Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Confessions of a reluctant grace seeker

I had a beautiful experience in confession today (don't worry I'm not about to recount my sins - I fount that hard enough the first time around). Why am I telling you this? Well because my confession to you is that I find confession the hardest of the sacraments (though bear in mind I am not married, will obviously never be ordained and have never had the last rites). The reason I find it hardest is because I don't think I'm very good at it and rather than going more to overcome this I avoid it. I am ashamed of this but it is the truth.  I love the graces I receive from this sacrament - I love the way it lifts the heart and humbles you with a kind of fresh awareness of what forgiveness really means but I am weak and often this is not enough to induce me. 

Nevertheless, in search of that beauty and grace which I so love to receive I do crawl out from under my rock from time to time and make myself go. The last time I went, I had a slightly rocky experience as I went into the box just before mass and because the priest was in a rush he let me say one thing and then said he was going to absolve me and chucked me out (I was just warming up!)  

So you can imagine my confusion when I couldn't even get into the Cathedral and found the whole place in flux- turned out a university graduation was taking place inside (?) and the cathedral would not be open until 4pm. I was flummoxed - having built myself up to go I was rather disappointed.  Then I caught sight of signs pointing me in the direction of offices belonging to the Cathedral where confessions were taking place.

By the time I had traipsed around the corner I had lost a bit of courage. I like the safety of a confessional box (yet another shameful confession to you dear readers) so I waited in line outside an ordinary room a little nervously.  

However, a far cry from my last experience the priest listened and responded with a thought provoking tenderness.  He made me very aware of how many great priests serve us in our Church - something I do take for granted in my life.  The experience was one of humility, love and forgiveness and it made it very clear to me (as if my conscience didn't already know it) that I need this sacrament so much in my life. It keeps us in touch with that redemption and forgiveness that comes with the nails of the cross. It makes us more aware of our own part, hard as it might be to accept, in the passion of Christ. Yet it makes us equally aware of all the love and mercy that is shed with the blood and our personal relationship with Christ illuminates the point that this love and mercy belongs to us- on an intimate and personal level. It is trust. I feel privileged to be subject to this trust - that is to trust in the infinite mercy and to be trusted to amend my ways with a contrite heart. I am weak, but when I recognise my weakness I am strong (to paraphrase St Paul)

At the end of my confession, after absolution the priest in question asked if he might bless me with a relic of St Paul of the Cross. Of course I eagerly said yes (I can't imagine anybody said no!) So I thought I would end by leaving you with the words of Pius IX on the beatification of St Paul on October 1st 1952:

"Although continually occupied with the cares of governing his religious society, and of founding everywhere new houses for it, yet he never left off preaching the word of God, burning as he did with a wondrous desire for the salvation of souls"  

His relic seems to be a fitting one to use in confession. I am sure that he won't have given up his mission just because he has reached heaven. St Paul pray for us! is certainly an invocation I will remember next time I am tapping my foot in line for confession - which I hope will be sooner rather than later.


Anne said...

I have never, ever been blessed with a relic, much less a relic of St. Paul! You are so lucky! Can you feel my jealousy? If I were blessed with a relic after confession, I would probably want to go to confession every day! You are very blessed! I love the quote too!

~Joseph the Worker said...

That's an awesome story! I had a great experience at the St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania last time I went to confession there. The priest actually asked me several questions about the sorrow for my sin and then told me that usually when someone forgives you for something you don't go do it again. My wife thought that was pretty harsh, but I have found that the harder the confessor the more I actually love the sacrament.....

SQUELLY said...

Thanks to you both for your comments. I did feel really lucky! I was so blessed - perhaps the good Lord making up for my previous disaster and probably making a point about my cowardice too!!

I agree Joseph that I feel I need to learn from confession. I am always a bit scared of getting a priest who will be harder on me but I remember one telling me once that confession is not a washing machine where you keep putting in the same old stains just to keep yourself feeling good for a while - I liked that analogy but I guess the point is the same


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