The Peace of Reconciliation   Leave a comment

This week, in anticipation of Holy Week, we had our penance service at my church. Maybe I’m weird, but I actually look forward to this every year. I think I grew up as a typical American late-20th-century Catholic, which means that I grew up with a distinct dislike of the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession. I remember dreading whenever I had to go. I remember feeling like it was a worthless exercise because I never really got anything out of it. I remember seeing the old ladies who would take FOREVER (at least in a child’s sense of time) in the confessional, and wondering how they did so many bad things. I remember that confession was something I NEVER did voluntarily, and I thought anyone who did was crazy. All in all, it was a fairly negative exercise, focused on sin and punishment.

Fast forward to college. The Newman Center in Ann Arbor had a Lenten penance service and I don’t remember what inspired me to go. I suppose I was inspired by the fact that in college I learned just how sad my catechism classes had been as I relearned almost every facet of Catholicism and found out how much stuff I had never been taught. (I’m not sure what the purpose of catechism class is if they aren’t going to actually teach you anything real.) I think the idea of going to confession with a strange priest was also appealing, since I was always nervous about confessing to a priest that knows my name. Lo and behold, I walked out of the church that evening with a new spring in my step. I had never before understood the expression “a weight off my shoulders” but that night I experienced it. Every year it is a different experience, and every year I get just what I need.¬†Sometimes it is the internal sensation of love and forgiveness, sometimes there’s something particular that has been nagging at me, sometimes it is a just a good place for me to honestly and clearly evaluate myself, and sometimes the atmosphere is perfect to focus my meditation. For me it’s no longer “confession” where I come up with my list of rote “sins”, but rather “reconciliation” where I acknowledge my imperfections, offer up my failings, and am set free. It is now a very positive and refreshing experience, leaving me feeling stronger and more at peace.

And as for experiencing real envy and jealousy for the first time in my life (at least that I can recall), it’s in the past.

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Posted March 26, 2010 by mayakey in spiritual practices

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