Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Grace of Reconciliation

What a Sacrament

As I was writing a Christmas piece over at Freedom Through Truth, yesterday, I was reminded how the Sacrament of Reconciliation played a big part in a lot of conversion that has been going on in me this past liturgical year.

The year started for me with confession in Tucson Arizona, with Father Clement Agamba, in his office at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, and ended fundamentally with confession in Ridgetown Ontario in the kitchen of Fr. Sam Johnston. Those were not the only times I went to the sacrament, just the two most significant in my mind at the moment.

If it were not for the Eucharist, Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be my favourite sacrament. In my life, I have had so much grace flow to me from the time spent with faithful priests in this sacrament.

My first recollections of this beautiful sacrament are less auspicious. For some reason, I remember going to confession as a very young boy. I was raised in St. Michael's Parish in London Ontario, and I believe that we made our First Confession then, First Reconciliation now, along with our First Holy Communion in Grade 1 at the time. As I recall it, I took this Confession business seriously, at age 5. The teacher went over a pre-confession review of the ten commandments, which was pretty literal, I think, at least to a young kid. I mean, really how much trouble can a 5 year old get in to. Oh, to be that youngster again, but that's another story.

Well, I kinda latched on to a sin that I could get my head around, and I dutifully went to confession with all my confreres and soeurs. When it was my turn, I was nervous, though excited. It had been built up for us in our preparation. So, when it was my turn, I entered the confessional, and started into the liturgical component of the sacrament. "Bless me Father, for I have sinned". Then I proceeded into a litany of the only sin that I could think of to fit me. I confessed that I had committed adultery. I WAS 5 YEARS OLD.

Father was patient with me, and asked me how I had committed adultery. I told him that I had been mean and bossy with my 2 year old sister, like my parents, so was acting like an adult instead of like a kid. I have no idea how Father stayed seated, and kept a straight face, but then priests who I have confessed to have often said, there is nothing new that they have not heard already. He advised me that my sin was not as egregious as adultery, gave me absolution, and sent me on my way.

Since that shaky start, I have had many opportunities, particularly as an older adult to partake of this beautiful sacrament. The two instances I have written about previously are examples of where the Grace of that sacrament brought profound changes in my attitude and knowledge of God's love for me.

I know particularly, that Father Sam loves to hear confessions, as we discussed that. I think faithful priests find this to be a most efficacious sacrament, and feel blessed themselves to be instruments of God's grace flowing to their brothers and sisters.

I had one other particular instance of a beautiful, though brief Confession that I have carried with me for almost 20 years. I went to Dallas with a friend, on a trip that is another marvelous story in itself. This friend has been a Catholic lay evangelist, in his lifetime and has been instrumental in the growth in faith of many people I know.

This one day when we were in Dallas, he had to retrieve a pen that he had left in the office of a mystical priest that we met there the previous day. I had somewhere that I needed to be that was near this priest's chapel and office, and so we went there on our way. As my friend went to retrieve his pen, I was standing outside the door to the chapel. I had had in my prayer time that morning a strong and urgent desire to go to Confession, which I did not voice to my friend.

As I stood outside the chapel door, I became aware that the priest we had met the previous day, was in fact, hearing confessions at the time, but still I was stuck at the door. My friend approached me from behind, and pushing me in the door, said: "Are you going to confession or not?" Without a word of response, I made my way up the aisle to the confessional. There was nobody in line, and I went in and knelt down, and began the liturgical component of my Confession. Then, I confessed the sins of which I was aware.

Suddenly, in an explosion of light, I felt my heart wrenched out of my chest, and hanging in mid air right in front of my face, as Father said 5 words: "What about impatience and irritability?" I was in such a state of shock at what I was seeing, and hearing, that I muttered: "That too."

In moments, I received absolution, and found myself back at the door where my friend waited. He asked me how it went, and I was dumbstruck. I really could not speak anything meaningful. I could not have been gone for more than 2 minutes, and yet it seemed like a lifetime.

Since that day, I have been aware of my impatience and irritability, and have watched the hold it would periodically exert on my life, and as I matured in my faith, I became aware of the pain that it caused to those around me. But, as I thought of my two most significant, recent confessions, I realised that I am not impatient, or irritable any more, at least not often and not much. God has been guiding me on a path of patience, and gentleness. Wow, what revelation that is to me!

When I think of how afraid I have been from time to time to approach this wonderful sacrament, I see that the fear is totally unfounded, and God's grace is unfathomable as to its richness and worth to our salvation.

As I proceed with this blog, I plan to see Father Sam regularly, and have asked if when we meet, he will hear my confession each time. If I got to see him maybe 10 or 20 times in the next year, I could go to confession each time, and receive that same grace each and EVERY time.


mbrandon8026 said...

The following comment came from Joshua, and was an interesting and sad perspective.

Very amusing story, Michael. I only wish my own experience of confession was as amusing.

I was 10 years old the last time I went to confession as a Catholic. I, too, found myself adrift in the "sin" category. I wasn't a perfect child, but I was extremely well raised and disciplined by a loving grandmother. As such, and with Good Friday approaching, I sat down and "came up with" a few sins to confess - just for good form, you understand.

His name was Father Lalonde. I commenced my confession with the usual protocol: "Bless me Father for I have sinned. it has been X months since my last confession..."

I went on to describe my little invented sins: I disobeyed my parents a few times; I said "bad words" on occasion; I had been mean to my little baby brother a number of time.

Father Lalonde stopped me. "How MANY times?" he asked.

"I don't keep a list, Father," I explained. "My gran always says to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."

"You should keep such a list," replied Father lalonde. "Little boys like you are EVIL by nature, don't you see that? Jesus knows you are evil. That's why you must confess monthkly, and KNOW exactly how often you have sinned, and what kind of sins you committed. If you don't, you will remain an evil boy and you will burn in Hell for all eternity."

I SO wish I was kidding. I am not. I left the confessional that day, never to return.

But I do - to this day - confess my sins directly to Jehovah on an "as needed" basis. And I receive absolution directly from my Lord and Saviour.

I have regretted for many years the "mistake" who was Father Lalonde. He singlehandedly drove a 10 year old GOOD LAD from the Romam Catholic Church.

Michael, I would completely understand if you were not to post this because it makes you uncomfortable. As I have explained to you personally, I would genuinely appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue with a Catholic priest in the "here and now". But as it is, Father Lalonde remains the "priest" that I think of whenever i think of "Roman Catholic priest". It IS a pity, I know. But I suppose that is what happens when a good Catholic is subjected to spiritual abuse by a priestly troglodyte.

elveraalamb said...

thanks for your share..................................................