeah... it really irked me that I couldn't go to Mass, especially because I didn't want him thinking he'd "won" and "pressured" me to go lax in my faith. Mind you, it's not that I wanted to "win" or "prove him wrong." I'm worried that him seeing me "sway" so easily reinforces that religion isn't really important and can be altered when he needs it to be. Or worse, that he can pressure me into ignoring my obligations and, if given enough time, would be able to convert me away from Catholicism altogether.
Ugh. I dunno. It hasn't really come up again. I realize this isn't really John so much as satan getting angry about how gung-ho I am with the faith. Where there is strength and conviction in Christ, there is undoubtedly evil angrily working against it, hoping to tear it apart before it converts others. I see this for what it is, and again... I know where victory reigns. I know how the story ends, so... onwards. :)
However, I really, REALLY need to go to confession because I feel like I did something wrong. Even though I did try to get to Mass, it was still my fault for not checking sooner. Also, I guess I could've paid through the nose to get there, but that felt wrong, too. I dunno. I realize that missing Mass is a mortal sin, but considering I did try to get there, maybe it's been downgraded to a venial one? I hope so. I kept asking God to forgive me because I really did feel bad. Next available confession time for me is Saturday. I tried calling a neighboring parish (my pastor is really busy), but even they are all over the place. Thus, Saturday is my ticket back. Bah.
I dunno how many of you follow PostSecret. I do, and I am grateful for the many good things that have come out of that site. Frank, the creator, opened a public platform for individuals to anonymously connect with others who share similar struggles, pain and hopes. In fact, PostSecret has mobilized many others into anti-bullying, anti-suicide and pro-tolerance movements.
That being said, there have been a few secrets that have boiled my blood (as in: Shame on you, Frank Warren, for posting them). *Warning: This next link is to a card that I've never been able to scratch from my mind, so maybe you should just trust me when I say some of them should never be made public, and instead should be turned over to the authorities). This one comes to mind (from May 2010).
Anyway, the reason I'm talking about PostSecret at all is because this week, they had a wonderful one posted from a Roman Catholic priest. I wanted to share it with all of you. It made me ridiculously happy. I hope to spread the smile your way. God bless our confessors. :)
After a very trying period for priests everywhere (ESPECIALLY our Irish-Catholic fathers!), the Irish government announced that it'd be leaving the Confessional alone.
For those who haven't been keeping track of the story, some in the Republic of Ireland (a largely Catholic population, mind you) wanted to pass a law that made it criminal to withold information pertaining to child-abuse.
Now while I'm 100% supportive of prosecuting folks who knowingly allow child-abuse to occur, I am NOT 100% supportive of using the Confessional to acheive those ends.
First of all, Confession is a sacrament that aims at directing one to atone for sins. Secondly, what's to say that folks don't go into a Confessional with the intent to destroy a priest's credibility utilizing this potential law?
Say Fr. Jack is my pastor and called me out on wearing short shorts and a tank-top to Mass on Sunday. I'm angry and ashamed that he called me out on it, so I "go to Confession" and then report back to the authorities that I'd confessed child-abuse and Fr. Jack didn't report it to the authorities.
What happens, then? Fr. Jack gets carted off the jail, completely unable to defend himself due to the seal of Confession (he wouldn't be able to relay ANYTHING that was said there, thus incriminating himself through silence) and my smug little self goes about my life, blissfully unaware of the damage I caused because I only cared about revenge.
True, that's an extreme example, but when you consider how many people absolutely loathe the Catholic Church and would get kicks just by starting trouble for a priest, it's not like that scenario is totally far-fetched.
Thankfully, however, this foolishness is off the table now. Priests can confidently deliver the Sacrament of Reconciliation to their parishioners without having yet another fear gnawing the backs of their minds.
Thank you, God, for answering the prayers of your faithful. May You continue to bless and protect our confessors. They are our life-line to You!
I found this painting (by Sir David Wilkie) which made me feel somewhat better about what I ended up doing on Saturday night.
I had lost my sitter, and all other family / friends were either on vacation or on business. As a result, I was left with Vincent and an unfinished confession in order to take advantage of the Portiuncula Indulgence. I guess the devil REALLY didn't want me making my confession.
Well, I took Vincent with me anyway. I knew it wasn't going to be the best confession I could possibly make, but at the same time, I wasn't going to let an angry little demon keep me from offering this indulgence to a soul in purgatory.
I packed a couple cars and a nursery rhyme book Vince had never seen (I was hoping the novelty would keep him occupied), and off we went. Since we were early, we were able to enter the confessional after a quick prayer in the pew. Since Vince would've been scared of the dark confessional, I opted for the face-to-face mini-room. I peeked in at our wonderful monastic priest (still filling in for Fr. Piotr), and he had the biggest grin on his face when he saw Vincent tottering towards him.
I hadn't even closed the door behind us and Vincent was climbing up Father's lap! Ha ha. Father dutifully picked him and and let Vincent see his rosary (which Vincent was only slightly interested in... he wanted the crucifix around Father's neck!). I was blushing profusely, apologizing to Father for the unseemly intrusion, but he brushed it off, seemingly happy I was there at all let alone with a wonderful baby boy who was happy to giggle with him.
I pulled his book from my bag and placed it next to me. Vince slid off Father's lap and sat down to play with his new book (a gift from the priest who baptized Vincent). I knelt between Vince and Father (in an attempt to keep Vincent from running off) and Father began the sacrament. I followed suit and got through maybe two or three trespasses when Vincent bolted for the door. Grabbing Vince, I again apologized to Father who only smiled and said, "This is your prayer life. Raising this little boy should be your constant prayer life. In the morning, roll out of bed and just ask the Lord to give you the grace to do everything - diapers, feeding, playing and scolding him - in His Will. Ask Him to do it through you, and offer it all as your prayer. Then, when he naps, you can do your prayers as we think of them."
He was telling me to live the Divine Will!!! Are you kidding me??? I love it!!! I think Father realized confession wasn't going to be much more conducive, 'cause he immediately gave me my penance and started the absolution process. I don't think he was rushing me... I didn't feel that way at all. I think he felt my time was better spent wrangling Vincent and knew my intention was pure. Seriously - I heart that little priest! He's so wonderful. Before we left, he made sure to give Vincent a special blessing, and Vincent just babbled happily to him in thanks.
So even though I was kind of nervous about taking Vince in with me (and I certainly wouldn't again unless I was painted into another corner), it turned out rather nicely, and from the above artwork I found... I must not have been the only mother to ever have found herself alone and in need of confession. Ha!
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