Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I was speaking in a suburban parish, telling the story of our family’s 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 I’ve also fallen in love with the sacrament of reconciliation. Quizzical faces stared back at me. I explained that I don’t like confession, but I’d never let a month pass without availing myself of it.

 

 

A guy in the back shouted, “That’s because you’re a convert!”

 

Everyone laughed.

 

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 it’s been a while since you’ve 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.

 

Don’t worry. I’m 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 don’t feel the weight of sin, it’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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, it’s 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, there’s a box in your parish where every one of these poisons can be obliterated. Just like that. Gone. Forever.

 

It’s called the reconciliation room, and if you never believed in miracles before, it’s time to start believing in them, because miracles happen in that room every Saturday afternoon.

 

So where do you start, especially if you’ve been away from confession for a long time? How do you spit out the words that you don’t 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 you’re 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 it’s been a long time and to be honest, you don’t really remember how the whole thing works. Tell him that you’re having trouble spitting out the words. Tell him that you’re scared to death.

 

Believe me, he’ll be glad to help.

 

Whether you have fallen into serious sin, or it’s the everyday sins that eat away at your life of faith, God will hurl your sins to the bottom of the deepest ocean. Then he’ll 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.