I was speaking in a suburban parish, telling the story of our familys agonizing decision to become Catholic, and about how the Eucharist has changed my life.
Near the end of my talk, I told the audience that Ive also fallen in love with the sacrament of reconciliation. Quizzical faces stared back at me. I explained that I dont like confession, but Id never let a month pass without availing myself of it.
A guy in the back shouted, Thats because youre a convert!
Is he right?
Perhaps I do have a heightened appreciation for the sacraments because I spent so much of my life without them. In contrast, many Catholics take for granted the treasures of our faith, especially the sacrament of reconciliation.
So, if its been a while since youve been to confession, this column is for you. And if your last confession was so long ago that your mom had to hold your hand when you crossed the street, this column is really for you.
Dont worry. Im not here to heap on guilt; just enthusiasm and joy.
I am convinced that NOT confessing our sins is far more painful than confessing them. When we stay away from the sacrament, our sins stay away too, stuffed down inside us like a simmering infection. Even if we dont feel the weight of sin, its still there, slowly poisoning us.
The big sins are obvious: lying, cheating, murder, stealing, having an affair.
But what about more subtle poisons? What about always complaining? What about gossip, or judging people by their looks, or biting sarcasm? What about selfishness with a spouse, padding the expense account or excess focus on how we look? What about those things that we dont even think are wrong, like sleeping with the boyfriend or fudging on a job application? What about alcohol abuse or addiction to pornography, neglecting the needy or rudeness to store clerks?
These things quietly eat away at our souls. If you dont believe me, talk with someone who is nearing the end of life and who is tormented by bad choices. It may not be the big things that cause the grief; often, its the way he treated his wife, or how he let pass the chance to make peace with an estranged brother, or spending too much time making money and too little time giving it away.
The thing is, theres a box in your parish where every one of these poisons can be obliterated. Just like that. Gone. Forever.
Its called the reconciliation room, and if you never believed in miracles before, its time to start believing in them, because miracles happen in that room every Saturday afternoon.
So where do you start, especially if youve been away from confession for a long time? How do you spit out the words that you dont even whisper to yourself?
Start with whatever is bothering you. Are there things in your past that gnaw at you? Is there something that, when youre honest with yourself, you know is wrong?
Next, find a prayer book or missal and look for an examination of conscience, which is a series of questions designed to help you prepare for confession.
Then, look up the times for confession at a local parish, take a deep breath, and go for it. Tell the priest that its been a long time and to be honest, you dont really remember how the whole thing works. Tell him that youre having trouble spitting out the words. Tell him that youre scared to death.
Believe me, hell be glad to help.
Whether you have fallen into serious sin, or its the everyday sins that eat away at your life of faith, God will hurl your sins to the bottom of the deepest ocean. Then hell post a No Fishing sign.
And when you walk out of that Freedom Box, you will wonder why you waited so long.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.